The array of resources that can be used to create pleasing metal is exhausting in its emotional stock and capability. Yet this metal isn't often conceived for pleasure, at least objectively. Crafted to maim, nullify, and ostracize the ostracizers, it was never meant for the content; but what good music is? Enter Virginia’s american, stylized in lowercase, a blackened sludge duo that plays heavy on the black. Their music is not fanciful, rather primal, and refuses to make a theatrical fuss about it. Purged of escapism, american delve, bare handed and headfirst, into the raw of sorrow, carving out the journey that is Coping with Loss.

Their full-length debut, Coping with Loss is blessed with a haunting aura thick with loathing. Opening track “Ritual Suicide,” slashes with swiftly cutting riffs, the cuts deepening as a thick bloodlust swells from beneath, chugging with sinister intent. Rife with deep existential fear as narrated by an introductory Speak and Spell voice, “Decedents” is awash in a cold sweat. Strings rise ominously from a swirling void supported by a mournful, trudging beat. In “Retinere,” the void churns into an imposing maelstrom, the eye of the storm glaring immediately. “Lamb to Slaughter” is a funeral possession, beautiful in the charred rose cascade summoned by the swansong guitars, ugly in the shrieks that lurk behind a rain sheet of sonic haze, howling a brief, uninviting epitaph.

Where american get sidetracked is with their liking for oddly-placed, awfully-long ambiance. “Pulse Beating Slowly” is all fuzz sprinkled with overused sound bites: a chant here, a groan there, a Blitz siren and even Gollum-ish gargling. The album follows by presenting its crowning moment in the more immediate “Solace in the Silence.” The snare cracks laboriously, as if a thousand necks were bent in succession. The track’s spite is tangible.

Perhaps to mimic the probable unraveling of the psyche at death’s moment -- or as an opportunity for a second helping of oddly placed, awfully long ambiance -- Loss closes with “Coping with Loss and the Insurmountable Guilt of Existing.” As long as its title suggests, the album ends in 18 minutes of the same sound-clip-enthusiasm that marred “Pulse Beating Slowly.” Throughout its girth, it occasionally forays into noise, though these right steps do not completely right Loss. The confident loathing that permeated the majority of the album’s first six songs voiced droves more of what american are than this indulgent ending.

With its flaws few, Coping with Loss is a solid debut from a promising act well versed in their craft. Personally, american's next venture will be met with anticipation.

— Bruce Hardt



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