Brazil's Slowner, blew a few mind with their self-titled debut "Slowner" back in 2019, an enthralling collection of songs that took inspiration from stoner doom, proto-metal and desert rock, but then due to a combination of a pandemic and life in general the band went missing for three years. The band returned this year with a slightly altered line-up, Gabriel Maia (drums); Gabriel Sena (vocals/guitars); Isaac Freire (guitars) and Renata Ramos (bass), and a new album "Leading To Nowhere", an album that the band tell us has seen them "open ourselves up to new influences and experiment with new sound possibilities".
When reviewing the bands debut "Slowner" Desert Psychlist made mention of the bands proto-doomic and desert rock leanings, those elements still have a huge role to play on "Leading To Nowhere" but this time they are tempered by a mixture of alt-rock dynamics and old school heavy /hard rock guitar swagger. Now whether the band were moving in this direction prior to their hiatus or whether this change in direction was triggered by new boy Sena's arrival Desert Psychlist does not know but play "Slowner" and "Leading To Nowhere" back to back and it would not be too far a stretch to think you were listening to two different bands. Opening song "90 Days" is probably best described as a bridge between Slowner's old sound and where they are going with their new sound, the murky stoner-doom riffs that was such a big part of the original line-ups sound are not so much jettisoned here as altered to accommodate Sena's more grunge-like vocal tones, which it has to be said elevate everything they touch to another level entirely. "Control" follows and channels both Alice In Chains and Soundgarden in its attack, albeit at the heavier end of both bands sonic spectrum while "Dire Cycles" employs a touch of Nirvana-esque loud/quiet/loud dynamics, the quiet parts highlighting bassist Ramos and drummer Maia's almost telepathic ability to lock in together on a groove, the loud parts giving Sena and Freire freedom to crunch out riffs and solo to their hearts content, Sena accompanying his guitar work with yet another superbly delivered vocal. "Frontline" follows, a song lyrically referencing the aftermath of an unspecified catastrophe, lines like "they all pile up, I can't really tell who these bodies were (whose kids these are)" and "scooping off the mud, I can't really tell where flesh ends and dirt starts" sung against a backdrop of dank thrumming guitar refrains and pounding percussion, a sound totally in keeping with the pain and sadness of its subject matter. Final number "Seer" sees Slowner signing off with a song that possesses touches of the stoner-doom that informed much of their debut only this time minus the murk and dankness, the band incorporating elements of post-metal and hints of prog into their attack to add extra texture and colour to the proceedings and turn what could have been a rather downbeat and dismal affair into something quite spectacular.
It is truly astonishing how a three year hiatus and the addition of a new member can so radically alter a bands sound and dynamic, but that is what has happened with Slowner, The band presenting us with their new album "Leading To Nowhere" are almost unrecognisable musically from the band that presented us with "Slowner", despite the fact that two thirds of the band were involved in the making of that first album. When reviewing their debut we wrote "there are moments on "Slowner" where things get a little generic and cliched but there are also glimpses of huge potential here too, potential that could make their next release a very interesting prospect indeed", and after listening to "Leading To Nowhere" we think you'll agree that we got that spot on!
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© Frazer Jones 2023