Planning for Burial has been the musical vessel of Thom Wasluck since 2005, and it is releases such as the Distances EP, Leaving, and of course 2014’s Desidetarum that are constant reminders of the sonic richness that this guy’s concepts encompass. The production of his new album, Below The House, is accompanied by a big change for Wasluck, who leaves Matawan NJ and moves back to his childhood home in Pennsylvania. Trips like that can be hard, bringing a sense of nostalgia and melancholy to anyone, but they can also help to channel inspiration and reinvigorate a hunger for creation, something that has worked wonderfully in Below The House.
The melancholy is not a new addition to Planning for Burial, obviously. Through the years, the project has been exploring the slowcore sound, tinkering with its capabilities and shattering our dreams. Acts like Low come directly to mind when you move through the corridors of this House, as the progression and movement transmit this downtrodden essence, even when the tempo picks up and the almost rock n roll form of “Warmth of You” comes in. It is a substantial result to be able to turn a genre that is generally upbeat and energetic around and produce a bleak track of sorrow. The cover alone says it all really, with a series of houses, partly covered in snow, no mention of the band or the title of the record, projecting perfectly the mindset under which this work was produced and completed.
Slowcore rarely dwells alone, and Below The House is no exception to this rule. This is where Planning for Burial truly shines, by the extensions of its core, the branches that complete the band’s identity. The main forces in this cycle are the usual suspects, the hazy quality of shoegaze, with its trippy renditions, and the elusive manifestations of post-metal, enacting ethereal dreamscapes with monstrous riffs. From post-metal the leap to extreme metal elements is not that far, may it be the dissonant attribute of black metal – even if it is not presented in its classic form – or the doom weight.
It is quite interesting to consider the approach that Wasluck is taking with doom in general. The music stays away from the old-school method, so do no expect Sabbath-ian instances of ’70s glory, instead diving into the experimental investigations of the genre, in acts like Jesu and later days Godflesh, especially in tracks like “Dull Knife Pt. I.” What makes this take even more enticing is how Planning for Burial abstain from the mechanical, industrial renditions, but still find an interest in ritualistic repetition, as “Dull Knife Pt. II” suggests. It enhances the experience without going over the top, suggesting an acute sense of cherry picking the appropriate elements for one’s identity. This expansion is done even further with journeys through ambient and drone passages, another adjacent area of ethereal doom, with Wuslack crafting masterfully not only the background of the tracks, but also experimenting in full-blown ambient settings with “Past Lives” and parts of “(something),” showcasing brilliantly the multifaceted entity that is Planning for Burial, and especially the fine balance that defines it.