Pothamus - Raya review




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Reviewer:
8.3

14 users:
7.93
Band: Pothamus
Album: Raya
Release date: December 2020


01. Orath
02. Viso
03. Heravis I
04. Heravis II
05. Raya
06. Varos


More than most subgenres of metal, good post-metal relies on creating a compelling atmosphere; on Raya, Pothamus demonstrate that they are well aware of this requirement.

Belgium is starting to become a bit of a hotbed for quality post-metal. Amenra are well-established by now, and Oathbreaker found success with Rheia. Now, however, there's more coming through, with Psychonaut's Unfold The God Man receiving adulation and fellow Mechelen outfit Pothamus now dropping their debut record, Raya. Just like Psychonaut's debut, Raya is an excellent record that demonstrates a real maturity in Pothamus's writing at an early stage of their career.

Pothamus describe themselves as a mixture of sludge, post-rock and tribal elements, and that comes through clearly in their music. Tribal percussion isn't exactly a novelty in post-metal; genre forefathers Neurosis both started and ended arguably their most significant song ("Through Silver In Blood") with such percussion. However, Raya has arguably a greater emphasis on tribal-influenced percussion that the majority of their post-metal peers, and Pothamus utilize such an approach to great effect, turning the likes of "Orath" and "Heravis" into spiritually stirring listening experiences. Beyond the percussion, the guitar work on Raya follows many of the conventions of the genre: thick, gnarly sludge riffs in its heavier moments, extended stretches of muted music with increasing intensity between those sludgy outbursts, and liberal use of tremolo and sustained tones. The building blocks may be familiar, but it's the way that they are assembled that makes Raya such a satisfying listen.

I namedropped Psychonaut earlier in the review, and there's actually quite a lot of overlap between the two groups, who it would appear are good friends. Both are power trios from Mechelen, Belgium, each group is thanked in the liner notes of the other's debut records, and both Sam Coussens and Mattias Van Hulle of Pothamus were guests on Unfold The God Man. In terms of the music, probably the aspect of Raya that makes me think most of Psychonaut are the clean vocals, which also are somewhat reminiscent of Al Cisneros' work in Om, focussing less on melody and instead having more of a drawn-out, shamanic chanting vibe to them.

Beyond this, Pothamus deviate from Psychonaut when it comes to instrumentation; whilst their friends operate in the kind of prog/post-metal sound that is becoming increasingly popular due to the likes of The Ocean, the music on Raya is closer to fellow Belgians Amenra in focusing on gradual intensification of prolonged passages without much in the way of instrumental technicality. However, the sonic extremes are far less pronounced than those of Amenra; Pothamus are closer to Dirge than anyone else I can think of off the top of my head in terms of actual sound, particularly their album Hyperion. Whilst they're not yet the equals of Dirge when it comes to song structure, they already demonstrate a comparable aptitude for exploring the possibilities within their softest-to-loudest range in order to keep the lengthy compositions featured here engaging, delivering satisfying variety both between ("Heravis" provides necessary levity after the pounding that the latter half of "Viso" subjects listeners to) and within songs (the title track takes listeners on quite the journey in order to maintain engagement across its 16-minute runtime).

I've mentioned in recent reviews of progressive metal albums that I've found 2020 to be a very fruitful year for prog, and I feel similarly about post-metal in 2020, with quality releases from the likes of The Ocean, Psychonaut, Garganjua, Lesser Glow, Wren and more showing both the strength and range of the genre. Pothamus's album isn't quite the king of the hill, but it's a really commendable effort considering it's their debut record, and I can see myself frequently returning to Raya for years to come.


Rating breakdown
Performance: 9
Songwriting: 8
Originality: 6
Production: 9


 



Written on 07.12.2020 by Hey chief let's talk why not


Comments

Comments: 9   Visited by: 37 users
08.12.2020 - 13:58
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Not the best post-metal this year, but way more than just competent.
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08.12.2020 - 15:22
TheBigRossowski
Dudeist Priest
Ohh nice, I'll have to check this one out. For me, Calyces "Impulse to Soar" took the cake this year. Woof.
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08.12.2020 - 16:44
musclassia

Written by TheBigRossowski on 08.12.2020 at 15:22

For me, Calyces "Impulse to Soar" took the cake this year. Woof.


Not heard of this one - will queue it to listen to later in the week, cheers for the rec
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08.12.2020 - 22:52
TheBigRossowski
Dudeist Priest
Written by musclassia on 08.12.2020 at 16:44

Written by TheBigRossowski on 08.12.2020 at 15:22

For me, Calyces "Impulse to Soar" took the cake this year. Woof.


Not heard of this one - will queue it to listen to later in the week, cheers for the rec


And I'm listening to the Pothamus now XD. I would have rated them higher on originality. I understand some genres are becoming oversaturated, but for what it is, especially with the tribal elements, could have been a bit higher. Glad I checked it out!
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That rug really tied the room together, did it not?
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08.12.2020 - 22:55
musclassia

Written by TheBigRossowski on 08.12.2020 at 22:52


And I'm listening to the Pothamus now XD. I would have rated them higher on originality. I understand some genres are becoming oversaturated, but for what it is, especially with the tribal elements, could have been a bit higher. Glad I checked it out!


Ah man, originality scores are going to be the bane of my life on MS at this rate after the Draconian review lol - I do kinda agree, I don't think it's super different (tribal elements have occasionally popped in post-metal bands since it became a genre pretty much), but it does sound relatively distinct within the genre, so it coulda been a 7.
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09.12.2020 - 16:44
musclassia

Written by TheBigRossowski on 08.12.2020 at 15:22

For me, Calyces "Impulse to Soar" took the cake this year. Woof.


I'm liking this - reminds me quite a lot of Intronaut without being a rip-off or anything, lil bits of Elder and Baroness popping up at different times too
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09.12.2020 - 21:48
TheBigRossowski
Dudeist Priest
Yeah man, it's a heavy debut release, like they've just been gathering inspiration for 15 years and decided to drop it now.

As for your originality quote from before, I feel you. I try to put it in perspective compared to other mainstream genres. Pop generally sounds the same it did even 25-30 years ago. There isn't much more they can do with their happy three chord songs and yet their audiences aren't so critical. I feel like in the past five years people have been pushing the boundaries of genres so far that we have something as crazy as Igorrr (still a great band..).
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09.12.2020 - 22:13
RaduP
CertifiedHipster
Written by TheBigRossowski on 09.12.2020 at 21:48

Pop generally sounds the same it did even 25-30 years ago.

No it doesn't.
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Serenity is no longer wishing you had a different past.

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11.12.2020 - 19:45
tea[m]ster
Au Pays Natal
Intrigued. Excellent review and thanks.
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