Thalassa is the new collaborative project between two titans of the metal tinged avant garde world of guitar: Aaron Turner (Isis, Mamiffer) and William Fowler Collins. Mythical and elemental imagery abounds on the four lengthy pieces split across two LPs, no doubt informed by the contrast of their respective homes: Turner‚Äôs cold and damp Pacific Northwest versus Collins‚Äô arid New Mexico home, but the two are entirely on the same page when it comes to performance. Equally fitting into the worlds of old school ambient composition and metallic darkness, Bonds of Prosperity is as bleak as it is engaging.
For two guitarists who have consistently worked in metal-aligned genres, both of them have demonstrated that restraint can be just as heavy as harshness, and that is a clear characteristic of this record.The first moments of "Pitted Aegis" is a telltale overdriven chug of distortion that could be as much a guitar as it could be a battery of effects.However, the two build from this seemingly simplistic starting point to expand into a sprawling expanse of grimy grind.Eventually this sputters out and then returns, eventually relenting for a beautifully expansive guitar sound to take hold.There is a massive, monolithic quality to the final product that is overwhelming without oppressing.
The following "Secular Pyres" begins with a similarly monochromatic ominous hum that unravels to reveal a much greater complexity to its sound.Turner and Collins start from this and allow it to unfold into a menacing roar that builds to extreme levels, to then just as quickly pull it away.Beyond that there is a fascinating static-laden buzz that remains before the piece gently drifts off.The initial sustained drone that begins "Face Obscure", on the other hand, does not stick around long before a squealing guitar stab cuts through, a visceral, almost painful sounding burst of noise.While it eventually relents to allow some low frequency rumbles and warbling tones to appear, it never fully goes away.Things do not stay peaceful however; as the sound warms and the duo create a mood that is undeniably beautiful, yet still somewhat imposing.Again this harsh squeal reappears, and then again a few minutes later after a near silent passage.Eventually the piece concludes on what sounds to be taut string plucks, sounding more like analog electronic tones than a standard guitar sound.
The final composition, "Revolting Corpus," has the two staying a bit more reigned in as far as the noisier stuff goes, or at least until the end.A throbbing repeated guitar motif appears at first and slowly builds up, becoming more melodic and almost pleasant sounding as a whole, even though the rest of the piece is a murky darkness.Collins and Turner work heavily with repetition here, resulting in an overall rhythmic structure that becomes more and more dissonant with time.By the chaotic conclusion it is an all out noise war, complete with what sounds like a monstrous vocal outburst before coming to an extremely abrupt conclusion.
Considering both Aaron Turner and William Fowler Collins' existing body of work, a collaboration between the two was seemingly inevitable, and while the results are not necessarily surprising, Bonds of Prosperity also does not disappoint.There are clearly sinister vibes throughout the record, but like their respective home environments, there is a distinct beauty in the extremity.Thalassa's sound is daunting and at times oppressive, but that is exactly what makes this collaboration so brilliant.