Tel – Lowlife
Label: Aural Music
Boy, do I like listening to debut albums. It feels just like a first date, minus the hassle of actually meeting another human being. I can tell you right away – Tel are definitely second date material.
Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Tel (Hebrew – תל) are a relatively fresh act on the scene, targeting fans of Yob, Mastodon and Acid Bath with their clever element combination. Yep, it’s Doom, but it’s also so much more. It’s melodic, atmospheric, captivating, sludgy, progressive, all carefully laid down on a Black Sabbath-sounding foundation. For a split second, you think you’re hearing something familiar, predictable even, but then they throw in parts so original, so unique, it knocks your socks off.
This six track first chapter is a perfect introduction to the world sure to catch attention. It was produced by Garrett Morris, the guitarist of Windhand, another jewel of the Richmond area.
The opening number, “Ouroboros”, sets the vibe for the rest of the album. The vibe is “I’m feeling emotions and you’ll feel them too”. This vast and spacious track demonstrates the two types of vocals that keep switching, a melancholic howl resembling Mike Scheidt’s, albeit younger and deeper, and a rumbling growl telling it like it is. The latter is more represented in heavier tracks like “Red Level” and “Choke” while the cathartic wails are prominent on chill, airy pieces like “Submerged” and “Strangers”.
The drums are my favorite kind of drums – they’re not in your face but complement the whole composition marvelously. Sometimes you can’t even tell they’re there, but if they were any different, that wouldn’t be it.
“Strangers” is easily my favorite track of this pleasant release, with “Ouroboros” coming pretty close. There’s also a videographic introduction to this new group, the video for “Ouroboros” is minimalist, enigmatic and somewhat grim, incredibly fitting to the album theme and the band’s visual identity. If you think the cover of “Lowlife” is pretty, you should see their 2017 EP covers.
The spacey but direct singer Dante DuVall has deemed “Lowlife” an appropriate album name after feeling like one during a particularly rough patch of his life. Personally, I would’ve went with “Ouroboros”, but the idea behind the creation itself is to channel out all the, as Dante himself said, “negative shit”. Better than keeping it inside!
I’m most impatient to see them live, whenever the road might take them to our parts. I expect nothing less than a true Doom mass worthy of the bands they draw inspiration from. Until then, we can give their older songs a listen, found on the band’s Bandcamp.
The reception is promising, the cornerstones of a budding career have been thrown, it’s up to Tel now to recognize their own potential and live up to it. Never stop creating!