Bass, drums, keyboards, and vocals. Those are the building blocks of California experimental death metal band Squalus. Their debut album, The Great Fish, walks the line between death and doom metal, with a lot of atmospheric tendencies, some sludge, and synthwave, I guess, into a somehow cohesive whole. Bass-driven metal acts are not a new thing by any means, but there are many pitfalls on the way to make them interesting and appealing, into which many of the contenders inadvertently get trapped. Two of the most obvious ones are the frequency range and the timbral diversity. Squalus hopefully avoids both with the inclusion of keyboards. The higher-pitched range of the guitar is filled in with the varied and somewhat out-there sounds and samples from the keyboard. Lyrically and thematically, the album follows the story of Jaws, the movie. This adds a certain atmosphere to the record, but wouldn’t save it, were it bad. Fortunately, the music grabs you by the leg to drag you into the depths of the ocean. It’s rather unique, sound-wise, and that alone makes it worth the listen.
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