What exactly is in the water up in Portland, Oregon? The sheer volume, not to mention the high quality, of heavy music acts that have been pouring out of an otherwise bucolic, little city has been quite impressive for quite some time now. Is Portland, OR the most “metal” place in North America these days? They have certainly entered the discussion. One band that looks to keep them in the discussion for the foreseeable future is Relapse signing, Usnea.
In a few short weeks Usnea are set to release their sophomore album, Random Cosmic Violence, and frankly a more fitting moniker would be hard to find for the material held within. Described by many as falling into the death/doom realm, the music of Usnea, in reality, defies conventional nomenclature. Yes, the songs are long, often plodding affairs delivered with the same power and force as a herd of elephants plowing through brick walls. Yes, there are tortured screams to be had. But the basic tenets of both doom and death metal are not the only things in play here. While a track like “Healing Through Death” may start with riffs that are methodically bent, note by note and the vocals delivered with an unholy exertion, by the end of the 14+ minutes of this one opus we’ve witnessed elements ranging from psych rock to black metal creep their way into the mix. This one song goes from molasses-like with bowel-rupturing, lo-end vocals to blackened tremolo-picking to spacey but sparse, mellow guitar finally finishing with a flourish of pure doom madness.
And so it goes with Usnea as they use only four tracks to extrapolate outward into territories that most doom bands wouldn’t explore at all. Whether it’s the acoustic guitar/clean vocal, “dark folk” opening to the title track or the blast beat madness exploding about six minutes later on the same track, Usnea push doom metal boundaries while never loosing the essence of brutality upon which their sound hinges. Make no mistake that it will be fans of outfits past and present like Pallbearer, Lycus, Morgion, and Mindrot that will find the most to fall in love with on this album. But the unique way in which Usnea package their brand of deathly doom metal on Random Cosmic Violence may very well separate them from the pack moving forward.
Random Cosmic Violence will be out via Relapse Records on November 11. You can experience the track “Healing Through Death” over at the Usnea Soundcloud page.