SALLOW MOTH – Stasis Cocoon (2021)REVIEW

The finality of triumph, regained sanity, and all musing upon respite and “peace” beyond cosmically strewn war are fleeting illusions in the minds of the masses facing extinction by the constant churn of said conflict as the cessation of all organic life looms within Texas-based musician Garry Brents‘ concept-driven progressive/melodic death metal project Sallow Moth. Thick with war-torn and magickal tech lore that reads a bit like a blend of a Star Trek: Voyager plot summary (Species 8472), an JRPG-worthy post-apocalyptic “advanced race on a path to self-extinction” storyline, and sci-fi/fantasy periodical world-building — Each chapter in this (thus far) trilogy introduces a new threat more destructive than the last while the main protagonist serves as a point of resonant evolution, a font of fallible adaptation. What’ll be easy to miss within the high-rate action presented by this second full-length, ‘Stasis Cocoon‘, is the side of the clash we’re surely on as parsing exactly what each grey-area infused faction and character represents relative to our reality is satisfyingly unclear. Nature-bending Mothlords, perfection-seeking Servym, the yet to be ascertained nature of the Merfolk, all of it intrigues nearly as much as the impressive development of Brents‘ skill these last five years as we witness what is inarguably a new peak in both presentation and signature wiles on this release.

Perhaps it isn’t something conveyed often enough within a review format but simply enjoying, listening and thriving within musical revelation of a uniquely developed artist’s craft is tantamount to shredding through details and unraveling purpose or product, intentional or otherwise. The most important point I could lead with in presentation of Sallow Moth‘s second album is that it is a joy to listen to, which, yes that sounds absurd but whatever pieces and chunks of influence can be divulged from the fingerprints on the greater sculpture are secondary to the engaging, varietal, and exuberantly performed death metal that Brents has arrived upon by his own hand. When his debut full-length (‘The Larval Hope‘, 2020) released equally short on promotional preamble it’d been almost too easy to miss and, having appreciated Sallow Moth‘s work since 2018 thanks to Caligari Records boost to ‘Deathspore‘ (and the recommendation of a friend), I feel some duty to wave the flag so to speak as the quality of render and songcraft continue a strong trajectory.

Right, so what is all the fuss about then? A one man death metal project that’d initially focused heavily on a blend of Gorguts and Swedish death metal influenced chaos now persists as a sort of higher-brained crossover spectacle that features nods to Edge of Sanity at their most volatile, post-1998 Napalm Death (see: “Fevered Visions”), the gnash of certain early Hypocrisy records, the occasional quick-change hit of Atheist, and even hints of Vader (the end of “Chalice of Void”) along the way. If you’re willing to go a bit late 90’s with your taste in death metal, or that is specifically your sweet spot there’ll be a lot to lap up here on ‘Stasis Cocoon’. To simplify that thought, I’d suggest the result is (to my ear) something close to Edge of Sanity‘s ‘Unorthodox’ but with Appalling Spawn‘s ‘Freedom, Hope and Fury (The Second Spawn)’ or their first demo equally in mind. Strongly stated intricate works, technical yet melodic while the main rhythmic approach has the progressive sort of HM-2 driven crank of 1992 Swedish death metal in mind. That doesn’t mean ‘Stasis Cocoon’ is necessarily as readable as, say, Afflicted‘s ‘Prodigal Sun‘ as an outlier that still reeks of the Stockholm sound but that we’re served something equally thoughtful, heavy, and “easy” as a full listen.

As we enter Chapter III it is important to remember that the titular Sallow Moth has resorted to multiversal extinction by way of its light, keying us a bit more clearly into the nature of the being and the manipulation of it by way of rampant opportunistic species. We’re sort of in the realm of Transformers here as the need for two warring species to work together inevitably leads to a long-con backstabbing from the implied “neutral evil” side (the greater war is between nature and technology, mind you) as the “cognitive nuke” that the Sallow Moth represents the goal of extinction on each side. The intrigue or constant trade-off of power within the greater narrative is conveyed within broader stylistic changes implied earlier, “Chalice of the Void” acts as the revelation of a counter-measure, a failsafe in the plot that allows the villain to have the upper hand in return. Uh, story aside the song itself is just a kicking, thrashing piece that sounds a bit like ‘The Beast’-era Vader but, of course with Brents‘ own signature overtaking that thought, opting for some angular cuts to each riff and the most important development on ‘Stasis Cocoon’, some easier-flowing breathing room for the rhythm guitars to roll within. Much of the previous Sallow Moth output was stiff in terms of rhythm and you’ll get a clear hint of it if you hop over to the previous EP ‘Arcane Treachery‘ (2020). We’re immediately and seamlessly flung into the title track where I think most listeners will be sold right there via the strong additional solos from guitarist Armando Puente Jr. The main reason I’d referenced Appalling Spawn here was “Seal of Primordium” not only for the bounding tech-death guitar work but the sort of ‘old school’ progressions that surge in between the blast n’ rolled sections, this should be considered a strong highlight on the album when paired with the ‘Enemy of the Music Business’-era Napalm Death storm of an under two minute blast that is “Fevered Visions”.

Illusions come unveiled, the “chaotic evil” cunning of the Servym has them on the path to victory and the melodic/technical death metal side of Sallow Moth displays its sort of clincher moment as we arrive upon “Phantasmal Sphere of the Shadowmage Infiltrator” a grand but tragic tone rings across this piece and serves as the major point of intrigue on full listens, or, the part you’re going to remember tomorrow. For a ~32 minute death metal album this seven minute song inevitably leaves a crucial mark yet I figure it’ll be hard for most folks to pick a favorite song amongst the lot because it all bleeds together so well via highly detailed and memorable riffcraft. If throwback melodic death metal has proven itself faux elitist or pretentious of late for your own taste then take note of this example, void of any self-conscious numbness. From this point the album only becomes more technical, more layered with synth and solo alike while charging ahead at full blast. All of the accumulated technique this far displays within the final two pieces and to be honest, it took a while for the frantic unfurling of it all to sink in on my part. Here we’ve seen the horizon for Sallow Moth by my estimate, strong atmospheric layers whirling nearby riff-driven songs with inventive pace-modulating advance. Dramatic, stair-climbing 5-7 minute epics that manage to leave very little of that time hanging. “Drowner of Secrets, Bring to Light” reprises that chunky melodic death movement awash in harp-like guitar work whilst maintaining the thread via strong lead guitar hooks. The only major criticism I could offer to this apex is that the major melody is just on the verge of coy or, saccharine though it never goes that far a push in the ‘Ultimate Instinct’ direction might help those thoughts hit harder.

Inserting any meaningful or constructive criticism into the headspace created by an album like ‘Stasis Cocoon’ is difficult because the potential for immersion is high and the album itself is an easy loop to make at just over a half hour. I’ve found this to be the best overall (organic, brutal, yet spacious enough for melodic resonance) render/production from the project to date, the overall package is certainly vinyl-worthy thanks to Adam Burke‘s knack for natural and otherworldly imagery alike. That said, this feels like a freshly opened portal, not a closing arc in terms of story or musical development and there is room for expansion and contraction, even greater melding of various sub-genre influences alongside emphasis on mood-enhancing atmospheric layers which are suggested most heavily in later pieces. Color me impressed and still very much an enthused fan. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Stasis Cocoon
LABEL(S):Self-Released [Digital, CD]
Tridroid Records [Cassette]
RELEASE DATE:July 9th, 2021 [Digital, CD]
November 12th, 2021 [Cassette]
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp | Tridroid Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Progressive Death Metal,
Melodic Death Metal

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