Two drummers, two guitarists, and a bassist. Five musicians form Native Daughters, the post-metal outfit from Denver. Loud, booming riffs and passages of tense respite. Shoegaze guitar leads that twinkle beyond vocal-less songs. This is familiar territory. All of these post-metal trademarks are in Native Daughters’ sophomore effort, Master Manipulator, but their atypical set up posits them a unique sound in the genre.
Album opener “Sleep Lump” is a vast expanse. Gusts of air emanate from the kick drums and bass echoes far afield. The guitar careens miles above its foundation and shimmers of an uplifting riff. It conjures an ethereal atmosphere before collapsing into tumult, setting the tone for Master Manipulator. The song forges a path of reliable post-metal expectations and lights the record’s road with moments of intrigue. Drum kits joust on “Two Princes”. Snare pops clash and cymbals clang behind a chugging riff. In the song’s intervals of relief, fills tumble and twist over each other. They divulge an uneven texture, which is most obvious when the snares are smacked. It’s a slick nuance that adds unique interplay to the song’s anatomy and it is carried forth in other compositions.
Many songs also employ an ebb and flow device. Mellow sections erupt into a clamor of towering instruments or heavy riffs simmer to meditative tempos. A somber guitar riff in “StAnger” coos beneath trickling rain. It pulls the drums along its isolated landscape, only to bloom into a crescendo. The guitar cascades over the upbeat backdrop and even transcends the crescendo, reaching a higher plane to create an emotional, melodic resolve.
Some pieces do fall victim to tedium. “UninVAIted” contains a striking hook that climbs to a lofty riff mid-way through its runtime. It’s a spectacle. It unfurls from nowhere, but monotonous riffs on either side dampen its awe. Although Master Manipulator treads predictable post-metal structures, they season the domain with innovative progressions. It’s sculpted of glistening moments, chiseled by its dual drum kits, and leaves an enthralling post-metal vista in its wake.
Score: 8.0 / 10.0
Listen to Master Manipulator above; purchase the record here.