22 Sep 2020
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Pull Down The Sun - Album Review: Of Valleys and Mountains

11 Sep 2020 // A review by Kris Raven

Whanganui's Pull Down The Sun are about to drop one of the best progressive metal albums of the year Of Valleys and Mountains. While not necessarily a ‘concept album’ the album as a whole, feels very cohesive, with every song having a point and place and the way the songs flow, taking the listener on an emotive journey that is both brutal and beautiful. I love how they have also immersed their Aotearoa roots and Maori song titles into their debut album in the most authentic way. 

Musicians take note, this is how to build an album, while we are given the small teaser of intro Aka which offers an ambient tribal vibe, the beating heart and eerie sounds, Whare Ra (a building which housed the NZ magical order of the Stella Maututina) is a song that really showcases where this album will take us. Beginning with an intricately composed guitar piece, the song builds on the groove of drummer Stefan Bourke (something consistently showed throughout the songs) and ascends with layers of rhythm guitar and bass & then the addition of heavenly tremolo lead guitar, giving those chill feels early on.

Each instrument stands on its own, is well mixed and the addition of the haunting keys creates a theatrical backdrop. I can feel the Isis band influence in terms of structure but also infused with early Mastodon. As the song builds into the halfway point, the introduction of vocalist Koert Wegmen's crushing vocals have come to destroy all. Channeling the metal god voices of Aaron Turner and Joe Duplantier. This song sets the stage of what's to come. 

Production wise this album is elevated further by the excellent wizardry of renowned mixer Zorran Mendonsa, with Forester Savall's (Karnivool, City of Souls) stellar mastering and the band handling the engineering of the record themselves. It's clean and slick, each instrument has its own space and while some integral layers are added they don't take away from the core instrumentation. The debut single and title track 'Of Valleys & Mountains' captures the feel of 'Way of the Flesh' era Gojira, with the harmonic shreddy slides over the fret board and frantic double kicks, all in perfect unison.

The vocals are a real standout through this track, cleans are introduced and Wegman is battling various demons as his vocals overlap into different screams and roars. The recently released second single, Turehu reminds me of early Deftones era Stephen Carpenter, fat and steady riffage, carried by Bourke's well-crafted beats. He shines throughout with technical flair and precision. The guitar relationship between Wegmen and Jason Healey is so well set out and between them, they have designed an incredible harmonious interplay of down stroke rhythmic heaviness & textured leads and melodies. The outro is another spine tingling moment as the choir like ‘ohhs’ carry the song out in amazing harmony.

Light In Water is a chill affair, offering a nice break from the extremities. A brooding layer of guitars, keys and clean vocals, I particularly love the line "Fall off of the edge of the earth". Weta is one for the pit, one of the faster more hardcore tracks on the album, while Kehua, an instrumental track, showcases just how good this band really is.  How they naturally build a song, each idea has a purpose, is well composed and shows their technical proficiency and how the pieces fit together and evolve throughout. 

Utu (restoring balance) is a super progressive metal track, the outro is like a Deftones-Messugah hybrid mix, super thick guitar, off beat goodness, sludgy and with the addition of the lingering tribal effects sitting in the background. Oro is a scenic interlude. You can see the landscape in your mind as the piano plays with sounds of a stream or river and the returning heartbeat of the forest. A nice little break. 

Ngaro is another standout track for me. I feel like this song should be a radio single, pummeling the airwaves. It reminds me of Breaking Benjamin in a way, it's heavy but perhaps a more mainstream friendly structure. The song carries some massive vocal hooks and melodies and really amps up in the chorus, really proving again that Wegman really shines as multi-talented vocalist. Plus, I love Healey's guitar solo which while technical it doesn't overplay and overpower everything else. I could go on! 

The final two songs, equate to almost 20 minutes. Salt of the Earth follows on a similar course to Waving Radiant era Isis Band, Bourke's drums holding everything together through various progressions and rhythms. The bass also really shines in this track, don’t think I haven't been feeling some of those Justin Chancellor-esque bass tones and rhythms throughout this album. So well locked in with the drums, allowing Healey and Wegmen's guitars to swoon and glide throughout, whether it be manic pure metal guitar solos or lush soaring melodies. Vocally the song displays once again all the brutality and beauty of Wegmen's vocal styling's.

Inoi (to beg, pray, request, appeal). The final piece of the song is a perfect way to end, climatic and spine tingling with the mesmerizing vocal chant that concludes this 10 minute masterpiece. We are taken in all directions of the map and this is an incredible composition with outstanding musicianship that we have seen since the beginning. 

I will say it again, 2020 sucks but the music being made is beyond incredible. Listen to this album, feel the flow and go out and support Pull Down The Sun!

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )
 

About Pull Down The Sun

Pull Down The Sun are a Progressive Rock, Progressive Metal four-piece from Whanganui, New Zealand.




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