Grief and loss were inescapable themes in music in 2016, from the unexpected swan songs of both Leonard Cohen and David Bowie, to releases like Touche Amore’s Stage Four, an album defined by a deep, personal mourning. Of course, just because it was so prevalent last year doesn’t mean it hasn’t always been a prominent theme in music, or really all forms of art. Music can be a cleansing and satisfying form of catharsis, and Weight of the Sun’s Vermont proves that holds true with the heaviest forms of music as well.
The band’s sophomore album, Vermont is named after the state where frontman David Martin grew up. It was also mostly written in Vermont, while his mother was being treated for pancreatic cancer. She died only months after her diagnosis, and the grief and sense of rudderlessness that comes with the loss of a loved one defines the album’s four heavy, lengthy tracks. Where debut album Commons leaned heavily on the sludgy dynamics of bands like Boston’s Cave In, Vermont is much more nuanced and spacious, more akin to recent albums by Deftones. The moments of quiet are as prevalent as those in which the band erupts into full-blown metal mode. The overall effect is a melancholy, mournful one, though it can still be crushingly massive in their most dramatic moments.
The album begins on a somber note, with the restrained, emotional “The Tower,” setting the tone for what ultimately ends up being a series of highs and lows, rises and falls. On “Armadillos,” however, the band crank up the amps and let the riffs fly, Martin going back and forth between a throaty scream and a melodic chorus detailing his “restless nights.” His lyrics turn to clever wordplay in the hazy “Orange,” pivoting off of the word “terminal” as both a reference to the airports and cancer. And “Cardinal,” the 10-minute closing track, packages a lot into one single statement, rising up from Brand New-style emo to an almost Deafheaven-like rush of layered guitars.
As is often the case with metal, the themes of Vermont aren’t always easy to make out simply through lyrics—Martin can definitely scream!—but that’s a secondary concern. No matter what elements you choose to focus on, Vermont will leave an emotional impact.