Review: Bleaklow – The Sunless Country

There’s little here that can’t be ticked off on the list of firmly established post-metal “trademarks”, but this Sheffield three-piece aren’t pretending to break any new ground anyway – Bleaklow exist to exploit the capabilities of the pre-existing stylistic template rather than re-invent it, and make no bones about the fact that the likes of Russian Circles, Pelican and Cult of Luna take very prominent influential roles. Put simply, The Sunless Country is a neatly composed, crisply produced 24-minute post-metal track. There are none of those awkward attempts to force new elements into the sound where they just won’t fit; Bleaklow operate so comfortably within the genre constraints that they stop feeling like “constraints” altogether.

The flow of the track is well choreographed – clean sections are sparingly applied, and Bleaklow avoid the temptation of indulging in extensive mellow interludes in favour of more frequent dips and climbs. Equally, the band don’t peak too often, saving crash cymbal and full-out distortion for culminative expulsions of intensity. There’s a real skill to making a track of this duration sustain interest without lazily applying excessive length to one section under the vague excuses of “psychedelia” or “drone”. But the band don’t ask the listener to switch off; they sweat it out for the entirety of The Sunless Country, and while there are a few riffs here and there that slip into the overly simplistic or a touch uninspired, Bleaklow’s efforts pay off a good 90% of the time.