It’s hard these days to launch a band, especially a post-rock band, and to get noticed. Maybe it helps to define one’s sound as “stoner ambient drone”, the tag that Sunwølf has chosen to summarize its work. But there’s something different about Sunwølf ~ it’s a duo that doesn’t sound like a duo (a statement also made about Komatsu), and its debut mesmerizes from its first notes to its final dregs. A month before its official release, Beyond the Sun has been ringing up accolades across the board, and we’re all too happy to join in.
At 27 minutes, Beyond the Sun is the same length as an Ana Never song, and its seven tracks flow together like seven movements of a short symphony. After a dozen plays, this reviewer still feels no compulsion to play portions. Sure, “Morose Land” has the fastest guitars and loudest drums, but its impact is greater in its natural setting, nestled between a Blueneck buildup and a Grails coda. The duo’s decade of experience shows; nothing here indicates that Beyond the Sun is a debut. In fact, one wonders what took Sunwølf so long to form.
One of the wonders of the album is how well it captures the spirit of the Old American West, despite the fact that the duo is from Leeds. Certainly Morricone’s influence has been felt across continents, and the great composer was himself Italian. But Beyond the Sun possesses the same combination of badass swagger and sudden tenderness (found in the coda, “Home”) that made his scores resonate beyond the films for which they were written. Sunwølf even includes a slight indulgence: the sound of children playing before the horses’ reins are pulled in, the streets are emptied and the lawman leaves the bar. No one whistles through broken teeth, but the image is implied.
With such an assured debut under its belt, Sunwølf seems destined for success. By not restricting itself to any single genre (metal, rock, post-rock, stoner rock), the duo has left its options open. An extended concept album would not be out of the question. The typical phrase applied to a promising new band is “a band to watch”. Forget that. Sunwølf is a band to listen to. Now. (Richard Allen)