SUMAC - What One Becomes - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

SUMAC - What One Becomes

by Amy Putman Rating:9 Release Date:2016-06-10

"The spice must flow"

That phrase sends chills down the spine of any geek my age. 

I mean, most likely, it thrills older and younger people too - it's a classic line from a classic Sci-Fi novel - but my direct observations are limited to people I hang out with and my social circle is constrained by the ageism of society...  By which I mean that older people are too busy with their real adult lives to chill with the likes of me, and I'm too tired to befriend the younglings.

But back to the point.  It's not just that Frank Herbert's Dune is a masterful tale of giant sand worms, blue-eyed cult-tribes, galactic empires, and political intrigue.  It's that the fictitious universe is founded entirely on spice; a glorious, strong, addictive, power-inducing spice.

Spice is glorious.  There's a reason it was once worth more than gold.  There's a reason it was once the most lucrative trade for merchants.  There's a reason we refer to pleasure, lust, and joy as 'the spice of life'.  Spice makes life worth living.  It's not just delicious; it is sensual, strong, and fierce.

Spice can get you high.  Spice can heal.  Spice can keep you fit.  Spice can inspire.  Spice can change your mood.  Spice can make you horny.  Spice can make you tough.  Spice is used in ritual and ceremony.  Spice can give you visions.  Spice can turn you into a warrior.

I have personally been extremely high from nutmeg.  It was unpleasant and not to be recommended.  Lots of shivering and nausea.  Still, spice should be respected.

Spice makes the world go round, here on earth.  Spice must, indeed, flow.

A lot of writers who have reviewed SUMAC seem incensed that they are named after a spice.  They seem to think that somehow it's not cool.  I guess they're thinking of the 'sugar and spice' of that rhyme about girls but, come on, what kind of metal fan bases their ideas on a tawdry 18th century poem?

I guess what annoys me is that I wonder what name would have been acceptable.  Are all spices out, or would CHILI have been ok?  Is that brutal and masculine enough?  Metal enough?  How about PEPPER?  Or CURRY?  Why is SUMAC  considered to be a soft spice? 

Is that racist?  Or at least culturally insensitive?

Personally, I think that anything that is sour and rich, can be mixed with tobacco for good smokes, and has a poison variety, is awesome enough, and amply appropriate as a band name for this genre.  Plus, it's a vigorous plant, prone to creating sharp spikes when cut, that will take over any outdoor space and is near impossible to eradicate.  If that ain't metal, I don't know what is.

Anyway, honestly, it seems like an assumption to tie it to the spice, given the capitalisation.  Sure, it could be shouting, or bold, but it could also be an un-dotted acronym.  What then, Mr Spice-is-lame? What then?!  What if it's really 'Super Ugly Master Attack Code' or 'Sludge Under Metal Alt Core'?  I mean I'm sure many people can come up with way better acronyms but you get the idea.



Anyway... (I use that word too much)



Why am I getting so het up?  Why am I being so defensive?

Very simply, because SUMAC are awesome.  Also, they should really be above such petty sniping because, in the grand scheme of things, their name really isn't that bad.  I mean, they're no Diarrhea Planet ', or 'Let's Eat Grandma', are they?  Those names make you wince.  'SUMAC' is, well, you know, fucking fine; robust, simple, memorable.  What more do you want?

But back to the music, which is almost too good to comment on with anything other than a frothing mouth.  It is sludge rock of the best kind, attaining a professionalism that channels its raging raw talent into a balanced torrent of bass and noise.  It's a throaty, lingering, churning channel linking the here and now of the everyday to the raw power of the primal, dark force of brutal metal itself.

Not only that, but its maturity is striking.  This goes beyond mere talent and showcases a determination, an ambition, and a relentlessness that is impressive.  It doesn't just blow your ears and mind away with its beautiful insolence, decay, throttle, and seeping rebellion; it also surprises.  Just when you start to get complacent, or dismissive, it switches things up and makes you yelp with joy at the sheer prowess of their composition.

This is music to beat the odds to; music to be epic to; music to battle to.  This is music that will make any day.  This is the inspiring soundtrack to a life of forging forth, SUMAC reverberating in your belly with energy, like a more delicious Lembas bread.

This album is the spice of life for this generation of metalheads.  It's the kind of constantly listened to album that forms a backdrop to a decade, evocative, weaving with your memories to become an integral part of who you are.  It's the soulful underbelly of everything you want, fighting back brutally in the face of the forces of what you get.  It's the kind of thing you rotate repeatedly, like a rock ouroboros, always on your ipod, not so much in your shuffle as constantly flicked to, as nothing else will quite do.  It's music to get obsessive over; its depth and complexity will never bore.  'What One Becomes' is, indeed, what one becomes.

SUMAC will enrich you.  And, yes, it is sour, and tangy, and insistent; tart, rich, and deep, just like their namesake.  They don't need to justify their name but, if they did, that alone does it, in my eyes.

Hell, yeah, this spice must flow.  All over the world at a million gigs, on five hundred thousand million players, in a billion ears.  SUMAC chill my spine.

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