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Sunnata - Outlands review




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Reviewer:
8.3

19 users:
7.47
Band: Sunnata
Album: Outlands
Release date: March 2018


01. Intro
02. Lucid Dream
03. Scars
04. Outlands
05. The Ascender
06. Gordian Knot
07. Falling (Interlude)
08. Hollow Kingdom
09. Ayahuasca


As much as the bustling stoner/psychedelic rock underground consistently churns out new entertaining albums, a substantial portion of the music remains notably indebted to the desert rock bands of the 90's, as well as the hard rock of the late 60's and 70's. Sometimes it's a pleasure to encounter a band totally unafraid to take what they enjoy from those influences, and then go completely their own way, such as Sunnata do on Outlands.

Outlands is Sunnata's third record, but my first encounter with the group, and I've been enamoured with the distinctive sound they display here since my first listen. Outlands combines a blend of stoner metal and psychedelic rock with elements of doom, sludge, post-metal, oriental melodies, and more, to create an eerie, ritualistic, meditative vibe that at different points on the record either entrances or unnerves. After a minimalist droning introduction track, the first 'proper' song, "Lucid Dream", shows the untapped potential of combining the slow-burning, dynamic song structures and tribal drumming of post-metal, typically stylistically entwined with sludge, with the fuzzy guitar grooves of stoner rock, along with the Eastern-influenced instrumentation and eerie multi-layered vocals of psychedelic rock.

A 9-minute ritual of a song that gradually adds increasing instrumental intensity as the song grows and builds towards the inevitable gut-punching climactic riff, "Lucid Dream" effectively sets the tone for the rest of the music on display. Other choice cuts from the album include the spiritualistic title track, with its almost sitar-like guitar sounds and tom-heavy atmosphere-building drums, "The Ascender", which alternates between driving stoner rock and murkier territories, and the restrained, highly dynamic epic closer, "Hollow Kingdom".

As much as both the overall approach and the actual songs have got me fully on board with Sunnata, Outlands is naturally not without its flaws. The sonic variety on display here is impressive and enables the different songs to stand out from each other, yet I found the heavier, sludgier riffs to be much less enchanting than the eerie, semi-dissonant, atmospheric build-ups that dominate the musical landscapes of substantial portions of this album. Also, whilst the mid-tempo driving desert rock of "Gordian Knot" is perfectly satisfying, it does feel ever so slightly throwaway when sandwiched between two ambitious tracks such as "The Ascender" and "Hollow Kingdom". Lastly, I have no real explanation regarding why not, but for whatever reason I have yet to grow particularly fond of "Scars", which is a shame as it marginally disrupts the fantastic early momentum generated by "Lucid Dream".

I can't think of a clear comparison point for Outlands; Sunnata have clearly drawn upon an array of different influences, but in doing so have generated a sound entirely of their own. If you're looking for some music to guide you on a dark, hypnotic, yet at times uplifting spiritual journey, this album could well be travel partner for you.


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

Written by musclassia | 07.05.2018




Guest review disclaimer:
This is a guest review, which means it does not necessarily represent the point of view of the MS Staff.


Comments

Comments: 9   Visited by: 22 users
07.05.2018 - 18:09
Apothecary
Drone Strike
Good review and very well written. I like that you can give an album a considerably nice score and still point out some of the flaws you found with it that make it fall short of being "excellent" or "perfect" material for you. I remember hearing these guys a while ago and liking them, but don't really recall their sound being anywhere near as diverse and enticing as what you describe here. Putting this on my "to listen" list for this week for sure!
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Check out Apothecary's Favorite Bands Playlist, brotendo. One track per band.
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07.05.2018 - 18:49
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by Apothecary on 07.05.2018 at 18:09

Good review and very well written. I like that you can give an album a considerably nice score and still point out some of the flaws you found with it that make it fall short of being "excellent" or "perfect" material for you. I remember hearing these guys a while ago and liking them, but don't really recall their sound being anywhere near as diverse and enticing as what you describe here. Putting this on my "to listen" list for this week for sure!


Cheers, man! I finally found the time to start writing reviews again and listened to this album around that time, I thought it was appropriately distinctive and imperfect to give me something to work with. Hopefully I'll be able to do them a bit more regularly and hopefully continue to impress. Given your greater knowledge and experience with 'out there' music, it might not be as unique to you as I found it, but I was struggling to think of another band I've heard (or heard well enough to remember) that seemed to fit at the point where psychedelic rock, stoner rock, post- and (to a lesser extent) sludge metal meet, particularly with the Eastern music influences.
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07.05.2018 - 19:05
Apothecary
Drone Strike
Written by musclassia on 07.05.2018 at 18:49

I was struggling to think of another band I've heard (or heard well enough to remember) that seemed to fit at the point where psychedelic rock, stoner rock, post- and (to a lesser extent) sludge metal meet, particularly with the Eastern music influences.

Sounds a little like something ZAUM would do, have you scoped them yet? Very good band and while they don't really get into post or sludge it is more or less stoner doom super flexed out with Eastern and psych influences. I think you'll really enjoy them if you found this album worthy of an 8.3.

Bandcamp.
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Check out Apothecary's Favorite Bands Playlist, brotendo. One track per band.
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07.05.2018 - 21:50
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by Apothecary on 07.05.2018 at 19:05

ZAUM


I just gave them a go, but I got 10 minutes into the first song I came across and wasn't particularly engaged; think the vocals put me off a bit, but wasn't too intriguied by the instrumentation either sadly.
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29.08.2018 - 02:52
Rating: 9
tominator
At best deranged
This is the record so far this year that surprised me the most. Absolutely love the sound they got on this album. I do agree with you that the best parts are the eery atmospheric ones.

Definitely one of my favourites I've heard so far this year. Good review!
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30.08.2018 - 00:13
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by tominator on 29.08.2018 at 02:52

This is the record so far this year that surprised me the most. Absolutely love the sound they got on this album. I do agree with you that the best parts are the eery atmospheric ones.

Definitely one of my favourites I've heard so far this year. Good review!


Yeah, I came acorss it when I found the Stoned Meadow Of Doom Youtube channel earlier this year and tried out some of the more popular recent releases; I listened to this year's Sunnata, Naxatras, and Somali Yacht Club in the space of a couple of days, and hwilst I like the other two quite a bit, I haven't revisited them nearly as much as I have Outlands, I really dig this album. I ended up checking out the previous albums - I like them, particularly Zorya, but I am glad they decided to take the path they did on this one, it's such a cool sound
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30.08.2018 - 02:15
Rating: 9
tominator
At best deranged
Written by musclassia on 30.08.2018 at 00:13

Yeah, I came acorss it when I found the Stoned Meadow Of Doom Youtube channel earlier this year


Then we share the same source for our stoner and doom metal finds.

Also listened to the Naxatras and Somali Yacht Club albums a few months ago on the channel. They are nice, but yeah not as unique as this one.

Another one on the channel that I really liked was Thirst Planet - The Essence. Do recommend it!
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30.08.2018 - 09:16
Rating: 8
musclassia

Written by tominator on 30.08.2018 at 02:15

Another one on the channel that I really liked was Thirst Planet - The Essence. Do recommend it!


The name looked familiar, so I went and checked my 2018 list for it, turns out I did listen to it - I liked it, but I think it didn't quite click for me in the way some of the others on that channel have. I really like the artwork though!
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19.01.2023 - 14:21
Rating: 9
tintinb

Can't really say enough about the chorus section of Hollow Kingdom. Puts you in such a mood.
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Leeches everywhere.
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