It would seem that colour is now a “thing” in drone metal circles. Sunn O)))’s recent opus Life Metal is adorned with a cover of brightly coloured smoke plumes – intermingled reds, blues and oranges – which gives the album an instantly different feel to their dark clad back catalogue which was always a little too “none more black” for some people. The cover for BIG | BRAVE’s A Gaze Among Them is similarly bright, and is a beautifully composed image by guitarist and singer Robin Wattie. The cover is mostly white with paint strokes of reds and yellows in the middle, bringing to mind the imagery of petals, of fire, of life. A change is afoot, then. Both Life Metal and A Gaze Among Them are leading the charge out of the murky shadows that hindered the relative expanse of the drone/doom oeuvre. These are both brilliant albums which have at their core a feeling of optimism, positivity and joy whilst losing none of the sonic energy and spine-tingling visceral qualities of the genre.

A Gaze Among Them opens with ‘Muted Shining of Space’ which is a glorious invocation of angst, tension and spirit. Space is important here, and Loel Campbell’s drumming that opens the album is sparse but purposeful. Campbell also plays with Wintersleep, Cold Specks and Holy Fuck, amongst others, and he deserves huge credit for his role in making A Gaze Among Them such a seismic beauty. His playing across the album is brilliantly restrained yet always powerful. ‘Muted Shifting of Space’ has all the hallmarks of BIG | BRAVE to date – drawn out and discordant guitar, thundering drums and the glory of Robin Wattie’s entirely unique vocal delivery which is pained, strained and full of life. The pace of the track is almost funereal, but it slowly builds and builds on slabs of repetition towards a zenith of rapturous yowling from Wattie where she repeats the line “You don’t get to do it,” over and over and you sense her anger, exasperation and an unrepentantly strong position all too clearly. It is a breathless, exhilarating way to start the album and feels like a bridge between their last album Ardor and what comes on the other four tracks here.

In recent interviews, Wattie and guitarist Mathieu Ball have gone to great lengths to explain that A Gaze Among Them was written with the intention of drawing themselves back to the more minimalist roots which were the initial jump-off points for the band at their inception. This is most evident on ‘Body Individual’, a ten-minute drone fest which shares similarities to some of the output of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, whose Thierry Amar plays the contrabass on this album. The combination of low drone and beautifully manipulated feedback on ‘Body Individual’ are topped off to perfection with Wattie’s almost stream of consciousness vocal invocations, which bear more than a passing resemblance to the delivery style of Bardo Pond’s Isobel Sollenberger. This is a song to get lost in time and time again.

‘Holding Pattern’ and ‘Sibling’ are both great slices of meditative repetition and it is in the action of reiteration that BIG | BRAVE succeed in creating a world of their own, made up of sonic landscapes which are warm and deep in their enveloping bliss. There are transcendental elements at play here, elevations for the soul to a plane of existence which belie and negate the humdrum drudgery of daily life. The shortest track on the album is ‘This Deafening Verity’ and at less than three minutes it is an anomaly in the genre as a whole. It is an ambient track and William Basinski is a decent reference point here. On top of the hardly moving instrumentation there are Wattie’s vocal incantations, which add a spiritual dimension to proceedings. Here is a band quite clearly aligned with something greater than simply creating verse-chorus-verse inanity.

BIG | BRAVE have produced an album of great tenderness and tonal consciousness with huge, dirty riffs which keep balance in the sound rather than propel things forward. A Gaze Among Them is a precious album of truly beautiful aural elation which should be enough to lift the heaviest of hearts.