8. USNEA – Portals Into Futility
Portland doom quartet USNEA returned in 2017 with their third full-length, the crushingly potent Portals Into Futility.
Inspired by dystopian science-fiction and the painful intersection of today’s crushing reality, the utter darkness of Portals Into Futility engulfed the senses amidst a framework of funeral doom, sludge and black metal elements.
While these huge, cinematic compositions may have appeaered hard-going on paper – we’re talking 5 tracks in 56 minutes – Usnea’s sharp use of dynamics and varied vocal styles resulted in a surprisingly textured experience. An experience that required a stomach strong enough to savour such discordant doom but hardened souls undoubtedly welcomed Portals Into Futilityinto their fold.
With a flesh-crawling viscosity, the thick rumbling underbelly of Usnea’s tone induced nausea while the death-growls of vocalist Joel Banishing chilled the soul but these weren’t empty noises, pre-programmed to be ‘heavy’ just for the sake of it. Instead, the band immersed themselves in dystopian ideas and buried themselves in literature including political and cultural sci-fi masterworks such as Gene Wolfe’s Shadow of the Torturer, Ursula K Le Guin’s Lathe of Heaven, Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World (a song-title, incidentally), Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Philip K Dick’s Valis, and Frank Herbert’s Dune in order to fully communicate their intent; reflecting on religion, technology and the cold, hard reality of man’s dire place in the world.
Heavy, in every sense of the word!