The Desert Winter contains one single track that lasts a whopping 37 minutes.
Here we go.
Across the playing time we get a thorough exposure to the band’s brand of doom metal, which manages to incorporate elements of both sludge and stoner metal into its embrace, using both to enhance the core downbeat misery of the band’s material.
We start off slow and droning, with wind and dust; sparse drums and heavy guitars build atmosphere and mood with a crushing delivery. Pretty soon the drums become quite intricate and full of enjoyable fills. They also have a very warm, earthy sound that is instantly endearing.
The music is slow, but not overly so, and introduces us to the band’s good sense of rhythm and repetitive riffing, the likes of which become hypnotic after a while.
So far, The Desert Winter is a bit reminiscent of a heavier Earth, with a slight stoner feel to a couple of the riffs in places.
So far, so good.
A few different riffs, speeds, and styles of playing, including some increasingly complex drumming, get us to roughly the 12 minute mark. Here things start to slow and calm down somewhat, before the band enter a lighter, more introspective phase that begins to focus on increased mood and restrained texture.
After a few minutes of this the heavy distortion returns, sounding quite apocalyptic, before returning to softer climes once more. Around the 20 minute mark the droning heaviness and endless drum fills return, only this time with some added leads that introduce mournful melodies into the song. As with everything else so far, it works a treat.
Just after the 25 minute point the feel changes, as we get a heavy semi-chugging riff that continues to move us forward, while a ghostly lead plays in the background, almost hidden behind the rhythm guitar. The band then proceed to develop this, speeding up as they do so. At this point I’d be somewhat convinced that the drummer was actually a machine, if it wasn’t for the warm, organic sound his drums have. Either way, he’s very impressive.
By the time we reach 30 minutes I’m completely lost in the band’s hypnotic heaviness and endless drum fills. I can’t imagine the song finishing, and I don’t think I want it to either. Also about this time we get more forlorn leads, adding extra colour to the weighty rhythm guitars and frenetic drumming. As this progresses it’s clear that everything is slowly moving towards an end point, driven relentlessly on by the drums, powered and guided by the riffs, and given depth and shading by the leads.
When it comes right down to it though, this is an album mainly about the rhythm guitars and the drums. When the leads disappear as the song slowly begins to reach its apogee, it feels entirely appropriate. In the last few minutes of the song’s existence it begins to wind down, nearly spent of energy. It leaves us almost in the same way that it first entered our lives, and this too feels appropriate; it’s a natural ending to the epic journey that Canyon of the Skull have taken us on.
When all is said and done, all that’s left is wind and dust.
Music to get lost in.