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Sumac’s The Deal: A Familiar Assault

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Experimental metal isn’t really underground anymore. The surge of sludge- and prog-oriented stoner metal of the mid-to-late 2000s brought about a new era where bands like Clutch, Mastodon, and Kylsea were performing at major venues and being sold as beery riff rock, regardless of the fact that much of their music was pretty fucking far out. As such, these kinds of bands are part of the genre’s consciousness as a whole now, not simply for art school metalheads and heavy drug users. So when one listens to The Deal by Sumac, the new progressive metal outfit featuring Aaron Turner of Isis, Nick Yacyshyn of Baptists, and Brian Cook of Russian Circles, it is hard not to hear the similarities to those bands shining through.

Of course, with a lineup like this, listeners shouldn’t expect anything other than big and weird. For Aaron Turner, “experimental” is the starting point, and with Sumac he has obviously gone in a more primitive and brutal direction than that of his other projects. There is a warm, tangible guitar sound throughout The Deal, which ranges from hypnotic to lumbering and fiercely blunt. Yacyshyn’s drumming also channels a very human and organic vibe, driving but not too technical. But modern fans will hear plenty of the Georgia sound on this record, specifically that of Baroness, whose first two EPs seem to have informed a lot of what Sumac’s doing (though one might point out that if you’re going to sound similar to other records, those two are damn fine ones to imitate).

The Deal is only four full songs with ambient intro and outro tracks, but that’s plenty. “The Thorn In The Lion’s Paw” and “Hollow King” are menacing as Hell as they plod along, the former acerbic and hostile, the latter solid and rhythmic until its unhinged ending. “Blight’s End Angel” has a bit more straight sludge to it with its chugging riffs and dire breakdowns. But it’s the title track that makes the album special. “The Deal” is a huge thirteen-minute exploration of every aspect of Sumac’s sound, from bizarre strung-out acrobatics to crushing, intestinal fury. “The Deal” is the one that takes these sensibilities for a ride.

One thing to note is that for all the talk of experimental music here, Sumac is in no way spacey or crunchy. This album is mean, and like the band’s namesake has potential to be incredibly poisonous. So although many parts of the record may sound a little too familiar, the band has a unique voice which will hopefully only grow louder over time.

Sumac’s The Deal comes out February 17 via Profound Lore and SIGE. You can listen to the song “Blight’s End Angel” here and pre-order the album here.

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