Still – { }


This reviewer has three reasons to pay attention to the debut LP from Still. One, Joe Clayton (Pijn), recorded and mixed it and also produced classic albums from Dawnwalker and Ba’al over the last eighteen months. Two, SBR favourites and fellow Hull natives, Mastiff, are friends and fans of the band. Three, people describe their music as the sound of being buried alive. On all three fronts, the hype is justified. This is the audio equivalent of trauma recovery.

{ } might be an abstract title for an album, but the only things abstract about the music are the draughty guitar distortion and flickering flames of beauty that reside among the despair. Still’s background is post-hardcore, but their special ingredient is atmospheric black metal. Listen to opener, ‘Droves,’ and you’ll understand within thirty seconds what they’re doing here. Svalbard come to mind, but so do the ambient textures of Vous Autre. Behind the wash of the guitars, you’ll find a sludge metal urge to break out into a thicker wall of noise. ‘Continued Suffering of an Endless Night’ might even remind you of Amiensus in the way they mix hysterical vocals with unorthodox chord shapes. The double-kick eighth notes pulsate like a boiler station humming away in the early hours of the morning. The idea of a living hell is something tangible and real if this is what it feels like to be buried alive.

The most impressive aspect of Still is their understanding of dynamics. This is a band that build towards a climax with great efficacy on the excellent ‘We Were Ghosts (All Along)’ and ‘Blear, Amidst’. Tom drums dance around the bass and the guitars clang with a dissonant bite behind the severe throat screams. Every note pleads for a reprieve from life’s tribulations, yet moments of reflection also emerge among the pain. Most songs reset for a period of clarity amid the carnage. Listen to those percussive rhythms and distant feedback swells illuminating the discordant arpeggio at the beginning of ‘Half Hands Won’t Hold’ – this is the definition of anxiety. ‘A Pendulous Spirit (Part One) – The Great Expanse’ is so vicious you begin to wonder if this is what the adrenaline experience feels like for the knife-wielding assailant rather than the victim. Where do they find such reserves of strength to maintain these stamina levels?

With eyes half-closed and cheeks dimpled by the nerve-shattering noise, you’ll need the respite Still offer in sensible doses throughout { }. The Tool-esque contemplation of ‘Blear, Amidst’ erupts like a volcano on the scream of “Alone beneath the clouds” but only after five minutes of existential post-rock musings. The songs don’t feel long, yet closing track, ‘Ever {I.I.MMXVI}’, breaches the ten minute-mark and mixes blackened post-hardcore rage with a conscious attempt to find beauty. The chords are less dissonant and more melodious, yet they break out into violent blast beats towards the end as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.

The English post-metal scene is thriving at the moment, and Still deserve to be one of its leading lights. { } is a triumph of the restless spirit and the philosophical mind.

JVB


Verdict


Release Date: 24/09/2021

Record Label: Trepanation Recordings

Standout tracks: We Were Ghosts (All Along), Half Hands Won’t Hold, A Pendulous Spirit (Part one) – The Great Expanse

Suggested Further Listening: Redemptus – Blackhearted (2021), Ba’al – Ellipsism (2020), Alkerdeel – Slonk (2021)