While the rest of the world might not associate Texas with sorrowful, meditative and experimental doom metal, that’s exactly what the Denton-based quintet Sans Soleil have produced on their fantastic debut ‘A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky’. Relinquishing vocals in favour of violin, the band offer a haunting, thoughtful sound reminiscent of both the pensive introspection of Kauan and A Forest of Stars’ folk-tinged method of invoking trancelike atmosphere. Blended with Earth’s sun-beaten experimentalism and minimalistic drone-tendencies, and ‘A Holy Land…’ proves to be a subtle yet captivating expression of melancholy and bleak nostalgia.
Opening track ‘A Holy Land’ immediately gets down to the business of capturing the band’s stylistic approach, with the spectral violins taking on an almost crooning character in their assumption of the role non-instrumental bands may afford a vocalist. The strings flow atop the typically morose doom metal musicianship with evocative melody and emotion, reaching quivering heights that perfectly complement the resounding impact of the guitars and drums. Breaking into a blues-soaked refrain before picking up the pace with the pounding bass grooving along in the background, Sans Soleil demonstrate their penchant for climactic song-writing and the juxtaposition of unbridled jams against their more restrained yet evocative doom simplicity.
The album continues loosely within this framework, with the instrumental intertwining of drums, guitar and bass supporting the wordless narrative of the violin, providing a textured soundscape that allows the violin to sing at moments, and hits with emotive force in others. ‘Beneath a Godless Sky’ closes the record and completes the album-name bookending with a piece that both encapsulates the record’s sound, and completes the climactic journey that the release’s four combined tracks provide in uninterrupted flow. The serene build-up evokes atmospheres of loss and poignant isolation, yet as it paves way for an emphatic and affecting finale, it becomes apparent that the entire album has been gravitating toward this moment, and it’s impossible not to be swept up in the powerful crescendo of emotion and atmosphere. A well-paced and constructed debut that offers an interesting and engaging interpretation of doom’s boundaries, ‘A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky’ is a highly recommended listen for anybody looking to delve into half an hour’s worth of tranquil reflection.
Tofu Carnage Records
Released on 30th December, 2014