Sometimes water’s still and serene; an idyllic sparkle of light and cerulean hues. But water can also be a mangling undercurrent or a black maelstrom. On SEA‘s debut LP Impermanence, the Boston-based doomgaze project channels the power of water in its many forms: refreshing elixir, shimmering majesty, crystalline freeze, and sudden unforgiving danger.
As the title of their opening single “Penumbra” implies, SEA dwell in the shadows of their own mountainous riffs. The band’s balance of lumbering heaviness and elemental poetry forms the emotive and contemplative core of their post-metal experimentation. The crawling warmth of “Shrine” makes the blasting bleakness of “Ashes” feel even harsher. But in its final act, “Ashes” reaches catharsis as clean vocals rise like sage smoke from the song’s dying fire. That song’s standout performance is emblematic of vocalist/bassist Stephen LoVerme’s talents: throughout Impernance his voice spans fragile whimpers and croons to strangled screams. Meanwhile, guitarists Mike Blasi and Liz Walshak deftly steer SEA from Neurosis’ earthy doom to passages of star-scorched shoegaze. The album is meditative without feeling stagnant; a testament to SEA’s dynamic songwriting. That’s most evident in 13-minute finale “Dust” as the riffs doggedly burrow through layers of dark soil and rot before howling to the night sky. Like SubRosa, SEA’s lyrics aren’t just sung, they’re deeply expressed and reinforced through tone and atmosphere. By the time the album concludes, Impermanence feels like an exercise in empathy that resonates long after the distortion fades.
“This record is significant to us in many ways,” shares LoVerme. “It’s our first full-length album, and it feels like we’ve hit our stride in terms of sound and songwriting. It’s our final collection of recordings and compositions with our founding drummer Andrew Muro, and the beginning of our musical collaboration with our current drummer Keith Gentile, who engineered the record.”
“When we heard all the songs together,” he continues, “we saw the connection that this album was about loss and grief, but also renewal. It is a nod to the cycles of life and death, the importance of shared connection, and our place in the worlds we create for ourselves and the greater world we live in.”
Stream SEA’s Impermanence below and listen to one of my most anticipated records of the year. Also read comments from the band on each of the record’s five songs and their shared history. But first, press play and experience the magmic oceans and drifting embers of SEA’s debut LP.
Comments from SEA about Impermanence:
“Penumbra” uses the imagery of a lunar phenomenon as a metaphor for healing from things in the past that have the potential to cast shadows on the present.” – Walshak
“Shrine” is about coping with loss, and the idea of keeping our loved ones alive in our memory when they’ve left us. I wrote the lyrics at a time when I was experiencing loss in my own life on multiple levels, and lot of people I knew were also experiencing the loss of friends, family, and in some cases, life partners. Musically, it’s probably the saddest song we’ve even written, and I channeled my own grief as well as my empathy for what friends were going through into the lyrics.” – LoVerme
“Ashes” was inspired by the self-immolation of LGBTQ rights lawyer and environmental activist David Buckel in 2018. I was deeply affected by the news of his death, not just because of the loss of such an important figure in civil rights, but also because I could see that his message—that we’re slowly killing ourselves and our planet through overconsumption of fossil fuels—was being lost because people couldn’t get past the fact that he burned himself to death. That’s what made me the saddest: that his protest was being written off as an extreme act by a crazy person, even though he took care to ensure that the fire wouldn’t spread. However gruesome and incomprehensible it may seem, self-immolation has a well-established history as an act of protest against religious persecution, government corruption and war. “Ashes” is my attempt to pay tribute to his sacrifice and life’s work.” – LoVerme
“Dust” is basically Joni Mitchell’s “Woodstock” reimagined as a thirteen minute blackened post-metal song. Lyrically, it’s about how we’re made of the same elements as the stars and planets, and the oneness of all things.” – LoVerme
SEA on songwriting: “We like to write collaboratively, and the writing process for Impermanence was no exception. It starts with someone bringing in a few riffs that work together, and then we hash out the arrangement and transitions together as a band, with everyone contributing to the sound, texture and feel of the song. We aspire to write music that carries emotional weight and creates an atmosphere for the listener. We put a lot of focus on dynamics and contrast between loud and quiet parts, harsh and melodic parts. Lyrics are usually the final piece to come together, inspired by our life experiences and concepts that interest us. The tone of our equipment also influences how we play, how much space a riff will take up, and how we balance things sonically. We are all fans of loud amps and effects pedals, and like to use tone as a means of expression.”
SEA on recording: “We recorded at Keith’s studio, Labyrinth Audio in Peabody, MA. We already knew Keith from playing shows together, and we hit it off immediately and drew a lot of inspiration from his love of music and enthusiasm for making records. We wanted to capture our live sound and the energy of us playing together in a room on this record, so we tracked the basics live and then layered vocals, harmonies and additional guitar textures. One of the most fun parts of making the record was creating the instrumental “Ascend”, which was composed completely on the spot. We started with a simple guitar melody and drum pattern, and then we each took turns experimenting with different textures, layering synth, theremin, slide and ambient guitar.”