Bands will pay the price for picking a shit name. It may have seemed terribly post-modern and in-jokey at the time, but being lumbered with a name like PET SLIMMERS OF THE YEAR was never a smart move. Sensibly, this UK-based post-metal crew have trimmed that unwieldy tag down to the simpler PSOTY: still a clumsy mouthful, if we're being honest, but a much more artful and therefore fitting moniker for a band that seem to have blossomed beyond all measure in the five years since debut album "Fragments Of Uniforms". "Sunless" emerges into a year that has already been blessed with preposterous quantities of high-quality post-everything heaviness, but within seconds of its whirring into life, the second PSOTY album exudes a steely eyed determination to mesmerize.
First single and album opener "Oil Blood" offers immediate evidence that the Brits have embraced a new mission over the last few years. Although this is music firmly rooted in some hazily defined notion of adventurous post-metal, there is a heaviness, bombast and simplicity behind PSOTY's rejuvenated sound. Where before they may have relied heavily on the riff-driven slow-build with a side order of post-rock's prettiness, "Oil Blood" is less abstract and far more direct than anything the band have released previously. As it builds from anguished beginning to menacing denouement, it feels like a bullish statement in and of itself. "The Yawning Void" is gnarlier still, with one of those gutter-level, bowel-rattling chug riffs that echoes time's inexorable forward crawl, haunting melancholy keys and several blissful moments of resonant respite appearing from the melee like beams of sunlight through a clouded sky. The post-whatever wheel is not being reinvented here, incidentally, but PSOTY are blurring lines between micro-subgenres with the zeal of true explorers. At a hefty ten minutes, "Watcher Of The Abyss" is the album's grandest epic and its most emotionally devastating moment, its creators' bloated wall of guitars morphing and churning through several distinct vistas, TOOL and PINK FLOYD proving to be as much of an influence on this band as anything from the post-NEUROSIS set. The band's use of vocals hits a peak of efficacy here, too: a more characterful singer than many in this genre, whoever it is that is singing here (PSOTY are reluctant to provide such details, it seems) makes intermittent contributions that give "Sunless" a humanity and vulnerability that are so often lost when bands are trying to outdo each other in the crushing riff stakes.
Following the reverbed sky-ride of ambient interlude "Acheron", "Queen Of Hades" is a funeral doom waltz with cosmic leanings; the icy isolation of slow-motion atmospheric extremity, filtered through cinematic glacial drift and pumped up on sludge metal steroids. "Charon" is another shimmering vignette, all OPETH elegance and woozy, MOGWAI fog leading into the crushing, stately squall of "King Of Ephyra". And if you're not fully won over by this point, the closing "Obscura" is a brilliantly overwrought finale that switches from all-out attack to miasmic psychedelia and back again, sucking the last remaining slivers of light from the room and ending "Sunless" on a bruising and unforgettable note.