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Paranaut - The Hills Fell Silent

Portland, Oregon's Paranaut make no bones about being a doom act, and a doom act they are. However, this label is somewhat misleading. While most of today's doom tends to focus on nihilism or outright soul-crushing depression, Paranaut seem to focus on catharsis and the eventual positively gained from such explosive outbursts. Hazy and clouded, The Hills Fell Silent coats your eardrums with wall after wall of oppressive yet lush fuzz. The guitars are less in your face and more rumbling in the broken twilight; all the while intricate percussion froths and bubbles furiously in the background while the band leaves their vocals to intense outbursts of primal rage. Only recently formed in 2004, for such a young band Paranaut sure have plenty going for them. Hills is a dystopian mindf*** joyride, not unlike the perverse pleasure a lone survivor of nuclear holocaust might get from driving bombed-out wasteland highways devoid of life at top cruising speed. This might be doom in the purest sense of the world, but I'll be damned if you don't leave this album with a glowing smile on your face amidst all the destruction.

Smoldering with a laid-back intensity that instantly recalls the glory days of Kyuss, Paranut's elephantine riffage could just as easily conjure up memories of earlier ISIS and/or Neurosis as well. As far as more recent doom bands are concerned, I'd say this act has plenty in common with such sludge luminaries as the newly deceased YOB, genre leaders High on Fire, and others of that ilk. Over it all is a sort of toke-happy optimism that I feel only Sleep has adequately conveyed before this. One almost gets a sense of bliss inherent in misfortune; such is the positive side of the doom coin.

Musically, the Hills is a rip-roaring mudslide through all manner of oddly layered guitar bandages. Paranaut excels at wrapping listeners in a veritable mummy-outfit of sound, and their rhythm section is a top-notch rollercoaster through it all. Further adding spark to the fire is the band's willingness to experiment with the more abrasive elements of the noise genre, and various instruments as diverse as keys, clean guitars, Ebows, and even an accordion making appearances. The only other band I can think of that takes this same approach to sludge is Austin, Texas' Giant Squid, and even then there is plenty left to mark Paranaut as its own singular entity.

"War Mount" for example features a sense of bluesy, sludge-splattered groove that simply slides your face off. The guitars are low and fuzzy, but played with an organic intensity that gives them a fitting sincerity nonetheless. As swirls of psychedelic clean passages whirl past the ears, things next transition into a very Kyuss-worthy monster jam with tons of stoner bliss and dull roar vocals. Frontman William J. has a rough, caustic roar akin to a man with a rawhide esophagus chainsmoking old cigars and then singing in a drunken cover band. He uses this unique howl sparingly, and I dig how the vocals complement the metal and not the other way around for once. "Derelict Years" features stomping percussion backing more stormfront riffage. The guitars are cloudy and thick, yet never wholly solid. Kenny (I lack a last name in the press release) is a fantastic drummer and really adds a lot to this (as well as every other) song. "Derelict Years" is more about subtle surprises than everything else, and the band slinks into a deep passage of choking sludge with a little bit of psychedelic guitar noodling in the background. Great stuff!

I don't know what the Hell a "Grunch" is, but the song in question is pretty rad. "Grunch" kicks off with sinister, droning riffs and monotonous, hammering rhythm; slowly but surely the song builds into a firebomb of incinerating fury. Sparks of hypnotic notes drift here and there in the molten riffs, and this is what Sleep would sound like after having a bad hit or three of acid. The epic that is "The Frog King" slowly springs to life out of slug-like bass lines and twisting percussion; a crystalline hum of sound blossoms into a massive flower of sound that swallows everything else whole. The caveman vocals are animalistic and plodding, not unlike the roar of some long-extinct mammalian behemoth, and the song itself is a eerie jaunt through realms of dank, dirty sludge. An absurd noise festival comes mid-track, and from there the music builds itself to soaring heights only to come crashing down again.

This grand finale is perfectly continued in the slow, somber, and strangely melancholy "...And They Have Fallen." A winding series of ringing clean notes ala Leviathan-era Mastodon sets up a gray, moody atmosphere while the rest of the band carries it out with unselfish aplomb. Twinkling piano weaves itself into the tapestry, playing off the unsettling notes again and again as Ebow bellows in the distance. I'd call this the album's best track, and there aren't even vocals! Just check out the shimmering, delicate finish and see if you don't agree.

"Discontent" swells with a depressing hangover ballad of early morning meandering. Fixed in that dark space between dawn and dusk, the song lets guitarist Paul patiently croon his way into a crest of towering riffage and eventually his more trademark roars. Backed by William J., the two make a chest-shattering tandem and this one is another beast of a cut.

The absolutely enormous "Maelstrom of Heart" oozes forth from its inital whirpool of sludge to become something epic and grand. Textures of cosmic dust ebb and flow and the band takes doom to entirely new planes of sound. The song billows and contracts from soft, menacing tones that are barely audible and back to roaring, loud doom of the highest caliber. After this one, the well-named "Terminus" brings the disc to a close. The song is a leisurely, psychedelic descent into darker realms of the mind, and a fantastic close to the disc.

Brooding and eerie, Paranut still retain a light sense of optimism. The Hills Fell Silent is an intriguing mix of paranormal events, dim despair, and shadowy fear. Through it all the band injects a thin ray of light the likes of which leads you through the entire boundless journey with a look of starry-eyed awe. I'm looking forward to more of this, and so should you.

Track Listing
1. War Mount
2. Derelict Years
3. Grunch
4. The Frog King
5. ...And They Have Fallen
6. Discontent
7. Maelstrom of Hearts
8. Terminus



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