RIYL: Isis, Neurosis, Sights and Sounds, This Will Destroy You
What does life feel like?
Not the bones, marrow, and sinew of our physical beings. Not the multitudes of forms around us. But a life, lived through—the process and the emotions.
Do you hold a metaphor of it in your head?
For me, life is a big pile of dirt.

Good, bad—whatever the event or input, the universe feels no particular way how it affects you. It is only barely aware of you. It’s just your duty to move that dirt.

It’s an impersonal and stoic outlook, I know, and one that is entirely likely too influenced by the gospel according to Al Swearengen, but its one that seems the most apt. Life is a huge jumble of feelings, thoughts, emotions, and influences that when looked at overall, that myriad of strains would fade into the general mass. The microcosm absorbed by the macrocosm.

In this way, Ancestor’s Suspended in Reflections presents the best aural version of this metaphor I have yet encountered. At once triumphant, morose, hopeful, and melancholic all played with a withdrawn appreciativeness; the negatives and the positives seen as one, beautiful whole.

“All the emotions of a life lived in reflection. If anything, that was the phrase we kept returning to.” Justin Maranga says, his back propped against the wall of Ancestor’s Echo Park practice space.

He and Jason Watkins are the last original members for the now-veteran LA ostensibly doom-psych band, but they (completed by former HORSE the band drummer Daniel Pouliot) wouldn’t have it any other way. Justin is ebullient, his eyes alive brimming with enthusiasm for every question. Jason is more reserved; he takes time for every answer, the words coming as if they are drifting in from a far away place.

Both, however, return frequently to the topic of freedom. The freedom from the restrictions of genre trappings, the freedom from dealing with the collective egos of a more cumbersome five-piece (the band recently slimmed to three), the freedom to take the time to write the songs as they needed to be. Taking six years to sporadically write and record Suspended in Reflections, the band have meticulously crafted easily one of the best records of the year, a soaring masterpiece that falls somewhere in between later Isis and This Will Destroy You that does the one thing that post-metal struggles with—leaving before it’s overstayed its welcome.

Its a surprisingly succinct, yet inexpressibly poignant record that manages wide appeal while it straddles psych, doom, progressive, and post-metal all while maintaining this cinematic scope and quality. There are few bands, Isis and Neurosis included, who can manage the scale and breadth of an album while keeping it at an understated 36 minutes.