Geomancer – Khatt Al-Raml
Review by Neil Ainger
With an abrasive wall of shrieking feedback, which soon settles comfortably into the slow gloom of the riffing, you could be forgiven for thinking, even 30 seconds in, that you understand Geomancer. It would come as little shock at this point to learn that Geomancer play a brand of crawling, dreary doom.
In fact the opening, self-titled track Geomancer continues to crawl until it reaches almost an absolute halt before defiantly bursting into life once more, the pace quickened and more urgent, even the teasing of something resembling an unexpected guitar solo before the track is pulled back around to where it began. A fleeting moment of colour in an otherwise cheerless opening 10 minutes that comes full circle with the reintroduction of the same gloomy riff and feedback bringing it to a sharp end.
Second track Grief initially offers no respite. The deep, guttural growls are bleak and the pace tired. For the first few minutes the track, and therefore the album, barely has a pulse. Much like in the opener however, the track erupts. The riffing is sharp and precise with only a hint of fuzz and breathes life deep into its failing lungs, but where the track turns next is what perhaps will help to set this album apart from some of Geomancers peers this year – continuing to speed until the only way to go is down, the descent is not in to its dreary beginnings but in to glittering light as the remainder of the track is bathed in a gentler post-rock glow.
Clocking in at a little under 4 and a half minutes, Visions is the only sub 10-minute track on the album. Simplistic and minimalist, the band wind the album down into a much more subtle and reserved psychedelic haze, like the calm before a storm. A storm entitled Greed.
Greed begins with the most aggressive few minutes on the record. There is more assertion and vigour in the vocals than at any other point in the just over 50-minute journey of Khatt Al-Raml.
The riffs are at their most compact and arguably most focused and where this album really shines are in the instrumental passages of this track as well as the albums closing track Sacrifice.
The aggression at the outset of Greed is soon washed away in a hazy and fuzzy whirlwind of heavy psychedelia and feedback and the more subdued tone is only continued in to the opening moments of Sacrifice, with a slow and hypnotic beginning of precise post-rock, eventually interrupted by the marching beat of the drums and the most evil sounding riffs on the record. For a record with many peaks and troughs and several different influences pulling it in multiple different directions, it is, at its core, a slow, sludgy, gloomy doom record and comes to an end in the only way it can. Not in a blaze of glory, but in a whimper of a fade out.
The Geordie doom trio does not exactly shatter genre limitations entirely nor provide the most diversified and complex record you are likely to ever hear, but they do refuse to be labelled easily or at least accurately without doing them something of a disservice. Plenty of fans of stoner rock, post-rock, doom and sludge will find more than enough to hold their interest here and if we can put genres and labels to one side for a moment, hopefully most of them will be able to agree on one thing, and that is that with a debut album such as this, Geomancer may just be a band worthy of paying close attention to in the coming months and years.
Tracklisting and credits;
Rich Cartey – vocals, guitar
Calum Piercy – bass
Ruben Guastapaglia – drums
Recorded, engineered, and mixed by Tom Goodall, Mirrorman Recordings, at CHUNK, Leeds, UK
Mastered by Matt Deamer, Glide Studio
Artwork by Thee Ruiner
Download available now geomancer.bandcamp.com/releases
Physical copies available soon via invertedgrim-millrecordings.bandcamp.com/album/khatt-al-raml