Amarok - Amarok
Self Release
2 songs (29:08)
Release year: 2010
Reviewed by Charles
This is a good debut EP from California quartet Amarok; two tracks of pretty unadulterated stoner doom which squeezes every last drop of wasted atmosphere from its super-slow tempos and parched delivery. Influences clearly stem from the frazzled end of the spectrum- like a St Vitus or Electric Wizard with a drier sound - but the vocals are much harsher, reminding me of Kat from Salome (despite being male). Something about the way the (two) vocalists gurgle abrasively over a classily minimalist rhythm section is very reminiscent of Terminal. The EP demonstrates a real grasp of slow tempos, and expertly demonstrates how to keep down-tempo songs cooking just right; a skill they share with other doom newcomers (of which there seem to be a wealth at the moment) such as Pallbearer or Conan (both of whose debut EPs I have reviewed previously for this site).

I (there two sides here, both untitled, taking up about half an hour in total) seems to be formatted in a way that is very comparable to Cathedral’s track Ultra Earth, from the Endtyme album. That is to say that it takes the form of crawling-pace doom chords, wilfully sluggish and defiantly despondent, before shifting gears into a surprisingly swinging blues riff midway through. However, the difference lies in the fact that Cathedral, bless ‘em, play this type of thing for laughs, making hay out of the wildness of the contrast. Amarok, on the other hand, merge their tune much more subtly and seamlessly, so that the mid-tempo blues riff seems to sprout naturally from the fecund earth of the slow chords; a testament to the band’s understatedness.

A potential downside to this understated approach is the absence of dynamics, and for sure, the guitar and vocals especially seem quite uniform for much of the EP. With this in mind the second half (called II) seems like the stronger of the sides here, and is really quite striking. It opens with a pustulent, shambling chord progression, which sounds funereal enough to invoke earlier Pantheist but with a dust-dry, keyboard-free sound. It makes good use of sodden guitar harmonies, which is rare for the record. This builds slowly and subtly into a mighty down-tempo chug-riff, replete with pregnant silences on every fourth beat; a pretty imposing climax to the record. This, then, is an EP that traditionalists should hunt down. The riffing is totally unpretentious, and its atmosphere is addictive. Amarok look set to win many friends in the doom scene.

Killing Songs :
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