The white room / By a window / Where the sun comes / Through
— “Daydreaming” by Radiohead
SUMAC is Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) on drums, Brian Cook (Russian Circles, ex-Botch) on bass, and Aaron Turner (Old Man Gloom, ex-Isis) on guitar and vocals; three musicians with impressive resumes and who seem perfectly suited for this band, to the point where its very alchemy would dissolve if any one of them was swapped out for someone else. SUMAC may have begun as Turner's singular vision, but the two albums to date, THE DEAL (2015) and WHAT ONE BECOMES, proclaim a brilliant command of atmosphere, mood, and negative space that arguably could only have emerged from the sonic collision of these three specific players. Each contributes something irreplaceable to the band's dynamism.
Like its predecessor, WHAT ONE BECOMES is an exhilirating, no-nonsense collision of opposing forces: darkness and light; catastrophe and grace; creation and destruction. Nowhere is this more evident than on the album's colossal fourth track, “Blackout”, which swells and breaks across a landscape of sky-is-falling doom for 11 minutes, before errupting into a melodic expression of hope for its 6-minute coda.
It's rare to find a metal album that is both fraught and introspective, but WHAT ONE BECOMES is what it sounds like. There is a gravity to this record that is often so forceful escape seems impossible. Its heavy, deliberate pace seems to consume the listener completely. The result is more an experience — tension and release made audible — than a mere collection of songs, and, for me, its unique and prodigious impact was unequaled by any other album in 2016.