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House of Low Culture - Poisoned Soil

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Artist: House of Low Culture

Album: Poisoned Soil

Label: Sub Rosa

Review date: May. 2, 2012

Critics may be divided over the merit of Sunn O))), but it’s hard not to see them as a mighty influence on modern metal, especially of the doom variety. The expansive, all-encompassing nature of their Monoliths & Dimensions masterpiece, and their insistence on inertia and crunching volume, has taken metal into new areas, reconnecting it with folk, drone and psychedelia — metal to be absorbed. It is out of this heady territory that Aaron Turner has launched House of Low Culture, previously aided by SUNN O)))’s Stephen O’Malley, but now taking on most musical duties himself, with additions by his wife Faith Coloccia and former Burning Witch drummer B.R.A.D.

Even by doom drone metal standards, House of Low Culture’s Poisoned Soil is slow, varied and atmospheric. Isis front-man Aaron Turner goes quite a bit further than anything in his discography, resulting in an unpredictable album that is both intriguing and frustrating. The album contains three long pieces that evolve gradually in the manner of prog-rock “suites” from the 1970s. The tracks feel segmented; on the 15-minute “Spoiled Fruits of the Kingdom,” screeching feedback recedes into a thick veil of drone, in and out of which seep moments of varied texture. Midway through, Turner drops a crystalline guitar motif into the mix, which itself makes way for industrial rumbles and deep, subterranean chanting, somewhere between the mysterious Russian quintet Phurpa and La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela’s Dream House meditations.

With its constant veil of hazy crackle, and elusive, intangible eruptions of sound, Poisoned Soil feels like a metallic take on the hauntology genre that is so ubiquitous right now, with a similar “horror” feel to artists like Black Mountain Transmitter, Demdike Stare and Failing Lights. At the same time, Turner’s visions feels a lot less focused than those artists, the extended durations, lengthy passages of silence and frequent atmospheric shifts lending each track a schizophrenic formal uneasiness. Their best moments have a stirring, frightening quality (again akin to Monoliths & Dimensions), but at other times Turner fails to maintain interest in his unfolding sonic sagas. Poisoned Soil is certainly a bleak and morose slab of deconstructed metal, but it’s not one that truly captivates.

By Joseph Burnett

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