Aug 152023

(Andy Synn would like to draw your attention to the debut album from Lithuania’s Cunabula)

Common wisdom would tell you never to judge a book by its cover.

And while that’s true, I can’t begin to tell you the number of times an eye-catching album cover – such as the gorgeous one which adorns The Weight of Sleep – has drawn my attention and acted as the catalyst for me to check out (and subsequently review) a band’s new record.

Of course, it’s important that the band in question have the music and songs to back it up… and Cunabula definitely do.

Grounded in the sludgier side of Post-Metal – or the more “atmospheric” side of Sludge, depending on how you look at it – but also featuring copious helpings of abrasive Post-Black Metal angst, the six songs which collectively make up the band’s debut album quickly establish the group’s sonic identity, which could succinctly be summed-up as an eclectic, frequently electric, amalgam of Obscure Sphinx and Oathbreaker.

However, the fact that both those bands also have a female vocalist is, I swear, a coincidence – the comparisons are based on the music, first and foremost – and, by the same measure, it’s my hope that you shouldn’t come away from this review with the impression that The Weight of Sleep is in any way a derivative or duplicate of either band’s work.

Rather you should see those two references as more of a general guide to what to expect going into this record, whose intriguing blend of pulsing Post-Metal grooves and pulse-raising blackened blastbeats, melancholy melody and moody ambience – all topped off with an impressively venomous and visceral array of snarling, shrieking vocalisations – makes for one hell of a thrilling ride.

I’ll grant you that not every song hits quite the same level – “We Are the Prey” in particular is a rather one-note and repetitive affair – but the highs here far outweigh the lows, from the contorted rhythms and simmering soundscapes of “Bruxa” and the subtly proggy twists and massively heavy (yet hauntingly melodic) riffs of “Drown to Become Water”, through to the climactic closing pairing of “Silent Somber Suns” (ten minutes of eloquent instrumentation and elegant atmospherics which really shows off the band’s creativity) and the unpredictable, irresistible “Sh’eenaz” (which, arguably, pushes the envelope in even more unorthodox – but still impressively intense – ways).

Perhaps what’s most impressive here though is that, for all that The Weight of Sleep feels like an album made by a band in full control and full possession of all their faculties and individual abilities, it sets up Cunabula with so much potential for future growth, whether they choose to widen the scope of their sound even further or dig deeper into the fertile soil they’ve already uncovered here.

Whichever direction they choose, however, you can be sure that we’ll be there, watching and waiting to see and hear what they do next!


  1. An interesting find Andy. NCS must have the highest proportion of reviews that feature just about nowhere else, of any site I know. Great to be giving new and uncredited acts a chance.
    Talking of growth, I’m looking forward to hearing the new Torpor CD. The first release song that featured a few days ago on NCS sounds massive. Depending on how this CD pans out, could even be a candidate, if it’s not too cheeky for me to suggest, for a Synn report… though you probably have a list as long as it seems to take to make a Beyond Grace video… how many takes did you need to go through to ‘sing’ under water… I wonder how dolphins and whales respond to melodic death metal… sharks… stingrays?

    • “NCS must have the highest proportion of reviews that feature just about nowhere else, of any site I know. Great to be giving new and uncredited acts a chance.”

      Interesting. I wonder if there’d be some way to actually quantify that?

      All said and done, however, it really comes down to our general ethos (though it’s not a specific “rule”) to try and focus on bands who might not be getting all the hype and attention (after all, those who do don’t really need our help, and I think we’re all somewhat averse to getting pulled into the “hype machine” in general).

      That’s not to say we won’t cover bigger and/or more popular names when we feel like we have something to add, of course, but considering we’ve built up a pretty good following (and a pretty good reputation) it feels like our efforts are usually best directed elsewhere.

      And to answer your other questions… Torpor, assuming it’s good (which it probably will be) will most likely end up in a “Best of British” piece closer to the release date… and singing (sorry, “singing”) underwater isn’t easy, but it helps when the surface isn’t that far away so you know you can get up/out to breathe at any time!

  2. Brilliant and powerful stuff. Thanks Andy!

  3. Brilliant, succint summation, Andy!

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