(In this post Austin Weber reviews the debut album by Tellusian from Malmö, Sweden, and we’re also bringing you a full-album stream.)
When Crowpath bit the dust a few years ago, the metal scene was poorer for that loss. Thankfully a group with former members of Crowpath called Tellusian exists, and it comes as no surprise that they are likewise a highly talented and forward-thinking act. It’s not the same line-up exactly, as only drummer Erik Hall and vocalist Henrik Ivarsson have carried over from Crowpath. Tellusian’s guitarist John Rönnerblad and bassist Robert Fuchs round out the band. Together, this foursome bring to the table a fresh chemistry and style that meshes perfectly with the remnants of Crowpath to create something that flashes hints of their former sound — while simultaneously sounding like a completely different group overall. Really, the biggest similarity is the unique way in which they skillfully draw from so many kinds of metal to create their own recognizable style, which sounds like no one else.
Collision takes shape from a dense re-combination of various styles sewn together in a variety of different ways to create a destructive force that thrives on a counterbalance of melody enhanced by progressive experimentation. The core of Tellusian’s sound lies within technically adept sludge, with their use of off-kilter leads amidst heaving grooves coming across in a way that reminds of both The Ocean and Mastodon. Interspersed throughout their high-quality sludge antics are a smattering of death metal, shards of black and thrash, and grind–inserted in whatever way best suits each song and particular moment, for transition purposes and to build and release tension expertly.
This leads to interesting collisions (pun and no pun intended), such as the opener “Rivalry”, which surges with a grindcore energy, highlighted by hints of thrash under jolting leads and a supporting stomping groove. The next track, and the one we premiered here at NCS, “The Collyer Brothers”, performs a similar merger of sounds, but in a testament to the band’s skill, does so in a totally different way using the same elements.
While it’s often an angry and demented beast, Collision is not purely vicious. Frequent progressive and triumphant moments flicker and then quickly flee — found prominently sandwiched toward the end of “Armour To Paper” in the form of a rising swarm of leads that shoots off into a grind ending to confuse you. These lighter textures emerge once more in the cello and synth build-up of the title track. Another pops within the ascending blissful culmination of “The Saw Collector”. The restrained swirling opening to “Idiotens Dilemma” showcases yet another momentary prog flirtation, before Tellusian delve once more into the chaotic duel between sludge and grind.
It’s worth mentioning that when the band yield to their progressive inclinations, rarely is it “logical” or at the crescendo of a song. Usually these instrumentals are used as transition points that segue into grind afterwards. I love how they do that. Tellusian give you something delicate for just a moment and then run immediately forward into destruction without looking back. They keep the song length on Collision short and sweet, with nary a track reaching the four-minute mark. But it’s how much they pack into their divergently expanding songs that’s impressive.
Whoever mixed the record did a phenomenal job, and one of the best examples of this is the warm tone and punch given to Robert Fuchs’ killer bass playing, which is audible throughout. He frequently adds a nice counterpoint and is easily heard bouncing around exuberantly in the mix — though sometimes he does fall back into deadly thick low-end support, following the guitars during their sludgier parts.
Meanwhile guitarist John Rönnerblad flays with a meaty tone, his superb quirky lead work following in quick pursuit. While most have heard Henriks’ vocal insanity in Crowpath, he sounds throatier, nastier, and altogether more pissed-the-hell-off here. He expells shrieks, groans, and roars as if he were an animal being prodded cruely into an uncontrollably violent state. He wrote some darkly poetic but not contrived lyrics in Crowpath, and has done so here again on Collision. The man has an introspective and grim way of putting things and the lyrics are an essential read that paint vivid pictures in your mind and enhance the music.
Of course, the band wouldn’t be complete without the absolutely crushing and complex drum-work of Erik Hall. As I found out in an interview, Erik wrote the music in Crowpath and then the guitarist would come up with parts to match what Erik played, which is a sign of Erik’s genius. His drumming on Collision, while not exactly the same as in Crowpath, bears his hallmarks of frequent off-kilter fills and creative cymbal work surrounding frequent blasting carnage. Overall, his playing style reminds me, strangely enough, of Brann Dailor. Also the drum production here is phenomenal, sporting a nuanced human quality that is refreshing in today’s often grating metal drum production.
In today’s metal scene, it takes someone with a truly different approach to sound fresh, and Tellusian are such a band. This isn’t to imply that most new metal is bad, but so much of it still fits neatly within specific styles, or brings in more influences but still ends up lacking an identity of its own. Tellusian, on the other hand, defy categorization and cliches at every turn. Collision is an album stuffed with endless surprises and unpredicatablely structured rewarding music. It’s a calculated ode to creativity that breaks all the rules and in doing so offers up something memorable.