Samothrace- Reverence to Stone

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Samothrace put out an impressive debut back in 2008, and then fell off the face of the earth for a few years. Or at least it seemed this way, as the doom band was in the process of relocating to Seattle from Kansas and went through some member changes along the way. Four years after their debut the group is on the rise once again, with a sophomore effort entitled Reverence to Stone available and a slew of tour dates planned. It is a much shorter release than its predecessor, clocking in at two tracks and thirty five minutes, and while one of the two songs is a reinterpretation of “When We Emerged” from their 2007 demo the impact Samothrace is able to create has not been diminished.

Although “When We Emerged” may be a reinterpretation, this makes sense as the group took a similar approach on 2008’s Life’s Trade when they reworked the other two songs from the demo. This new version is four minutes longer than the original and if you are familiar with what Samothrace did on their debut this track will feel familiar. It lumbers out of the gate with a mixture of sweeping melodies and heavy distorted riffs that slowly build up more and more layers, drawing the listener into a swirling ocean of sound. But just as listeners are lulled into a sense of security the instrumentals draw back and the riffs switch back to bone crushing heaviness at the same time as Brian Spinks’ low pitched growls blare out of your speakers. At about the halfway point the tempo picks up once again and the melody returns in an even expansive format than before, channeling elements of post rock in the way that they create a twisting and turning atmosphere. It’s at this point that I’m reminded just why this group was able to impress before, as the mix of crushing doom and somber atmosphere along with vocals that come in at just the right time to add that extra burst of energy is stunning.

But while this song may be stunning it still feels quite familiar, and perhaps that’s because it has its roots in Samothrace’s earlier material. It isn’t until the twenty and a half minute “A Horse of Our Own” begins that it starts to become clear how much the band has grown in these four years. Right from the start the guitars showcase a much different sound, moving through wailing melodies and grooves that have a bluesy feel to them. There is a lot to take in as you make your way through this track, as the instrumentals seamlessly move from sparse melodies to loud grooves that fill the sound and offer plenty of twists and turns. Some of the mellower sections on this song remind me of what Earth has been doing on their last few albums, as the sprawling melodies and slight country twang that appears here has a very similar feeling. Doom can sometimes be one of those genres where instrumentals are stretched out for too long to the point of repetition, but the amount of variation and climaxes that Samothrace is able to reach on “A Horse of Our Own” is impressive. I realize that I haven’t mentioned much about the vocals on this number, but that’s mainly because they function as an extension of the instrumentals rather than as a separate entity and often flow in and out of the wall of sound. Spinks still has an extremely powerful growl, but he seems to know when it is best suited to add it and when to let the rest of the instrumentals speak for themselves.

Part of me wants to say that a thirty five minute album after a four year absence seems far too short, but the fact of the matter is I have probably listened to Reverence to Stone more than enough times to make up for it. Samothrace has progressed considerably and there’s so much more to their current sound than just doom. It’s a worthy comeback from one of the genre’s more promising acts, and now that they seem to be in a period of relative stability hopefully it won’t be long before we can hear even more.

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