It's always easiest to define a band like this by the heavier parts of their sound, but Last Rites has as much light in its sound as dark. It is not a "post-metal" record. There is way more going on here than Isis/Neurosis/Pelican [delete as appropriate] worship - as much attention is given to the properties of each sound and how it resonates as is given to the riffs themselves. These explorations of ambience give the record a cavernous sense of space that makes it sound freaking huge...quieter passages on Last Rites have a considered, dreamy quality to them that reminds me a lot of the calmer moments of maudlin of the Well's music. After the long build of 'Prophecy at the Ruins', the music finally erupts in 'Simon Helen Elizabeth (The Gate)' with the kind of music that Pelican should be writing these days - proudly triumphant riffs shrouded in enormous swathes of ambience...attention to detail in the writing, recording and mixing makes it a very rewarding listen, and I will recommend it to anyone who is interested in records that explore the possibilities within the outer fringes of heavy music.
I often read about ATEOTW being cavernous or sounding like the end of the world, thunder and lightning, rains of fire, power and menace wielded on a cosmological, theological or metereological level; This is true, although I prefer to think of the processes as internalised, dramatised processes of self, which in any case better fits with the primal vibe my ears detect. There's an opaque mysticism in play that seems to fit in with images of a raw and nascent earth. Having listened through many times now, I hear a sort of anti-spiritualism deeply rooted in human actors, an arcane architecture of ceremonies ill-understood from the outside. It's like medieval Europe as interpreted by Cormac McCarthy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the opening bars of Simon Helen Elizabeth (The Gate) which bring to mind valleys, light mist and coronation - not unlike The Lion King, but no doubt with more robes. Later, this track becomes more triumphant still, hitting an emphatic wall of rhythm, guitar and subverted vocals that's eerily reminiscent of The Angelic Process...There is a somewhat distant feel to much of the 25-minute span, feeling more like a sighting of the godhead on the horizon, and less like Ragnarok erupting in one's cochlea. ...Will Be Laid To Waste is certainly very grand, and forms a towering end to proceedings. This record sounds like the music Jesu should be making right now. Yeah, you should get this.
There is some serious six string worship going on here, but not in a noodly, show-off kind of way. Broadly speaking, they operate in a doom metal vein, but are as concerned with melody and structure as they are with brute force. They may give your ears a battering, but it’s never uncontrolled noise for the sake of it.