The north of England is so fucking angry. And I’m really glad for it, because The Salt Pale Collective is tracking quickly upward on my album of the year list, thanks to their unbelievably heavy, yet superbly refined debut album A Body That Could Pass Through Stones And Trees. Having thoroughly enjoyed their debut EP last year, I knew I was likely to enjoy this new offering based on the singles, yet it is fair to say that I couldn’t quite have expected the leap in quality across the board from the band.
The vocal performances from the collective, the cinematic flow of the record, the unreal production, and the cataclysmic, thundering roars of the guitars following on from a psychedelic interlude, it all transfixes and delights, and will appeal to a massive range of metalheads. It is, possibly, the most modern metal album I’ve heard all year, pushing boundaries I didn’t think were ready to move just yet. It’s doom, post-metal, electronica, and indie-rock, wrapped up as a sermon that radiates sadness.
The album starts off very strong, with the band pairing an escalating build-up of instruments with group chanting. Yet, just as you want the bough to break and for the collective to unleash metal hell upon you, they fake you out twice and bring the track to an abrupt, jazz-noise-rock finale – then immediately pummel you into submission at the start of the next track with exceptionally well-produced doom. This song structure here, and throughout the rest of the record, feels so refreshing every time, even ten listens into the record. So often metal bands play it safe, but The Salt Pale Collective spare no quarter, and drop monstrous riffs out of thin air, without warning, when and how they please. It keeps you constantly engaged, but that isn’t to say the heaviness is the best atmosphere to be found on the record.
There are plenty of long interludes and each sets the scene for the next song by building up your anticipation or simply tricking you into a counter-emotion to what is coming. The electronic and synthesizer work on the album is exceptionally well done, providing a brilliant contrast to the doom and post-metal, or elevating it by working alongside it tastefully. The atmosphere on A Body That Could Pass Through Stones And Trees wouldn’t be half what it is without the brilliant effects and ideas layered into each track.
“The Great Work” is definitely one of my favourite tracks on the record, showcasing a multitude of ideas and styles within its five minutes. It is a track that somehow feels ten minutes long, whilst running at only half that, thanks to its cinematic scope and amazing transitions. “Exploding Triangles” and “The King Crowned In Red” vie for the title of the heaviest song on the record, with my personal tastes leaning more to the former.
The production on the record is, aside from Koan Sound‘s new record, unsurpassed in music this year in my opinion. Herod was top of metal for me, thanks to the amazing clarity you got from the instruments. But the unfathomably oppressive atmosphere that haunts the entirety of this record feels like an entire nation crying in anguish at times. The juxtaposition of the extreme summer weather we’ve had in the UK this week has been delightfully ironic, yet this will be a record I look forward to being smothered by as the winter rolls in soon.
The album closes as well as it begins, with the title track and “The King Crowned in Red” providing a brilliant end. All in all, I can’t fault A Body That Could Pass Through Stones And Trees and will be banging on about it to everyone who will listen for the next few months. The Salt Pale Collective have rocketed to the top of my must-see list, and I really hope to catch them playing the record in full over the next couple of years.