As indicated by the defiant title of We Will Not Bow, Benthic Realm’s second EP starts off on a different foot than 2017’s self-titled release. “Save Us All” is a fast song by the project’s standards, featuring bassist Maureen Murphy’s heavy chugs and newcomer Dan Blomquist’s busy drum work alongside guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder’s signature alto. They even throw in a few punctuating screams toward the end, a move not seen since the trio’s ancestor, Second Grave.
The upbeat style carries over to the rest of the EP though there’s nothing to match the opener’s speed. The pseudo-title track “I Will Not Bow” alternates between rough chugs and slinky riff sets while “Thousand Day Rain” and “Untethered” bring in blasting drums and soaring vocals to offset the more drawn out guitar work. It all flows naturally and stays uniform thanks to a distinctly dark tone.
This brand of grungy traditional doom is also well managed by the musicians’ chemistry. The vocals are among the most refreshing in doom, having the perfect balance of class and attitude, and the bass is powerful even beneath the oppressive guitar crunches. Part of me wonders if the trio would benefit from getting a second guitarist on board but I also love how they’re able to evoke an ocean aesthetic without resorting to ambiance or elaborate psychedelia.
I’m not sure if We Will Not Bow is intended to be a companion piece to Benthic Realm’s 2017 EP, but it does cover some previously uncharted territory for the trio. Its songs are decidedly more upbeat and aggressive, perhaps influenced by the drummer switch, but the overall tone and band dynamic is right in line with what came before. Who knows if the band will show another aspect of their sound on another EP or move straight to a full-length, but the two we got should be fine to play with.
“Save Us All”
“Thousand Day Rain”