Back in 2015, I stumbled upon a 2-track debut of instrumental drone metal that was admittedly dry and a bit repetitive, but it was intriguing. After several listens, I grew to enjoy the crunchiness that Canyon of the Skull brought with their eponymous debut. I decided to keep tabs on the band because I felt they had definite promise and could create something truly worth hearing. Almost two years later, and my faith was well rewarded. The upcoming album that is “The Desert Winter” is all that I could’ve hoped for and more.
My favorite album of all time consists of only one track and it’s over 45 minutes long. That’s way too much for many people, and that’s totally understandable, but for me, it offered a unique experience like none other. Ever since then I’ve been on the search for albums like that; albums that have only one track and go to ridiculous lengths. Little did I know that when I found Canyon of the Skull that they’d eventually give me just that in the form of “The Desert Winter”. Stretching just over 37 minutes and being no less than the exact kind of thing that I’ve been on the lookout for, this record was something that really appealed to my desires, but going into it I wondered if the two men behind Canyon of the Skull were flying too close to the sun? Ambition is a great thing to have, but pulling it off is another thing entirely. I was worried that lack of experience as a band would be the downfall for this Texan group. Yet, against all odds, Canyon of the Skull prevailed and what was wrought is an album the likes of which I could eat up day after day after day.
What appealed to me about “Canyon of the Skull” was how its two tracks really embodied the harsh, unforgiving atmosphere of the desert and condensing it into a sound that works magnificently well with drone metal of this caliber. I was really hoping that concept was going to be carried over into “The Desert Winter”, and Canyon of the Skull did as well as improved upon that sound! Where the debut sounded a bit boring after a little while, “The Desert Winter” always throws in different elements, switches up the rhythm, and keeps tossing in different riffs alongside hypnotic beats that take you through a grueling tour through the harsh landscape southwestern United States. Just from beginning to end you can see the improvement unfold behold your eyes where you can feel the skill of Canyon of the Skull increase exponentially, the levels of intrigue going through the roof, and the amount of entertainment reaching new heights for this band. Some might say you could chop up “The Desert Winter” into two or three tracks for a better experience, but I’d have to aggressively disagree. “The Desert Winter” is perfect as it is. It’s a fucking relentless and punishing miasma of sand and frost that could only ever be experienced in this massively heavy 37-minute chunk of drone the likes of which I’ll happily sit through time and again. And being 100% instrumental, it serves so many different uses from focusing music to simple background noise to a heavy as fuck experience of metal that’s wholly unique and tasteful beyond comprehension. If nothing else, “The Desert Winter” serves as a testament that the Canyon of the Skull isn’t staying in the same place, and they’re moving forward with their style to where all who gaze upon this ice-ridden sandstorm have no choice but to despair in its shadow.
In no way could I have been prepared for this album. I was ready for longer tracks being at least 11 minutes long, bare minimum! “The Desert Winter” is a unique experience like few others, and even after five consecutive listens of this piece I still can’t find any negative thing to say about it. The sand flats are shimmering in the baking sun, and the glistening horizon is broad for this duo! Should you want what’s possibly the ultimate doom/drone metal experience this year (in my eyes), then “The Desert Winter” is something you can’t pass up. Prepare to meditate in the densest area of the sandstorm, and allow the winter to fully take you over, for only then can you truly say you went through “The Desert Winter”.
“The Desert Winter” releases on August 19th!
PRE-ORDER “The Desert Winter” on Bandcamp here.
LIKE Canyon of the Skull on Facebook here.
FOLLOW Canyon of the Skull on Twitter: @canyondoom