Any one person who spends plenty of time skimming Bandcamp easily comes across bands that extremely few other have ever heard of, and this can lead to gems being discovered before anything monumental can happen. It’s happened to me with quite a few doom metal bands including the excellent works of Dragged, Un, and Canyon of the Skull. The last one being the most active as it would seem, and probably the most ambitious out of the three. Playing instrumental drone metal is a challenge that seems horrifying to some in concept, but with their eponymous debut album released two years ago, Canyon of the Skull showed definite promise, but with some bumps in the road that needing addressing. In the span of time since then, the two men behind Canyon of the Skull haven’t remained still and we can see the fruits of their incredibly ambitious labor in their upcoming monstrous upcoming album that is “The Desert Winter”.
Many people who aren’t familiar with drone or even doom metal become astonished at the fact that a great number of songs from those styles can easily stretch over 8 minutes as a bare minimum with many other stretching over 12 minutes without breaking a sweat. It’s the crunchy heaviness that carries the style along and the vocals that propel the music forward perpetually. Canyon of the Skull really faces the tropes of their style head-on and with not one but two hurdles: no bassist and no vocals. That’s right. This two-man group only consists of a guitarist and drummer, and it works surprisingly well! The lack of a voice allows Canyon of the Skull to take their music in several different directions as they please, and the lack of a bass really brings about a dry atmosphere that really embodies the landscape of the desert that they try to emulate through their music. Their debut had these, but with a few kinks that prevented me from loving it, but I could see that Canyon of the Skull had talent and potential to be tapped into. I was truly hoping they would succeed in doing so with “The Desert Winter”, and within the first few minutes, I knew that I had gotten my wish and then some.
Imagine being stranded in the middle of the desert located in the southwest United States. Blisteringly hot sun watching your every move, sand coursing along your parched skin, cacti as menacing towers of hopelessness, and shrubbery that serves as a somewhat appealing death bed. Then along comes a blackened cloud of sand and frost that wholly consumes you, and you’ve no choice but to endure it. That’s what the experience that is “The Desert Winter” can be translated into. This whopping record consists of a lone track, but it stretches over 37 minutes long and boy oh boy it’s quite the storm to witness! Starting off with the hints of the frost-laden sandstorm in the form of whispers of the wind quickly accompanied by a trance inducing drum rhythm that’s followed by the hard crunch of the guitars that propel your journey through the desert’s landscape. The entire experience that Canyon of the Skull crafts out of the sun stained bedrock is a drone metal experience the likes of which I’ve never seen before, and it’s an incredible thing to behold! Hypnotic drums mixed with guitars that have an impeccable sense of pacing and rhythm seasoned with the flavors of the desert terrain all come together like a glove in order to make “The Desert Winter” one of the most standout pieces of its kind this year for me without a doubt. Canyon of the Skull really used the length of the piece to work to their advantages so the peaks and the valleys that they form are easily filled by the listener’s imagination to make the vision unique for every single person listening, and that’s an underappreciated gift that I can’t get enough of. Plenty of twists and turns occur all throughout “The Desert Winter” to where the music doesn’t get all that stale after some time while the rhythms are stretched out across a good bit of time respectively as to adhere to that traditional sound and feel of drone metal.
It all comes together seamlessly with this record, and I can happily say that Canyon of the Skull definitely blew my expectations right out of the water with this release. I’ve always been on the search for pieces as long-winded and ambitious as this, and I never thought Canyon of the Skull would eventually produce one of those albums when I stumbled upon them back in 2015 when they were simply taking their first steps as a band. Now, they’ve taken a giant leap forward and it couldn’t have been more stylish or tasteful! “The Desert Winter” is a harsh, unforgiving experience like few others that’ll have you coming back for more with its infectious charm that permeates every moment. And by the time you’ve sat through the entire billowing cloud of sand and frost, you’ll come out after a deep meditation as you found another sense in the sandstorm, and before you know it . . . you’ll be praying for the next to come along so you can yet again seek refuge from the cruel eye in the sky and meditate in the sand.
“The Desert Winter” releases on August 19th! You can pre-order the album on Bandcamp here.
- The Desert Winter