What if Black Sabbath and Sigur Rós joined together?
That’s one way to imagine Sodus, the one-man instrumental Doomgaze project from central Pennsylvania. By slipping into Doomgaze territory, Sodus offers mountainous, sustained riffs as a backdrop for shimmering guitar solos that meander through the terrifying void.
At times haunting, at times beautiful, and at times heartbreaking, Sodus’ debut album We Only Want the Earth fosters a wide variety of emotions over five expansive tracks.
Sodus is one man: Ben Mitchell.
Hailing from State College, PA, Sodus combines elements of Drone, Doom, Shoegaze, and Post-Rock to create something unlike anything we’ve featured on Monster Riff before.
Since writing We Only Want the Earth, a project originally inspired by Godflesh, Mitchell has continued his relentless pursuit of tone while simultaneously working on a sophomore album and putting together a live show to play We Only Want the Earth from start to finish.
We Only Want the Earth Album Review
Release Date: September 24, 2021
Track One: Damoclean
For those who are unaware, the word “Damoclean” means threatening or precarious, and it comes to us from the story of Damocles, who once had a sword suspended over his head by a single strand of hair. With that as our starting point, the table is set for the album opener.
As expected, the beginning of “Damoclean” is threatening and uncertain, as Sodus moves through the song’s deathly guitar chords, allowing each one to ring out. Eventually, “Damoclean” finds a steady (although slow and droning) riff, which Sodus uses as a base for its ethereal lead guitar.
For a few moments, “Damoclean” shows glimmers of cosmic Space Rock, but the song is always firmly rooted in its own droning Doomgaze.
Track Two: We Only Want the Earth
The title track begins with terrifying Horror Metal chords inspired by early Black Sabbath. Like many of the songs on this record, “We Only Want the Earth” sees a shift near its halfway point. Here, it moves from its haunting beginnings to something more akin to Doom-styled riffs, which are then layered with soaring guitars.
Track Three: Gutshot
“Gutshot” features two distinct sections, with the first half exploiting a repetitious blast of drums and guitars as an undercurrent for something much more sinister at the surface. The last two minutes of the song draw some inspiration from the first half, but it’s much more chaotic and faster-paced, building the intensity until the last few moments.
Track Four: Open Door / Swinging Bulb
There’s a great dichotomy within “Open Door / Swinging Bulb.” While the first half features the characteristic Doomgaze we’ve come to expect on We Only Want the Earth by this point, the second half is the closest we come to the Black Sabbath-Sigur Rós comparison we made in the introduction to this article.
Track Five: Between the Hours
Like “Open Door / Swinging Bulb,” “Between the Hours” has its streaks of beauty. The second half of the song showcases multiple layered guitars drifting in and out of the stratosphere, all while riding over that Doomgaze drone. While these layers are complicated and emotional, “Between the Hours” tends to stay within only one or two movements, which makes for a long, sustained conclusion to We Only Want the Earth.
“Between the Hours” was actually released ahead of time as a single, so it was the first taste many people had of Sodus’ take on Doomgaze:
Final Score: 7/10
Standout Track: “Open Door / Swinging Bulb”
Pros: We Only Want the Earth takes the Doom genre and irons out much of the aggression with long, droning jams and ethereal, ambient guitar solos. In doing so, Sodus leverages the repetition on each individual track to create a hypnotic effect, giving the listener an opportunity to escape into a beautiful, horrific soundscape.
This isn’t an album casual music fans will forget anytime soon, and it’s one album Doomgaze and Drone Metal fans will likely enjoy spinning a few times over.
Cons: Although these songs are gorgeous, the album itself is repetitive. In fact, most of these tracks follow the exact same format: establish a droning riff over a few minutes, then change it slightly and add another guitar. It’s a formula that works from each individual song, and it helps in crafting surprisingly gorgeous music, but the strategy eventually sags over the album’s duration when one song seems to bleed into the next.
This repetition is further hampered by the dangerous decision to be a completely instrumental project. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with being instrumental, it does place a different set of demands on the songwriting to craft compelling music without the guiding voice of a vocalist. In the ethereal, droning horror of Doomgaze, a few vocal tracks would have been incredibly helpful in differentiating one song from the next and in keeping the listener invested.
That said, We Only Want the Earth is a compelling debut, and I’m excited to hear the follow-up in the works.