There’s something bold about releasing an album called Winterlong in the middle of a record-breaking heat wave. And while Executioner’s Mask likely isn’t prescient enough to make that call, the album in question is maybe even bolder, blending elements of post punk, shoegaze, and doom metal to create a sonic tapestry that is as dystopian as it is stylish.
What really piqued my interest in the first place was when the press release namedropped The National, Alcest, and Deerhunter as similar artists. I love these acts, but outside of a general employment of shoegaze ethos in their various formulas, they don’t have a ton in common.
But somehow, that unlikely trio manages to be an accurate representation of Executioner’s Mask unique fusion (though I’m also hearing notes of Joy Division, Slowdive, and Black Sabbath). Drummers skitter urgently beneath dense atmospheres of effects-heavy guitars and swirling synths. At the eye of this sonic storm, the vocals slur through fatalist lyrics in an unbothered baritone monotone. These are common colors for a sonic palette, but Executioner’s Mask blends them together in a truly unique way, melding seemingly contradictory influences and moods with brilliant results.
The apathy of the vocals is countered by instrumental arrangements so emotive that they often border on cinematic. Sweeping ambient textures balance the urgency of the rhythm section. The guitars shift between brittle Bernard Sumner-esque lead lines to lush shoegaze washes to thick doom distortion.
Yet despite the kaleidoscope of different genres, Winterlong is laser-focused. From the synthy chaos of “Things Fall Apart” to the anthemic shoegaze of “Honey” to the gothy glam doom of “Last Call” to the Cure-like ballad “Wasting,” Executioner’s Mask might wear their disparate influences on their sleeves, but they never sound like anyone but themselves. Winterlong is as singular a statement as any I’ve heard in a long time. I anticipate that I’ll probably end up returning to this record quite a few times.
Winterlong is out June 17th through Profound Lore.