Review: EMBR – ‘1823’

Alabama quartet EMBR and esteemed UK label New Heavy Sounds are a perfect fit. With a sound consisting of heavy doom with leanings towards grunge, and a hint of melo-death, EMBR belongs on New Heavy Sounds; home to bands such as Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Sky Valley Mistress, and Black Moth.

‘1823’ is quite a significant title, drummer Eric Bigelow had been on the waiting list for a kidney transplant for some time and when he received a kidney transplant last year, all he knew about the donor is that it was a young woman between the ages of 18-23. Hence this, the debut EMBR album, is dedicated to the donor and the surgeons at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville TN.

Doom can quite often be a divisive genre, with most of the doubters suggesting that it can be a tad repetitive. EMBR displays all the trademarks of the genre and then adds a few extra touches, be it the use of a synth, or the introduction of harsh vocals. The heavy drop-tuned guitar sound from Mark Buchanan is crucial, and when he locks into a groove with bassist Alan Light and the aforementioned Bigelow, the result is staggering, at times bordering on cinematic. Listen to the musical breaks on the likes of ‘Stranger’ and ‘Your Burden’, it’s easy to imagine a director like Michael Mann using them as Pacino chases down DeNiro in Heat, or when Jamie Foxx is running from Cruise in the final scenes of Collateral. Playing out with L.A. in the background at night; vivid and visionary.

The vocals from Crystal Bigelow are at times, both weighty and ethereal. Opener ‘Prurient’ is ushered in with some brief screams before some of the most haunting and atmospheric vocals heard from a “new” vocalist in a long time. Bigelow is a revelation and her vocals feature the same sense of tortured fragility that Mlny Parsonz from Royal Thunder has. The kind of vocals that make you stop what you are doing, and listen. A perfect example of this would be ‘Stranger’; a six-minute behemoth that excels in shaking the foundations. ‘Powder’ and ‘Vines’ are two other examples. A fantastic blend of death-growls, shrieks, and siren-like vocals, all swirling around the listener’s head while the pounding bass and drums knock them into submission. Try these last two at full volume, sweet baby Jesus and all the little orphans, they are gorgeous.

‘1823’ is a fantastic beginning from a band going against the grain and mixing things up. Check out ‘1823’ on Bandcamp, here.

Review – Dave

Band image on header – credit Ashley Guise

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