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Album Review: Unearthly Trance – Stalking the Ghost

After a several year hiatus during which the members joined forces with Tim Bagshaw (With the Dead, ex-Electric Wizard) in Serpentine Path, NYC doom/sludge merchants Unearthly Trance are back with Stalking the Ghost, their first new music since 2010’s V. I remember liking V, and I’ve definitely enjoyed the Serpentine stuff, so I was looking forward to this record.

Honestly, though… it’s kind of meh.

The album starts off promisingly enough with the relatively high-energy (by sludge standards, anyway) “Into the Spiral,” with its simple, catchy main riff and gnarly power electronics/feedback outro. The main riff of the glacially-paced “Scythe” also stands out because it’s one of the more memorable on the record, blending crushing, down-tuned chords with single-note bends.

For the most part, though, Stalking the Ghost is a boring collection of slow, repetitive riffs and songs that go on for way too long. The nearly eight-minute “Lion’s Strength” sounds a little too much like Neurosis, but without any of the nuance or dynamics that make Neurosis so great, and the nine-minute “The Great Cauldron” makes good use of the only clean vocals on the album, but otherwise it’s an unremarkable collection of riffs that don’t quite seem to mesh in spite of their uniform blandness. Mostly instrumental closing track “In The Forest’s Keep” does have an interesting riff, but they basically ride it with very little variation for close to five minutes, before ending the album with an ill-advised spoken word outro.

The production on Stalking the Ghost, which was handled by the inimitable Colin Marston (Gorguts, Krallice, etc.), is crisp, and the guitar tones in particular sound great. Unfortunately, great production can’t make up for forgettable riffs and banal songwriting.

Stalking the Ghost will be available on February 24 in both digital and physical formats via Relapse Records.

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