Undersmile - A Sea of Dead Snakes (2010)
Review by Wayne Simmons
Undersmile are not your average doom metal band. With their dual female vocal, they borrow as much from acts such as Throwing Muses and Sonic Youth as they do from anything doomy. But doom they are: their gigging says so; their label says so too and, hell, with so much genre-splicing going on of late within the various sub-genres of underground metal, why can’t this be doom?
Formed in 2009, they’ve been tearing up the scene for nearly 4 years, garnering something of a rep for an intense live performance. This is a band that means business. Their debut EP, 2010’s A SEA OF DEAD SNAKES is an unsettling listen. Best played in the dead of night, while you’re sitting alone in a dark room, it’ll have you looking over your shoulder as the disc spins. This is powerful stuff, from the arrangement to the vocals to the guitar. There’s a strong melody throughout, but always with a plaintive or even horrific edge. Little within this EP is conventional or predictable and that’s what makes it so awesome.
INSTRUMEN’S TRUAL is the opening track. Brooding low-end guitar evolves to hammer-on riffage, the bass low and loose, the drums punching the track forward. This is a cracking if misleading first track as what follows is totally different in both feel and tempo.
Second track, CUTTER’S CHOICE, is perhaps the most conventional track on the EP. Heavy, low-end guitar opens with our dual vocal suspiciously tuneful. The chorus has a stoner/ shoegaze feel to it yet still manages to cling to those 90s American indie influences; the harmony ringing out like early Veruca Salt or Hole.
TEUTONIC DYSLEXIA really shakes things up. It kicks off with some low, distorted riffage terrorised by a haunting dual vocal. There are echoes of Japanese black metal band Gallhammer here. It’s a disturbing sound. For the initiated, this song will bring back memories of classic Asian horror films, and that’s a vibe that’s echoed with the look of this band; our two frontwomen, Hel Sterne and Taz Corona, usually dressed in white while performing, eye make-up heavy, hair long and dark, mirroring Hideo Nakata’s Sadako, the ghostly antagonist within the film, RINGU.
CRAB PEOPLE continues this vibe with some slow dragging riffage, discordant vocals layered over the top, the chorus an almost Courtney Love esque sneer.
And then there’s SPORE with its heavily distorted bass leading to guitar that feels more than a little Sonic-Youthy with its off-tuned grinding rhythm and whining, distorted lead. There’s minimal vocals with this one; just a ghostly wail swooping in and out from under the guitar. And, yes, you’ll probably still be looking over your shoulder right about now.
In a time when doom seems very anachronistic, everyone and their dog peddling Sabbathian riffs, it’s refreshing to find a band that has its own sound, even if that sound is a curious blend of things that shouldn’t really work. Undersmile are a breath of fresh air and undoubtedly one of the most definitive and exciting things happening within the sub-genre right now. A Sea of Dead Snakes is a great introduction to their unique and addictive brand.
2. Cutters Choice
3. Teutonic Dyslexia
4. Crab People
A Sea of Dead Snakes is available on Limited Edition CD (and Digital Download) from Blindsight Records.