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Life's Trade

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On the one hand, Samothrace's formal 2008 debut (following an earlier demo from the previous year) is very much of its time and place, a reflection of the incredibly deep roots of 21st century metal in everything from contemplative ambience to death growls and back again. From the elaborate artwork to the lengthy compositions on the disc — four songs over the course of nearly 50 minutes — Samothrace are appreciators of a particular form to a thorough degree. What makes Life's Trade so promising is how excellent the band already sounds, as well as where they might go in the future — there's already a sense that the band wants to use the raw material they have down for something even more impressive. It's a bit too early to call the group the new Neurosis in terms of such drastic bootstrapping, say, but there's a disorientation which bubbles beneath the steady, slow crunch of songs like the opening "La Llorana" which intrigues. It can be most readily heard with Bryan Spinks' vocals, the way that his singing, if conventionally long, slow, and howling, is turned even more so, overtly distorted and twisted, not merely a doomy listen but an actual bad trip incarnate. Meanwhile, his instrumental performance, as well as that of the rest of the band, is strong, as classically downtuned and trudging as one could want, but not without fascinating moments of grace — the guitar solos on the album's strongest song, "Cacophony," steadily unwind outward, and almost come across as a gentle benediction above the chaos, turning into a twinned surge midway through before the song suddenly ratchets up the pace. That change points out Life's Trade's biggest downside, its one-note nature — with exceptions like that, all four songs essentially resemble each other, sometimes a little too much — but it's still a strong start, and worthy investigation.

Life's Trade, Samothrace
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