Thaw “St. Phenome Alley” (2015)

Many Black Metal bands aim to create moments of ritual ambiance on their recordings, but Poland´s Thaw actually show a serious commitment to achieving this sound. They do not resort to the usual tactics, no lazy keyboards or samples, no amateur attempts at employing noise. Thaw instead approach these portions as an equal component of their sound, one just as important as their heavier aspects.

The band´s latest release, St. Phenome Alley, showcases this aspect with two extended tracks clocking in at over forty-seven minutes. Each track is improvised and features the whole band, and each piece exhibits its own identity.

The first song, simply titled “n/a/k”, is the more abstract of the two. Starting from almost nothing, the song builds slowly over the course of its twenty-two and a half minute running time, only to begin to slip away again about three-quarters of the way through. Percussion, though quite sparse at times, is the driving force behind the piece. At times, this takes the form of unusual chimes and cymbals that add to the overall vibe of the track, while in the louder moments, toms and guitar lock in together and build towards climax.

The second track, “p/m/g”, starts quietly as well, but with a constant low-end throb which instantly gives it a greater sense of momentum. Once again, sparse cymbal work invokes a ritual atmosphere. Close to the ten-minute mark, things begin getting louder and heavier, the bass sound becoming more ominous. At about fifteen minutes, cymbal crashes announce the emergence of an actual beat and soon the band begins cycling through some abstract but crushing doom riffs. After the onslaught reaches critical mass, the band returns to a few minutes of quiet ambiance before fading away.

Many Metal fans might not find much to satiate their appetites with this release. But as the years go by, it appears both bands and fans alike are becoming more adventurous. There is no doubt that Thaw feels the experimental aspect of their sound to be of vital importance. While their avant-garde tendencies do tend to take a back seat on their full-lengths, like 2014´s stunning release “Earth Ground”, this aspect of the band adds richness to their material that would likely not exist otherwise. And for the most adventurous listeners, there is much delight to be found on this release as well. Thaw achieves the kind of mood and atmosphere few bands actually succeed at, in large part because they are willing to fully commit to the task.

– Allen Griffin


Release:  October 1st 2015
Label:  Unquiet Records
Avantgenre:  Black Ritual Ambience
Duration:  47:34
Origin:  Poland
Official site:
Review online since:  02.11.2015 / 23:44:53


01 – N/a/k
02 – P/m/g

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