There’s an art to writing long songs, particularly in doom metal where slower tempos can very easily lead to monotony. For every band like Samothrace or Yob who can write a 20+ minute song be engaging, there are at least a score of other bands that you end up wishing had better self-editing skills. Oklahoma City’s Idre is one of the good ones, and on their aptly-titled sophomore full-length Unforgiving Landscapes, they take listeners on a two track, 44-minute journey through some very dark territory indeed.
It’s actually kind of difficult to review an album like this without giving a play-by-play of each track, which makes for boring reading. In general, Samothrace and Yob are actually pretty good starting points for describing Idre’s overall sound, as they seem to occupy a middle space between those two bands. They’re a lot heavier than Yob, but they’re also a lot more introspective than Samothrace. There’s also a bit of Neurosis-esque bombast thrown in for good measure, especially in the closing minutes of “Prison Skin.” What I think makes the album so effective is that both tracks make excellent use of shifting dynamics: “Gold & Crude” opens with several minutes of ambient keyboards and fingerpicked guitar before taking a more tribal-sounding turn, and “Prison Skin” starts with what sounds like a buzzing cello like something out of a Godspeed You! Black Emperor song. The vocals are mostly slow and mournful, which is a large part of what gives the record a more meditative feel, which makes the heavy parts seem even more crushing.
The biggest compliment that I can pay the album is that there’s enough happening in each song to ensure that neither track feels anywhere near as long as it is. As such, it really invites multiple listens, and given the massive scope of the record, there’s something new to discover with each successive spin. It sounds particularly good on headphones.