Review: Flesh of the Stars – Mercy

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Prog doom is something of a contradiction for me, with the one’s stereotype of trying too hard and the other’s as being a mindless trudge. Of course, these stereotypes are only true for bands that are bad at their craft. So what do you get when you take a band who plays these tropes off each other to smooth out these faults, while also being good at both?

Flesh of the Stars, following up their acclaimed 2017 release Anhilla, has changed things up a bit on Mercy. If you gave Anhilla a shot in 2017 and thought it was a little too heavy on the aged psych and not heavy enough on the modern doom (think too much Pink Floyd and not enough Khemmis), I’d beg you to give them another shot. While Anhilla banked on the moroseness of doom to inform the proggy psych that they primarily performed, they now inject a cathartic fuzz and a dangerous amount of harmony into the mix at every opportunity.

With the 22-minute title track opener, you have to be a little patient. Thankfully, the first 8 minutes are solid even if they aren’t entirely memorable, but right after a soft Porcupine Tree moment, some really heavy stuff drops on you and builds into the first of many explosive riffs with an exultant chant that would be an earworm of a chorus if it ever showed up again.

“Rites” will surely be one of my favorite tracks of the year. Starting out with a speedy chord progression that leads into a stunning vocal harmony that sweeps me off my feet every time. While it starts off purely intense and inspiring, it devolves into a haunting that creates a neat thematic duality.

Their ability to pay homage to an older sound while sounding incredibly modern is a great asset. The soft thump of the snare and kick is a particular charm for me. The production is just remarkably comfortable. I don’t know how else to describe it; it’s heavy, dark, and all the edges are well rounded.

My one complaint about Anhilla was that the stretches of psych became a bit of a slog for someone who doesn’t have any nostalgia for that genre’s moment, but Mercy has balanced it out with a lot more doom. Mercy brings both huge variety (with instruments and styles) and huge payoffs. It’s not for lazy listening.

This album made me feel something. It should make you feel something.

4.5 out of 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

Be sure to pick this one up June 21.

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