Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Album Fri Nov 04 2011

Album Review: The Bleakest Winter With Surachai's To No Avail


Here in Chicago we've just hit the month of November or the moon cycle after Samhaim as the pagans know it and that's prime time for metal to take over the turntable in my house. Riding in on winters heels Surachai has just released To No Avail, a blast of stark, cold, desolate, black metal. To No Avail is a record you listen to backwards in the desperate search of finding a doorway out of the nightmare filled darkness it brings.

To No Avail consists of two ten-minute songs pragmatically labeled "Side •" and "Side ••". This iconic labeling is very important for when we bury To No Avail in a time capsule that we blast into the Alpha Centauri. Joining the two sides are bridges of malfunctioning interstellar industrial computer ambience. Remember that scene in The Thing where Kurt Russell can't beat the computer at chess and pours coffee in it? Digital howls like that. "Side •" opens with modem infected audio signal that'll make the vectored hairs on a digital goats neck stand up. Then the tones float at about mid brain level and then pull back as a Norse god summoned tidal wave of sound rushes in. Buzzing that would be at home in the cathartic shimmering and pulsating guitar orchestras of Glenn Branca howl above you. The drums jackhammer with an industrial fury. Like a harsh wind trapped the vocals screech "Forged by a million suns/Fallen into oblivions/Passed through light/Relentlessly aimed/Towards endless darkness." You get the feeling that Surachai has survived a few Chicago winters. When the album comes up for air it shifts from atonal brutality to the slow burning acidic atmosphere of Jupiter.

Surachai can form a church burning pact with the Krallice, Deathspell Omega, and Deafheaven records on your bookshelf. The songwriting on To No Avail starts with a traditional European black metal template; lo-fi recording, riffs that gain power through repetition, pragmatic almost punk rock style drumming, and raspy vocals and pulls it apart. Surachai mixes his wide sonic palate in a hefty robust manner but without the headache inducing reliance on over compressed loudness that curses too many metal albums. To No Avail is a album with heft that rewards you as you carefully peel back it's dusty exterior and find secret moments of beauty within. The throbbing beautiful exhalation of a coda at the end of "Side ••" can smuggle itself amongst the best songs on any album by Mogwai. It's a rare feat that a heavy metal album can balance melody and bludgeoning brutality as well as To No Avail.

The artwork that envelops the release is comprised of a series of pagan themed black and white photographs by Sarah Sitkin. The occult imagery sets the bleak post-apocalyptic tone of the album while tipping their goat skull to the history of black metal art that predates. Forming a stark contrast inside the vinyl is a skullish off-white.

Surachai hits a hidden balance of dark metal brutality and fragile moments of beauty. To No Avail is available now as a name your price digital download and Handshake Inc is currently taking pre-orders for the vinyl to be released on January 18, 2012. Surachai was featured on fellow Chicago metal band American Heritage's show shoveling album Sedentary earlier this year.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

Read this feature »


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