Cursus - Cursus
To call Cursus a doom band is somewhat misleading. The San Antonio two-piece have an approach in common with doom, they do have the big sludgy riffs and the stony nod of repetition, true, but they have something else besides. On their first self-titled full length,you won’t find retro Sabbath homage here, instead Cursus is driven by something a bit more industrial and Gothic. They reach further afield for textures, with a full palette of instruments complementing their naturally spare sound.
Take the opener “Her Wings Covered the Sky” as an example. The song starts with a big expansive drum sound under a drone punctuated by synth sounds echoing bagpipes in melody and tone. It’s an almost celtic tattoo sound, which I’m surprised doesn’t occur more often in doom, given that drone and modal melodies are integral to both styles of music. Zeppelin knew it, and Cursus do too. The passage ends with a feedback squall that ushers in huge sounding guitars. The lyrics allude to fallen angels and the striving for something hidden or out of reach. Now, growly vocals are not normally my cup of tea, but they work here because they can function as another texture in the overall sound. Something more obviously narrative would disrupt the mantra-like mood. We are not looking so much at progression or development in an conventional song structure, instead this is synthesis, as the voice, guitars, and bagpipe keys all converge at the end.
This approach makes “Set the Controls For the Heart of the Sun” a natural choice for a cover. That bass riff and those drums are given a relatively traditional treatment for the first half of the song, with vocal much more like monks intoning a ritual than the sleepy sound of Floyd’s original meandering space trip. There is a little extra kick in the riff, with maybe an extra note to give it a bit more of a triplet feel than the original, but that could be my memory failing me. With the start of the third verse though, things become significantly less Floyd-y and the Cursus sound subsumes the riff, a big cosmic howl, until the song finally collapses into a singularity.
“The Guardian” is a little more of a traditional song structure, with some great riffs in the middle section. It maybe contains the tensions of what Cursus could be, both the transcendent meditative drone and the more immediately visceral crunch of doom. “The Empire Will Fall” by contrast is all atmosphere, a tone poem on an apocalyptic landscape. Whichever style you prefer probably says a lot about how much you will enjoy this album. For myself, the attempt to push the boundaries of what people think of as heavy is appreciated. I want to see where they go with this sound in the future. If you get that heaviness need not always come with a tritone hook, you might find a lot to like here.
CJ Duron- guitar, vocals, samples
Sarah Roork- drums
Get the album at Artificial Head Records.