As concept album’s go, Russian Astro-Doom quintet Below The Sun’s debut album Envoy (Temple of Torturous) tackles quite a big one: the enormity of space itself. But the band manage to tackle the big black with a big bleak album.
The anonymous group – who all go by names like Void, Vacuum, Quasar and Lightspeed – deal in a space-themed combo of doom, post and black metal. Apparently the album concept revolves around a personified narrative of Voyager-1 – the first man-made object to leave our solar system – or as the band describe it “humankind’s first step in fulfilling our destiny – transcending the Solar System and paving our way to the stars.”
From the opening chords of ‘Outward the Sky’ to dark melody of final track ‘Earth’, Envoy is a slow, sparse and atmospheric listen. It’s hard to pick standout moments mostly because everything blends into one black mass and doesn’t really lend itself to individual observation. The music on offer is often understated, but hauntingly melodic at the same time.
The 10-minute “Alone” is probably the album’s centre-piece, building from light atmospherics to a swirling mass of chords, blastbeats and screams of the title over and over. If the band is trying to recreate the desolate, isolated nature of outer-space, they do a pretty good job. Feedback, reverb and whispers feature throughout, and it’s a surprisingly eerie listen at times, but isn’t afraid to smack you with a crushing riff and guttural screams to shock your system.
With its six songs – averaging around ten minutes each and half of which is purely instrumental – Envoy is a bleak soundscape epic in scope. It won’t appeal to everyone, but it really captures the mood of how it might feel to float alone in space for eternity.