The Point of No Return of Heaviness: USNEA – “Random Cosmic Violence” Review + Stream
Ten years from now, you’ll discuss this album with your friends and they will say: “what, that album that almost fucking killed me?” And you will reply: “yes, that crushing motherfucker right there.” In fact, Usnea‘s heaviness is no mystery, and their music seems to have a timelessness that will keep these riffs here, engraved in our synapses, for decades to come. This, what the Portland band crafts, is in fact nothing less than unforgettable music. We’ve already talked about Usnea endless times before on these pages, right from the band’s beginnings and the release of their amazing full-length album. Just some time later, Relapse Records foresaw the potential of Usnea’s colossal riffs and signed them straight out the gate to handle the release of whatever their follow up would be. Well, that followup came, and this heavy fucking pup is finally here to leave an unimaginable mark on today’s doom and to cast it’s enormous shadow through the underground like an unstoppable shockwave.
Random Cosmic Violence is a monolithic slab of towering darkness. It’s an archetypal doom album. It has everything doom metal should have, and has loads of it also. The riffs are colossal, slowed-down tidal waves of esoteric and trippy sonic obliteration. The feedback and noise that swells everything in this album, making it bloated with static tension, bring to mind the ancient glory of doom metal – Sleep, Sabbath, Candlemass and beyond – embracing the slimy and death-ridden sonic bogs of bands like Moss, Bloody Panda, Monarch!, Corrupted, Disembowelment, Winter and beyond still – incorporating moments of absolute cosmic and psychedelic collapse as you would find in bands like Yob, Neurosis and Evoken. The length of the songs, the ambition and craft of the compositions, the taste in the choice of sounds and in solutions aimed at sucking the listener into a void of darkness are simply mind-boggling. Usnea utilizes different vocal approaches, which include clean singing, Tibetan-like chants, mantras, whispers and laments, to create a daunting and unsettling musical experience that remains constantly shrouded in beauty and grandeur.
At the same time, the instrumental section of the album is no follower, and likewise, the riffs in this monstrous album are just as unpredictable as they are beautiful. Usnea are just masters at the craft of creating texture and depth in doom metal. They are agile and smart in creating minimalist and enveloping post-rock-like moments of beautiful and placid abstraction, just as they are brilliant at erecting wall upon wall upon wall of filthy and baneful riffs that crush and kill anything standing in their wake, or in launching into pulverizing rampages of crust and black metal-influenced wrath. There is simply so much in this band’s music to explore: bottomless soundscapes, unimaginable texture, depth, inhuman heaviness, uncompromising violence, profoundness, immeasurable brutality, eeriness and cruelty, a whole world of amazing genre-splicings and of creative braveness. I want to say that along with Thou, Hell, Primitive Man and a few other isolated cases of unusual and rupturing talent, Usnea are among America’s finest doom bands, and even if comparable to a few of their peers, still this band stands completely on its own planet, in its own world and solely follows the rules and mechanisms of their own vision and internal creativity.