With Part Island, LATITUDES paints a bleak and moody picture dominated by greys and blurry lines. This album has a strong sense of funeral doom about it but with less death metal influences. In general, I would lean towards labeling this album as progressive rock, with one additional caveat: the songwriting and form itself is not entirely progressive. Lyrically this album is mysterious and cryptic. The writing has an old-timey feel to it, reminiscent of classic Romantic poetry, albeit with less pretense. Although this album is infused with a tenebrous beauty after multiple listens I do find the lethargic mood tiring as the somber nature of the music wore on me after some time. This is not an album one would play to spark up the party but one to be enjoyed with a glass of wine as the mist rolls in from the evening tide, masking the dangers of the ocean behind it.
As the album opens up with “Underlie” I am reminded quite strongly of Mikael Åkerfeldt’s vocal style as well as the intensely morose nature of Opeth’s instrumentals. The vocals stretch out like a longing call, the essence of which one might associate with loss and grief. There aren’t enough metaphors to truly cover how dark and sad this album feels but I am trying. I am one of those people who generally prefer sad or dark music to the happier more jolly side of it and this album delivers on sadness in droves. Where some music reflects on loss, Part Island embodies it and causes nostalgia to well up in your throat like that twelfth beer you chug down at 2 AM to encourage the voices to go away.
A notable aspect of this album is the drumming performance that works as one of the re-energising aspects of the music. The guitars, although emotive and beautiful, grow quite repetitive, give or take some virtuosic breaks, and might be one of the reasons the repeated listens wore on me. The drums manage to act as a form of musical encouragement that drives the sound forward, filling gaps and creating interest as the album forges on. Another obvious mention here are the enthralling vocals, which on the whole carry the album. Although the drumming serves as the instrumental glue that holds it together, the vocals are the soul and with a less talented singer, Part Island might have all but faded into the myriad of daily rock and metal releases that the average person can barely keep up with.
In track two, “Moorland Is The Sea”, we are met with more mournful, reverb-drenched music that is more or less what we can expect from the rest of the album to come. Dynamically, Part Island doesn’t do much besides one or two breaks where we are presented with only guitar and vocals, though the album is pretty consistent. This might be preferable to some, but anyone who has read my reviews before will know I am quite a fan of progressive songwriting and dynamic variety. Moments of this album also remind me of the band Draconian but again are lacking in death metal features. If this album included some screaming or got a little heavier at times it would most certainly sit firmly in the funeral doom camp but overall the album is not that heavy.
Heavy riffs creep in at track three, “Dovestone”, but even with this slightly raised energy, the music maintains a consistent feel. Around this point in the album, some atmospheric black metal sounds weave themselves into the music and though this does do something to pique the listener’s interest, the previously presented sense of futility does not abate. We also hear some blast beats poke their head into the mix and this can be heard most prominently in “The Great Past”, which might be my highlight of the album.
Overall I would rate this album highly. The production is fantastic, and the album does not feel too compressed giving the music space to breathe. My biggest criticism of the music is that it can feel one dimensional when listened to a few times over a short period. This doesn’t diminish Part Island‘s quality, but I do feel that the album might be better enjoyed in smaller doses. Listening to the album is a very personal experience. It is a perfect after-work album to be enjoyed with your sedative of choice as its nebulous textures drift over you, a brief respite (or reminder) of the crushing weight of our fleeting existence.