Releasing an EP with just one track may seem a bit miserly at first glance. But then Canyon of the Skull are not exactly the kind of guys to rush! The US doom outfit gained many admirers with their two-track self-titled debut EP a couple of years ago. Anyone who took time out to explore that release will recall their penchant for measured and methodical doom.
Well The Desert Winter again explores a mind-numbing terrain of monolithic riffs that drain you like a sponge with their relentlessness rumblings. To appreciate Canyon of the Skull you have to be a fan of the heavier railtrack riffage that harks back to the 70s.
And when these guys latch onto a groove they like they hang their hat on it until you’re completely in thrall to its insipid contours, as though your pattern of breathing is in sync with this piece of fantasy fret wizardy.
On The Desert Winter the initial hook is sustained for almost seven solid minutes before a pause of sorts comes in as Canyon of the Skull hesitate, almost as though they’re deciding in which direction to take this track next. Percussion ebbs and flows but the feel is almost like running on the spot. Time passes by and we’re no further down the line.
That’s not to say this is a dry ride. In fact if anyone can hold your attention for 37 minutes with this somnambulant sludge then it’s Erik Ogershok (guitar/bass) and Adrian Voorhies (drums). The Texan twosome feed off each and clearly their brain signals are wired so that each knows and understands what the other is doing, almost telepathically.
The parallel lines never stray far from each other. By the 15 minute mark we’re feeding off scraps as anorexic guitar lines nestle alongside spartan drum smacks. Occasionally the merest hint of something more visceral surfaces through the darkness but Canyon of the Skull generally usher such moments back out of sight, almost afraid to unleash the true demons that rest inside.
As the track moves slowly through the 20-minute line, the guitars do start to take on a fuzzier feel, resembling fellow US doomlords Earth. The drums too become a little more urgent, the kicks landing with more punch as Canyon of the Skull finally start to warm to their task, building pernicious patterns that permeate the space around you.
By now it’s as though all that went before was laying the foundations for this spellbinding sequence. The sparkling treasure within a reward for the patience you’ve shown just to reach this point. Slowly but surely an impressive chug begins to take command as the tips are sharpened and the kaleidoscopic cuts starts to obliterate all else from view.
Canyon of the Skull are probably never going to have them queuing around the block. Those with the stomach to enter such a sonically challenging soundscape are few and far between.
But within the close confines of the damned and the doomed there will be many who are able to appreciate the highs and lows within this release, as they give themselves over to its menacing manoeuvres that will leave you nursing your wounds for days to come.