Bong – Mana-Yood-Sushai


Murmurs in the Bong camp have been quiet since Newcastle-upon-Tyne’s heaviest four-piece dropped ‘Beyond Ancient Space’ upon us all last year, a record so earth shattering and mesmerising even in a sober state was I able to be taken away by the hum and the drone of the band’s heavy brew. A few live shows aside, there’s not been much to see or discuss about their activity since. That’s probably just how they lie. No worries though, as their previous discography shows a prolific release record that has just been added to with new album ‘Mana-Yood-Sushai‘.
Where their previous release nearly consumed the whole disk (in physical terms), ‘Mana-Yood-Sushai’ comes in much less voracious at a comparatively standard fourty-six minutes. Even so, the band are in no less mood to entrance you with just two songs, and they’ve not necessarily become any easier to listen to, even though this is, incredibly, their first studio recording in seven years as a band. ‘The Dreams of Mana-Yood-Sushai’ is the album’s opening track, over twenty-six minutes long and equally rich in concept, based upon the first god and creator of all other gods in Lord Dunsany’s fictional work ‘The Gods of Pegana‘ (thank you Wikipedia, and The Sleeping Shaman for the tip). After a lengthy opening development that includes an ominous warning on Mana-Yood-Sushai, the song explodes into full ominous lurching mode, pinning down an ultra-slow four bar riff with the chant of ‘Mana-Yood-Sushai‘ booming in the background. The length of the song is such that it seems quite fitting in relation to Skarl, the fictional drummer who ceaselessly drums in order to keep Mana-Yood-Sushai asleep, to prevent him from destroying the world.
The second track, ‘Trees, Grass and Stones’, is at first a more refrained affair, with the bass drone somewhat muted to begin with, slowly becoming more prominent during the song. The ethers slowly burn away as the drone increases, revealing a slow low-end three note groove that underpins the melody, as psychedelic flourishes prevail more and more as the song approaches the end of its nineteen-minute-plus duration.
I personally don’t like this record quite as much as ‘Beyond Ancient Space‘ and some of their other selected works, but that’s not a major complaint and after the beyond-earth trip of the previous album, it is great to see Bong using even the slowest of melodies to create an otherworldly experience this time around. This record holds your attention throughout despite the gargantuan lengths of each song, and I managed it despite once again being completely abstinent of any supplemental vice, though again I can see why it might enhance the experience. Anyhow, there’s not many who do this thing better than Bong at the moment, and their reefer continues to burn strong.
Peter Clegg
Buy ‘Mana-Yood-Sushai’ here

Stream excerpts from the album below:

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