Alabaster Suns - Alabaster Suns (Cover Artwork)

Alabaster Suns

Alabaster Suns (2009)

Iron Pig

I"ve long been one of those people who finds it massively difficult to get into "thinking-man's metal" such as that offered by Keelhaul and Dillinger Escape Plan. I imagine at least a few people on this site are like that, too. Let's face it--bands like the Ramones, Minor Threat or Bad Brains aren't exactly founded on unusual time signatures, sudden key changes or songs above the three-minute mark. Maybe I just don't have the attention span, or haven't really given a chance to this sort of music.

Alabaster Suns are a relatively recent London band, two-thirds of whom used to be in the instrumental drone metal band Capricorns (who I've never heard of or listened to...). Their sound is best described as a combination of this hypnotic style with various elements of D.C. hardcore, more Circus Lupus than the aforementioned Minor Threat, but heavier. This debut "mini-album" is actually just over half an hour--a length most conventional hardcore LPs don't even reach. The production seems to have that classic Dischord Records feel, but more echo-ey and with less focus on vocals than most of this label's output. Perhaps a less accomplished Keelhaul sound is the best way of describing it.

The five songs here generally all conform to this drone-meets-post-hardcore theme, at five-to-seven minutes each, with the only real exception being the more pensive instrumental "Alabaster Suns" to break up the mesmerizing--and often tedious--intensity. Of these songs, ‘Cosmo-Naught' is the real highlight, merging a pounding metal theme with melodic interludes and atonal hardcore riffing, whilst "Royal 6 in Hand" offers the record's most recognizable vocal elements.

Alabaster Suns offer up a sound genuinely hinting at something different, tempering the less visceral aspects of hardcore with those of atmospheric metal. However, this formula doesn't ensure a wealth of great songs, and their initial effort here fails, in my opinion, to supply enough emotional punch or commanding technical skill to really stick in one's mind. If the band can trim down their song lengths, up the variation and form a distinctive voice for themselves, particularly regarding a more engaging vocal presence, UK metal and hardcore could give birth to a truly original and unpredictable musical force.