Back when I was covering the 2016 Adult Swim Singles Program on a different blog elsewhere, one of the biggest surprises for me was my first listen to the band Sannhet. As someone who’s normally a bit hesitant towards black metal-influenced music (to say nothing of blackgaze acts), I was incredibly impressed with what I heard. After checking out that tune, I went through both of their albums, finding some of the strongest songwriting of any band in the genre. The band grabbed me with their ability to leave such a strong musical impact in half the length of their contemporaries, and despite being an instrumental trio, their music was some of the most emotive I’ve heard in a while. The group has now released their 3rd studio album, So Numb, their first for Profound Lore, a label that knows a thing or two when it comes to quality extreme metal.
The album opener “Indigo Illusion” comes right out of the gate with a particularly heavy stomping tom fill with a killer bass line that accentuates the rhythm. Piercing synths and screeching guitars help bring the metal/noise vibe as the guitars also lay down a particularly somber melody. It’s a moody and intense opener that sets the stage for the tracks to follow. The next two tracks continue this dynamic forward progression, with “Sapphire” featuring intricate and unique tom/hit-hat drum fills as the guitar melodies echo and howl across the song, keeping the ominous and melancholic atmosphere as the track closes out with a heavy screeching synth key pattern. The title track manages to hold down a steady killer groove as the song flows through its many moods and atmospheric textures, with the soundscapes feeling particularly huge in the back half with the reverb-heavy chords, half-time drum beat, and the bass helping the song feel full-bodied.
The album’s ability to flow through its different textures and soundscapes to create a depressing all-encompassing atmosphere is strong as always here: a testament to how strong the trio’s songwriting is. “Way Out,” the first released song from So Numb, features a prominent galloping tom fill that really drives the tempo of the whole song, and it flows between that, conventional black metal blastbeats, and a different beat that feels reminiscent of their track “Short Life.” The guitars are incredibly rich in their construction, also showing off how great the production is on this release, as the echoing melodies eventually fade out to much cleaner guitars and eventually a thick, saturated grunge-like chord progression. “Sleep Well” also knows how to progress in and out of many moods and highlights, having the heaviest guitar intro of any song on the album, eventually segueing into a particularly large wall of guitar noise that leaves room for probably the most pronounced and excellent bass line on the record, one that’s reminiscent, of all things, of the Tool classic “The Grudge.” The song knows how to forcefully march its way forward, especially when it gets to the syncopated chords punctuated by pockets of feedback and the drums furiously pounding in rhythm.
The strongest moments of the album come directly in the middle, with the highlights “Fernbeds” and “Salts.” The former’s intro is solely driven by an echo-heavy bass guitar rhythm with guitars that start soft and crescendo further and further until the rest of the instrumentation full kicks in. The drums don’t even really hit until about the 2 minute mark, and the song builds more and more until the 4 minute mark when the instrumentation just explodes out into an emotionally heavy melody as the guitars drift in an airy manner throughout. “Salts” is easily the most cinematic and grand of all the tracks written, as the reverberating guitar chords take center stage at the start, accentuated by a simplistic 3-note bass drum rhythm and a simple-but-steady bass guitar rhythm. The only other percussion that steps in the song is an electronic programmed pattern that aids in the vibe, feeling reminiscent of many modern film scores. Hell, it almost evokes the vibe of the compositional works of Tyler Bates (as weird as that sounds), and as someone who enjoys that kind of compositional work, this song was a solid treat.
Sannhet knocks it out of the park yet again with So Numb. The group’s songwriting is refined further than it’s ever been, bringing some of the most massive and melancholic moods and atmospheres they’ve put on a record to date. The production knows how to accentuate rhythms and melodies in the exact right ways at the right times to add an extra layer of punch and atmosphere to the proceedings. Every song on here is tight and moody, and there’s not a single filler track to be found. Every one of them is memorable and worth listening to. If you haven’t caught on to the music of Sannhet yet, this is a really great jumping on point for one of the most exciting up-and-coming metal bands out there.
Verdict: Buy it. Listen to this album 3 times and think about death and get sad and stuff!
So Numb is available from Profound Lore on CD, digital download (iTunes, Bandcamp, etc.) and streaming services. Check out Sannhet online on Facebook, Twitter, and Bandcamp.