There’s a real vulnerability to Toward the Sun, the third studio album by Leicester doom metal quartet Garganjua. The group’s form of doom metal has been stripped completely to its core elements, and in doing so, it’s become its own entity that encapsulates a much clearer vision.
It’s easy to see on a surface level that Garganjua took many of the key elements of the genre’s stalwarts: the soaring vocal melodies, the slow moving guitar melodies (not really riffs), the arguably simple structures, and so on. When put on screen like this, it seems that not much has changed for the long-standing music style. If anything, Toward the Sun is testament to just how much a focus shift can change the very chemistry of sound. Make absolutely no mistake—this is and this is not a doom metal album. The guitars here are far cleaner with only a slight haze of fuzzy overdrive, and the melodies are almost all primarily in singers’ vocals, the instrumentation (though intricate if you look closely) simply intended as a backdrop to the subject matter and mood. If you’re afraid of this change, you likely aren’t the intended audience.
Toward the Sun, oddly, sounds like the full realization of the music that Garganjua have wanted to make for years. When you look closer at the progression between the three albums, one can easily be surprised that the band didn’t sound as they do in 2020 much earlier. From meeting that expectation, Toward the Sun feels so much more honest. There’s a serious challenge involved with objectively reviewing something that seems so stripped bare of facade; so naked and upfront, whilst simultaneously being enshrouded in an enigmatic haze. There is a far deeper emotional pool on Toward the Sun the band draws from, far beyond what you could discern from face value.
With much more robust song structures, Toward the Sun feels less sequential and moves much more freely between the pieces. Garganjua’s compositions have always had a tendency to revel in a singular vibe for each song’s runtime, but the far more natural mood shifts mean you seldom know where any given track might take you. The sparser, airier sound palette also gives the band members a lot more space to work with when it comes to letting these songs wander through differentiating sections. The gradual shifts in “Mire” is quite the emotional journey, subduing the listener into a pensive state. Even the subtle building in tracks like “Transcendence” and “Light Bearer” seem far more noticeable in this album’s context. In turn, there’s a real vastness to this record that neither 2016’s A Voyage in Solitude or 2018’s Through the Void couldn’t quite reach.
Toward the Sun works like a living, breathing organism, where each aspect is vital to the “life” of the album. Those who experience it will have a difficult time forgetting it.