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If the test of any truly good album lies in how much it demands to be played on repeat, then Milwaukee-based doom merchants Arctic Sleep are onto something pretty special with their latest offering, Passage of Gaia.
 
Spread out over eight epic, sprawling tracks of somber atmospherics, crunching guitars and heart-stomping rhythms, the band’s sixth studio release is a beautifully brutal tour-de-force that works at its best as an experience, as something to become fully immersed in and felt, rather than anything slipped on in the background simply to kill the silence.
 
With that in mind, you’re going to need more than one go-around if you’re to really experience the album the way its crisp production values and complex, yet ever accessible layers seem to suggest Arctic Sleep intend you to.
 
Not that ‘Gaia doesn’t make a big first impression.
 
Within moments of opening track The Staircase taking its hold, you’re immediately enraptured by a certain sense majesty and a thumping beat crashing down like the Hammer of Thor pounding down amidst a haunting storm of guttural guitars.
 
It’s hard not to like, and as the album progresses, working its way through the sheer power and menacing pageantry of Terra Vindicta into the crawling, captivating sound of Green Dragon, you’re almost convinced that you’ve got the whole experience nailed.
 
You want to draw comparisons to the late Type O Negative at their most melodic, and then to immediately cast any such comparisons aside and simply marvel at how Arctic Sleep haven’t just created an album here, they’ve created a whole other world.
 
It’s a world where rivers of synth flow thick and slow among mountains of bold, determined rhythms, and were serene vocals sweep through torrents of punishing guitars.
 
It’s a world you can’t help but feel compelled to return to, for as you wander your way through that first listen, you can’t help but feel as though you’re missing something, as though there’s secrets to be found beneath those lavish layers of evocative splendor.
 
And so, as the juggernaut that is closing track Destroy the Urn ploughs its way towards the end, you find yourself already itching to get back to the beginning. You hit the play button, and you listen to the whole album again, and again, over and over, each time uncovering any one of Gaia’s multiple hidden gems.
 
Before you know it, you’ve listened to nothing else for days on end for no other reason than because you just know that every listen reveals something new.
It might be the grungy, almost post-hardcore vibe of Hyperion, complete with its growling bass line and trance-like vocal, or it might well the soul-soothing atmosphere of the title track, a blissful nine-plus minute opus that captures everything from the other seven tracks and blends them together to create the highlight of the whole thing.
 
Whatever secrets you uncover, they’ll only lead you to further immersing yourself in a brutally beautiful world that demands not only to be listened to over and over, but to be experienced, fully and completely, and if that doesn’t help Passage of Gaia pass the test of a truly good album, perhaps nothing will.
 
 

 
FOLLOW ARCTIC SLEEP
https://www.facebook.com/arcticsleep
http://arcticsleep.com/
 

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