Review: Bong – Beyond Ancient Space


Beyond Ancient Space 

Since their formation four years ago, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne’s Bong have been pushing the limits of the depths that doom can plumb, become flag bearers for a new generation of doom where the dirge is more vital than ever before. Numerous live releases, splits and now three studio albums in, it seems a shame that they’re not more well known, as they are as limit-pushing as doom gets right now. Sunn 0))) worship it isn’t. They exist in their own world where the only rule is to give in and to be absorbed into the black abyss that they create.

Beyond Ancient Space’ lasts just over 79 minutes, and consists of just three tracks. The opener ‘Onward to Perdóndaris’ starts with a huge build-up by anyone’s standards, as gradually the floor beneath you opens up and pulls you in. Eventually, the instruments thunder in, and so the journey commences. The monk chanting and use of sitar and the shahi baaja create a real psychedelic vibe that nobody in the 60’s would have seen coming. The drums filter in and out; occasionally changing pace, but the raw power of the other instruments almost renders their tempo irrelevant. It creates for an astral experience in one way and an earth-shaking one in another.
From the psychedelic to the gritty, track number two, ‘Across the Timestream’, is the album’s shortest track at 25 minutes and 03 seconds, and goes for a smoggier, filthier vibe. The hazy effect is still there, although the overall atmosphere is more like tolling rather than enchanting, all in a good way too. It builds up quite ominously, and ever so slowly. You can faintly hear the shahi baaja and drums quietly filtering in, and the overall atmosphere amasses until about 9 minutes in, and you’re left pretty much drifting into space with not so much as a rock to cling to. The weight of this particular song is absolutely crushing.
The album’s closer, ‘In the Shadow of the Tombs’, is even darker. It’s like wandering into a large tomb, when suddenly you can hear the slow, plodding footsteps of the colossus coming for you. You know this is the end, but when is very much the question. Prepare for a slow, agonizing death – Bong are yet again showing they are masters at drawing out the same riff without sounding overly repetitive. The drums help to build up the terrifying atmosphere up until around the 13:30 mark, when they up the tempo very slightly. This carries on for another couple of minutes before heading back into the same droney riff that rings out the remaining 12 minutes, gradually winding down, the constant buzzed drone ever present throughout.
You feel after listening to Bong, particularly if you’re new to them, that the only way doom could become any more prolonged or agonizingly crushing is by ripping up the physical format completely to remove the constraints. 79 minutes is a long time to listen to any album, no less one that contains only three tracks at around 25-26 minutes each on average. Suffice to say, this is a challenge, and not one many may be prepared to undertake. But if you’re one with a bit of patience, you might just discover what is surely a doom classic in the making.
Peter Clegg

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