Virginian trio Salome has been flirting with widespread recognition for several years now, championed by lovers of dirty Southern sludge metal. But with only a few singles, including a well-loved split with Thou, and an inconsistent touring schedule, they’ve not received the accolades of contemporaries. With even NPR taking notice of Terminal prior to its release, that’s bound to change.
But do they offer anything fresh to the ever crowded doom scene? On the one hand, when you’re in the mood for doom, it’s because you crave its formulaic properties: the epic crawl, the slow build, the mind-control repetition and nod. Whether on the Sabbath/Vitus end of the spectrum or the Mono/Corrupted end, doom is the withdrawn, abject variant of heaviness. The bands that have defined it of late, however, are those who have contributed something distinctive to the formula, mostly vocally. Think of Mike Scheidt’s Geddy Lee-ish petitions in YOB, the Opethian poise in Ahab, and Kat Katz’s stunning performances here. It’s also due to the band’s increasingly confident and focused incorporation of noise and electronics into their sound, far more than just sonic garland.
With Katz’s shrieks and sub-guttural growls alike (nobody should be surprised any longer that women sing like this, but, holy shit, does Katz sound fierce), drummer Aaron Deal’s spacious intonations, and guitarist Rob Moore using panned cabinets to create a huge sound, Terminal is raw both sonically and aesthetically. The music often sounds like it’s being torn from something against its will, defiant in a way that suggests it’s concealing a confession. The pace is measured, thudding and bludgeoning without being meatheaded, with the noisy squalls stitched throughout rather than existing as perfunctory interludes. Moore’s detuned riffing sounds great on “The Message” and the title track, with enough changes of tempo and dynamic to keep things interesting. By the time the hit the hypnotic groove of “Master Failure,” I was reminded of the slightly ashen sound of Withered filtered through the compositional aesthetic of YOB (and those vocals continue to knock me out).
On its face, the album is a more than solid doom record. But what keeps me coming back to it is the interplay between the long noise sections and the grinding riffs that’s become the band’s signature. As good as the variations in tempo and vocal attack can be, and even when they don’t move as seamlessly between the two as you’d like (there are a couple of less than graceful transitions on “Epidemic”), the band is a force on tunes like the 17-minute “An Accident of History.” The noise is dense and layered, with what sound like oceans of voices buried within the howl and vast pregnant pauses that erupt in massive downbeats. I usually want to grumble about releases as pre-hyped as this, but it’s hard to deny that Salome has delivered on their considerable promise and ambition on Terminal.