I like bands that put together slow, rolling, riff-laden, psychedelic, hook-laced, head-bobbing, transcending, sludge-crushing, spiritual-exploring, doom albums. I think I covered everything that may or may not appear within you, while listening to Sunnata’s sophomore album, Zorya.
Poland is known mostly for her black metal industry, and I like the foggy darkness that comes from there (there are more than 2000 bands from Poland, but I will leave the fog reference as it is). Darkness is good, but there is a different approach to the exploration of heavy electric music, and Sunnata are moving on that territory. They’ve been around since 2013 and have been working their craft, giving shows with some well-known bands, like Conan and Kylesa, and writing long and heavy songs that build themselves around psychedelic hallucinations.
The meditative aesthetics of their music are evident even by their name, which is Sanskrit for Emptiness or Voidness. Where we consider the Emptiness, especially in black metal, to be a bad, negative place, it is the source of being in the Far East traditions. There is a merging of heavy music with spiritual explorations, which doesn’t come necessarily from the lyrics. It doesn’t have to come from there. YOB’s music, for example, can cause transcendental experiences, without the listener knowing the lyrics. And what causes that? What is the core element that can release emotional energy in such a way? Is it the shape-shifting wall of sounds that is created by the bass and guitars? I think it is.
See it as a body of liquid, or ether, moving in wave-like formations through the sky, changing shapes. Sometimes big, slow riffs that are vaguely more precise than ambience emerge and other times they are clearly defined bodies of groove. See it as a passion that comes from the ground and reaches up to the sky. See it as a spiral that moves inwards, towards the center where Zorya lives, the goddess of midnight, the third sister of the Morning Star and Evening Star, who looks after the night (Slavic Mythology).
The album opener, “Beasts Of Prey”, begins with fuzz, the distinct sound of the bass communing with the drum patterns and the guitar making noise until it forms into a full, heavy, and slow riff. A slow meditation of noise that sets the ground for the second part of the song, at around the fourth minute, where it transforms into a giant moving being until it sinks into psychedelic acoustic chords and ambience. The vocals appear, resembling a chant, above the same chords. Then it explodes back into the big moving wave, where the double vocals, clean chants and rasp shouts, are at the top. It is a song that evolves and expands around the same patterns, creating a circular movement that gets swollen, explodes and then calms down.
After the explosive beginning, we are introduced to the title track, “Zorya”. “Have you ever spread your wings up high?” sings the voice, while a repetitive mantra of sound is building up. A mystical song, that moves upwards. The bass works in the background like red stingrays that vibrate through the blue of the day and into the night, while Sunnatra express a calling to the bright side of being. A slow-moving creation with huge riffs, lead guitars that rip through the fabric of noise, ritualistic drum patterns, vocals that chant and vocals that shout, creating an interaction between two individuals within the structure of the song.
Now, I won’t describe the visualizations that are created in me for every song. I will say though that Sunnatra are really good at what they do. If you like doom, with spiritual and transcendental tendencies, that sinks into psychedelic and oriental rhythms, you will have a great time listening to Zorya.
I like all the songs, especially “Long Gone”, but I feel they misplaced the fourth and fifth track. “New Horizons”, the fourth track, is the slowest and heaviest song. The way it is built and the interaction with me, the emotional response in me, feels like a preparation for an ending, or as the final chapter of a book. When the song ends, I am ready to let it go. But the album doesn’t end there. It should, but it doesn’t. This doesn’t mean that “Again and against”, the last song, isn’t good. An album should be viewed as a whole movement and not as a collection of different songs. They all work together and they create a single entity which is divided into sections, where the listener is invited to explore them and experience them. This is an error of album architecture and not of composition.
Having said that, Zorya is a big, heavy, and noisy spiritual doom album that you’ll enjoy. Listen to it.
Zorya will be released on April 11 and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp: