Melancholic post-metal is not a recipe for commercial success. Well, post-metal in general isn’t, aside from a few select bands such as Russian Circles and Neurosis. The music doesn’t have instant appeal, usually taking a number of listens for the nuances and arrangements to sink in. But Brooklyn’s Thera Roya aim to get in on the post-metal action with their debut album, Stone and Skin.
Thera Roya have been around since 2012, with two EPs and a split released prior to Stone and Skin. The power trio favors a sparse, sludgy, heavy approach to their music, with massive lows on the distorted bass guitar, echo-laden guitar work, and solid, organic drum sounds. Drummer Ryan Smith handles the vocals.
Crank it up loud and the music rattles windowpanes, right from the opening fade-in of “Saffron.” The juxtaposition of the echo-y guitar work, fuzzy bass, and dry, crisp drums is interesting; these guys definitely have their own sound, with each instrument occupying its own space in the frequency spectrum.
Song-wise, Thera Roya display varying degrees of quality. “Egypts Light” is one highlight, searingly heavy, while “Hume & Ivey,” with its eerie spoken-word opening, is uncomfortable throughout. The two longest songs, “Solitude” and “Phaedrus Revealed,” are the strongest on the album, and like any good post-metal get better with subsequent listens. The other three tracks on Stone and Skin are not as memorable.
The main issue with Stone and Skin is not the lack of quality music, though. The problem is the vocals. Drummer Ryan Smith handles all the singing, and employs three vocal styles. The first, his clean voice, is recorded with copious amounts of boxy reverb, making one think he’s singing down the hallway in a washroom. He also utilizes harsh vocals and guttural, anguished screams. Sadly, he can’t really perform any of the three with any degree of quality, and his amateur singing brings everything down to a depressingly low level of enjoyment.
Thera Roya show mild promise on Stone and Skin. They also show why some bands choose not to have singing. Ryan Smith needs a ton of work on his vocals prior to the next album, and with some slightly more consistent songwriting and better singing they just might be onto something.
(released February 17, 2017)