Sunnata - Burning In Heaven, Melting On Earth

Angry Metal Guy

When non-Poles think about Polish metal, we usually think of the black variety. Well, that and a metal front-man with an absolutely enormous forehead. More of a fivehead, really. We also think of the many convenient and stylish products one can buy, such as a hand-painted, high detail polyurethane resin bust of Fivehead. Or, if one would like to enhance the mood for summoning demons, romance or summoning romantic demons, there’s the premium soy scented candles, white or black, warm sugar or brimstone. But wait, there’s more! Do you like coffee? How about sacrilege? Savor these simple pleasures at the same time with Fivehead’s whole bean coffee, fair trade sourced from Kenya and pressure roasted in Satan’s anus. Get your three ounce bag today for a reasonable 365 złoty, or $97 American, shipping not included. What we don’t think of, when we think of Polish metal, is atmospheric post-metal. Since 2014, Warsaw’s Sunnata has been trying to change that. Will their fourth full-length win them a share of the evil coffee market?

Burning In Heaven, Melting on Earth offers six cuts of doomy post metal, a bit sludgy at times, but tapping into more ethereal sounds than the genre median. As on past albums, Sunnata stray into psychedelic indo-asian melodies on songs like “God Emperor of Dune” and “Völva (The Seeress),” while “Crows” and “Black Serpent” bring a little more straight forward muscle in the build-and-release post metal mold. Vocalist Szymon Ewertowski delivers meditations on faith and fanaticism in a thickly accented English. His range moves from husky low cleans to nasal higher registers and a harsh shout that is serviceable, if lacking in force. It’s an idiosyncratic voice, and at least in clean territory, works to the music’s advantage. The majority of tracks follow a psych-doom template with occasional bursts of up-tempo energy, as on “A Million Lives” and the back half of “Black Serpent.”

Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth by SUNNATA

On the album’s high points, disparate influences are pulled tightly together into fully integrated assemblages. “A Million Lives” is all hard driving rock on the surface, but it grows from a warped guitar line backbone and slips easily into the warbling, Middle Eastern inspired vocal ensemble half way through. Pounding, ritualistic drums transition the song back to the central riff with the same ease. This drum approach similarly bolsters the brooding final track “Way Out.” It’s not the heaviest material by any means, but it achieves its goal of casting an atmospheric spell in ways previous songs don’t quite reach.

Burning In Heaven, Melting on Earth is an up and down listening experience to these ears. After the muscular post-metal opener “Crows,” second track “God Emperor of Dune,” interest piquing sci-fi reference aside, is a meandering, nine minute snooze. It puts forward the “exotic” influences of the band’s sound, but as a song it falls flat where “Way Out” succeeds. “Völva (The Seeress)” feels similarly aimless across its front half, but is somewhat salvaged before the end. “Black Serpent” may meld the aggressive with the hypnotic successfully, but it fails to stand out in the midst of the album’s peaks and valleys.

I must admit that over the years I’ve come to regard vaguely Middle Eastern or Asian motifs in Western-made music with side-eye. Sunnata integrates them better than most into their overall sound, but it can come off as a schtick, and considering their Sanskrit name and faux Sanskrit logo, it’s hard not to wonder if these Polish boys are relying a bit much on musical tourism. Maybe there’s a connection here that I’m missing. I suppose it could be worse. They could be selling their own brand of heavy metal pre-packaged curry dinners, and we all know there are those out there who would do so without batting an eye.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Self Released
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 26th, 2021

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Wed Mar 03 12:15:48 GMT 2021