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Samothrace
Life's Trade

Company: 20 Buck Spin
Release: 2008
Genre: Doom, soundscape
Reviewer: Etiam

  • Consistently driven and rarely superfluous



  • Kansas' Samothrace is the perfect representative for the suddenly successful 20 Buck Spin Records. Begun in 2005, the label primarily represents American sludge and doom bands (the most notable exception being the best-selling Coffins from Japan) with a boutique aesthetic similar to the reclusive Profound Lore or even the Oaken Throne 'zine for black metal. As a band from the Heartland that can make crusty atmospheric metal sound somehow refined, Samothrace are the perfect fit.

    Many bands in this style employ riffs that adhere almost exclusively to slow 'n' low tempos, only speeding up for overdubs of reverb-laden tremolo. The resulting gap--a relative moderato between forty and eighty-four bpm--is full of dynamic and emotional potential, and it is here that Samothrace ply their 'Life's Trade'. To be sure, the album still focuses on boot-dragging doldrums, but Samothrace is decidedly more than just doom. With riffs that resonate in the head instead of the gut, they are closer to a soundscape band that went sludge and caught a case of the blues.

    Enhancing the albums' natural dynamics is Sanford Parker's enveloping production, completed analogue at Semaphore Studios in Chicago. The guitars transition smoothly from gainy rumbling on open strings to warm soloing up around the 12th fret, each distinct tone supporting the other without obscuring it. Though Joe Noel isn't spotlighted too frequently on drums, he makes his presence felt with a consistent low cymbal hiss and tight snare accents. On vocals (and guitar), Brian Spinks has a patient delivery that stretches out syllables over entire phrases. His voice can be unexpectedly harsh, ranging into a high wail that tears from his throat without being shrill. Dylan Desmond's six-string bass is far less independent, but provides a warm and consistent buffer for the free explorations above it. Even if one can't pick out every bassline or be flattened by the kick drum, each element of the mix contributes to an organic and unified whole.

    Many riffs are harmonized between Spinks and second guitarist Renata Castagna, and at regular intervals one or both will meander off into blues pentatonic noodling. During these lead passages--e.g. 9:00 on 'Cacophony'--Desmond's snaky bass is much more audible. And, though a number of Southern sludge bands have been mixing major phrasings with minor parent keys for years, it's still a pleasure to hear doom-oriented tracks that don't shun major harmonies like Satan's seal. On closer 'Cruel Awake', the aforementioned tremolo swell does make an appearance, but one cannot count it against Samothrace, as it is an exquisite tool of the genre when used sparingly. Here, it is used to offer a final counterpoint and timely treble end to the slow drizzle of the prior three tracks.

    'Life's Trade' is indeed long--four tracks and nearly 50 minutes--but is consistently driven and rarely superfluous, with all songs falling in between 9:59 and 13:33. While portions of the closer drag, as do a select few other points on the album, the album is nonetheless more manageable (or 'listenable') than one would first expect. With a clear sense of identity and focused songwriting, Samothrace's 'Life's Trade' bridges the gap between Baroness and Electric Wizard. In the process, they're finding a niche all their own.



    Maximum Metal Rating Legend - Click for Full Details
    5 Excellent - Buy it and say a prayer to the metal gods that you were tuned on to this masterpiece. A classic.
    4-4.5 Great - Almost perfect records but there's probably a clunker or a lacking somewhere to keep it from perfection. You won't feel bad about dropping some bones on these.
    3.5 Good - Most of the record is good, but there may be some filler. This is the OK range where you'd search for the record on sale or used.
    3 Average - Some good songs, some bad ones at about a half/half ratio. Could show skills but be dull overall. Redeeming qualities for indy bands are effort and passion. Majors that don't try or suck outright end up here.
    2-2.5 Fair - Worth a listen, but best obtained by collectors. There is much better metal out there.
    1-1.5 Bad - Major problems with music, lyrics, production, etc.
    0 Terrible or an otherwise waste of your life and time.

    Note: Reviews are graded from 0-5, anything higher or not showing is from our old style. Scores, however, do not reveal the important features. The written review that accompanies the ratings is the best source of information regarding the music on our site. Reviewing is opinionated, not a qualitative science, so scores are personal to the reviewer and could reflect anything from being technically brilliant to gloriously cheesy fun.

    Demos and independent releases get some slack since the bands are often spent broke supporting themselves and trying to improve. Major releases usually have big financial backing, so they may be judged by a heavier hand. All scores can be eventually adjusted up or down by comparison of subsequent releases by the same band. We attempt to keep biases out of reviews and be advocates of the consumer without the undo influence of any band, label, management, promoter, etc.

    The best way to determine how much you may like certain music is to listen to it yourself.



    ALL FULL REVIEWS FOR: SAMOTHRACE
    CD
    TITLE BAND
    DOR
    REVIEWER DATE
    Life's TradeSamothrace
    2008
    Etiam3/6/2009


    ALL SUMMARY REVIEWS FOR: SAMOTHRACE

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