To be honest, I hold a fairly high level of scepticism when someone passes me an album by a new band and declares, loftily, that “you will like it”. Like some kind of rabid Pavlovian dog, my defences go up, my cynicism kicks in and my brain invariably utters the phrase, with arch knowing: “Oh! I will, will I?!” I then usually spend the subsequent listening of aforementioned album looking for ways to give it a bit of a kicking. I know this is neither big nor clever but, well, it just IS.
I mention this because I come to this review not to bury Cambridge black metal outfit Terra, but to praise them. Reader, I need to eat my proverbial hat, cover myself in sackcloth and ashes and admit that the person who gave me the Terra debut album to review was bang on: I do like them. I like them a lot [see… Assoc Ed]
This debut album of dark, hypnotic black metal is three tracks long but three continents wide in terms of its vast creative canvas. For a debut album it sounds remarkably accomplished, almost timeless in its effect and it should, if there is anything approaching justice in the musical world, see them rightly applauded.
If you’re desperate for that critical pitstop of a pigeon-hole then I guess that this trio inhabit that strange hinterland called “atmospheric” black metal. Before any of you pedants cry out that this pre-supposes that there is black metal that ISN’T atmospheric, I use the phrase to shorthand that if you’re familiar with Winterfylleth, Wolves in the Throne Room or Skagos then you’re likely to have an immediate affinity with what these boys are all about.
The three tracks on this untitled début (Hibernacula) – ‘I’, ‘II’, and, yes, you’ve guessed, ‘III’ – are all, in their own ways, pretty damn brilliant. There is a raw determination in the vocals of singer Ryan Saunders; whatever trials and tribulations this man has been through, he has found an outlet for his pain and redemption that seems validating and almost valedictory. This personal journey of facing personal mortality is ably supported by some brilliant musicianship: dark, brooding basslines from Oliver Walton and some terrific, elemental drumming from Luke Braddick create an experience that ebbs, flows, leaps and soars through a panoply of emotions, textures and moods.
This is black metal without artifice or pretence but black metal with resilience and personal fortitude. Terra might only just be starting to set out their stall but what a stall this is.