Usnea – Bathed in Light (Review)

Usnea - Bathed in LightThis is the fourth album from US doom band Usnea.

After loving 2014’s Random Cosmic Violence and 2017’s Portals into Futility, I am so completely ready for a new Usnea album. Bathed in Light brings us not only their shortest album yet at 43 minutes, but also many of their shortest songs. What does this mean for the Usnea we know and adore?

Well, any hesitation I may have felt about Bathed in Light based on its brevity, (and, to be honest, underwhelming album art), were dispelled as soon as I pressed play for the first time. The music of the opening title track entered slowly and with great atmospheric presence, before absolutely crushing with that now-familiar pitch-black guitar sound that’s just so, so heavy. It was ridiculous to doubt them, of course, and Usnea soon set me straight.

These new songs may be shorter in length than many of their predecessors, but they’re not lacking in scope or ambition. In addition to the mountains of scathing sludgy blackened doom you would want from Usnea, they have also injected a few other influences and ideas here and there too.

The music weaves mood and atmosphere like a cosmic wizard, building and destroying with esoteric ease. Psychedelic post-rock workouts descend into a maelstrom of thick sludge riffs and murderous screams. The gigantic growls are capable of swallowing worlds, while grim melodies pull you down into despair. The Compleated Sage contains pure black metal ferocity alongside colossal doom. To the Deathless features darkly emotive synths and the sort of relentless driving sludge doom that’s just pure aural misery and woe. From Soot and Pyre is the shortest song Usnea have ever written, and it’s a real doom metal highlight, complete with some ghostly clean vocals.  The longest song here is Premeditatio Malorum, and ranges from reflective introspection to all-encompassing atmospheric doom darkness. Album closer Uncanny Valley begins with contemplative texture, with clean singing, before unleashing a tempest of churning heaviness. About halfway the song turns to doooooom that slowly, inexorably sucks all of the light out of the world.

Usnea’s music is powerful and very effective at what it does. It’s that simple.

Well, it was stupid of me to be apprehensive of Bathed in Light in any way. It is, once again, a superlative album from this amazing band. I love Usnea, and Bathed in Light has not disappointed at all.

Essential listening for any doom fan.

Find out more here.


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