Transfiguration by Show of BedlamRelease date: May 12, 2017
Label: PRC Music / Sentient Ruin Laboratories / Dawnbreed Records / Désordre Ordonné
Montreal, Canada based Show of Bedlam spent five years making Transfiguration and the care and attention to detail is evident in the record’s scope. While the style is firmly rooted in doom and sludge metal, the band does a great job of incorporating a cinematic sensibility and experiments liberally with samples and creepy soundscapes that gives the album a rich complexity and makes it feel almost like a documentary horror. Rather than relying on familiar metal themes such as witches, black magic or Norse mythology, themes that feel safe and far removed from current day reality, the Show of Bedlam’s lyrical content is more like a police report, a recitation of all too real crimes, abuse, violence, and mental illness. They do so in an almost narrated manner, as if one is listening to the Serial podcast set to an experimental doom/sludge backdrop. There is not much hope here, to be sure, just as there is not much hope in any quick perusal of today’s “if it bleeds it leads” news media. But one is hooked into the morbid tales the band spins.
Show of Bedlam could and should be huge. They’ve got all the required ingredients. The songs are intricate and evolve naturally in an uncontrived manner. While long, they do not feel particularly indulgent. The guitar work and sound quality are excellent, as is all the musicianship on the record. However, they do at times feel a bit unfocused and not all the experimentation hits the mark. Paulina Richards’s vocals in particular feel that way. This is unfortunate because her voice is powerful and authoritative and is ultimately what really sets the band apart. When she’s at full blast it’s a borderline religious experience. You stop what you are doing and listen with full attention, the way you did the first time you heard Neurosis’s ‘Purify’ or Oathbreaker’s ‘Second Son of R’. Unfortunately, she spends a lot of time talking out lyrics or barking them in a fashion reminiscent of some Louisville/Chicago punk band and it doesn’t compare well to those special moments of afterburner insanity when she really lets loose. It’s like you’re in a car and only when you hit the gas do you realize just how powerful the engine is, and then wonder why the hell you didn’t just keep the pedal to the floor all the time driving. The fact that she can be so unbelievably explosive, but often holds back, can make the album frustrating at times.
Ultimately, though, it’s hard to fault their overall accomplishment here. The album is a highly complex work that requires several close listens to truly appreciate. But it’s well worth the effort. If you like Bloody Panda or Made out of Babies, you will like this album.