Band: Arctic Sleep | Album: Kindred Spirits | Genre: Doom metal, Progressive metal, Post metal | Year: 2019
From: Milwaukee, USA | Label: Independent
For fans of: Agalloch, Fates Warning, Subrosa, Yob
Buy: Bandcamp | Amazon | Apple Music
The story of this album began late last year, when I received an email announcing a Kickstarter campaign to fund a physical release of Kindred Spirits. I’m often hesitant about pre-ordering much of anything, but I liked 2014’s Passage of Gaia enough that I decided to go for it. I received the LP a few days before the album’s official release, and I was pleased to find I liked this album even better than the last.
Arctic Sleep, hailing from Wisconsin, is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist Keith D, who handles every instrument except for drums. Kindred Spirits is the seventh release from the band. It’s not a radical departure from Arctic Sleep’s usual sound, but it’s an evolutionary step that sees continued refinement and development of a unique niche.
Compared to past releases, and especially compared to the wider world of doom metal, Kindred Spirits feels warm and reassuring. There are plenty of heavy riffs, dramatic vocals, and metallic bombast, but permeating all that motion is a certain comfort. I’m often not a fan of shoegaze, but the smattering of shoegaze influences on this record blend in well and augment the riffs, rather than overpower them. This imbues a degree of softness around the guitars’ edges and works in tandem with the aforementioned warmth. This is the coziest doom metal you’ll hear all year.
“Meadows” opens the album and sets the tone. The vocals are lush and multilayered, and the guitars wash over you. “Lantern Curse”, the second song, though, opens with a riff that snarls more aggressively, baring some auditory teeth. The edge contrasts against gentle acoustics and soaring vocals elsewhere in the song.
Folk influences appear, as well. There are ample moments within songs where quiet acoustic strumming acts as a foil to doom metal riffage, but the fullest realization of these influences is on the pair of instrumentals “Connemara Moonset” and “Night Mirror”. The former opens with Celtic-flavored strumming and humming fretless bass as a djembe provides the rhythm. After a brief flash of an odd, acoustic-metallic riff, the song closes with some lovely cello. “Night Mirror” opens more minimally, with a simple arpeggio and some wordless vocals, before transitioning to a pummeling piece of post-metal.
“As Palms Give Way to Pines”, the penultimate track, is another slow-builder that deftly evolves from its methodical, reflective first half to its majestic, metallic second. The inclusion of organ and synth strings helps build the tension of the main riff until it suddenly ceases. The album then closes with a nine-minute ambient track of nature sounds and guitar effects.
Doom metal isn’t the genre most people’s minds go to when they think of uplifting music, but Arctic Sleep is an act that manages to pull it off. The walls of guitar and smooth vocals are frequently complemented by atmospheric keyboards, and the chord progressions somehow imbue heavy riffs with hopefulness.