Reviewed: October 2021
Released: 2021, Willowtip Records
Reviewer: Kat Knite
Back and even bigger than before, Sunless are breaking soundwaves again with the much awaited release of Ylem, part 2 of a dissonant and terrifying experimental death-metal trilogy. On October 29th, we’ll be lucky to witness the evolution of an era within their universe. Built on a foundation of tireless progressions, chunky breakdowns, and the bands signature to-the-point structures, Ylem forges the journey further by “reinforcing the mysticism of the previous album while exploring new themes of displacement, fear, wonder, and transcendence.”
Right away, the album art draws you in with its enigmatic depth – but that’s not the only part Andrew Notsch (Hollowdusk), who designed the art, played in bringing these ideas to fruition. In fact, he pioneered the concept as well as wrote the lyrics for the album. Talk about having vision! The key to any well-rounded project on the extreme side of a genre is finding the right people to achieve that fine balance that is needed. Where things may have a tendency to veer astray, you need sharp minds to create harmony within pandemonium – and that’s exactly what these guys do. Engineered by Adam Tucker at Signaturetone Recording in Minneapolis, MN, and mixed and mastered by Colin Marston at Menegroth, The Thousand Caves Studio in Queens, NY, Ylem was fortunate to find its outlet through people who worked together and saw it for what it was meant to be.
Off the charts when it comes to technicality, each track explores the widening breadth of Sunless’ capabilities. Welcoming a new drummer on board, Taylor Hamel, the rhythm section is tight and complex as ever, with Mitch Schooler continuing to lay down bass like the pro he is. Track titles focused on ideas of body and existence, musical arrangements strung in intelligent patterns, and ever-winding brutality in the flawless execution of the songs are trademark components of the bands expression. Amidst all the insanity, it’s the satisfyingly full and warm vocals from Lucas Scott (who also plays guitar on the record) that tie the sounds of Ylem together for me. This is something I noticed on their first release, Urraca. The man knows how to scream, growl, yell, and everything in between, but his tone is like deep gravel instead of nails on a chalkboard. When I first heard him over the instruments I thought “Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!” Again – balance is key, and Sunless have found the perfect recipe with each other.
Ylem presents an even more dynamic journey than the last release. The first two songs, ‘Spiraling into the Unfathomable’ & ‘Ascended Forms’ remind us of why we follow Sunless in the first place. Between that initial dissonance that draws us in and the innovations in rhythm that keep us there, we find a massive array of things to dissect, and yet we have time and patience to enjoy these technicalities without obsessing solely over them. Soon, the music starts to take on a life of its own and shows us exactly which part of the road we’re on within the saga. ‘The Unraveling of Arcane Past’ is a bit neurotic, but in a way that stays true to the cadences of death-metal. ‘Atramentous’ is one that completely surprised me with a part in the middle that almost sounds nice, channeling a jazzy, progressive-metal Opeth style moment. Bringing the record to a close, and completing the inner part of this long and twisted tale is ‘Molding Axioms of the Metaphysical’, an ominous halloween-horror finale. With a pulse that could make your head fall off, the track finishes Ylem in the true and brazen Sunless fashion I’ve grown utterly intrigued by.
This band has potential to grow a cult following – make sure you get in early so you can say you were there first! Keep your Sunless story up to date and preorder Ylem HERE! If you’re new to their wild and wicked ways, now’s the time to discover and explore part 1 of the trilogy, Urraca, which can be found here. Until part 3, boys!