This eagerly awaited (at least in underground rock circles) debut marks the return of drummer Chris Hakius and guitarist/vocalist Justin Marler of doom metal legends Sleep fame. But fans expecting a Sleep-like barrage of unholy grinds and mind-numbing doom metal should look elsewhere (possibly to the also Sleep-derived High on Fire), since the Sabians' Beauty for Ashes is an entirely different animal. Indeed, despite being produced by another sludge metal legend in former Fudge Tunnel leader Alex Newport, the album is a highly melodic affair, presenting atmospheric hard rock alternating tasteful harmonics with brooding soft/hard dynamics. The opener, "Via Dolorosa," weaves sheets of melancholy guitar textures balanced somewhere between melodic flow and metallic power -- evoking bands like King's X and Soundgarden, while sounding exactly like neither. Song two, "Breathe," on the other hand, isn't nearly as subtle. With its two-part riff (the first resembling a nervous exhalation; the second a sharp gasp of fear), the track is a slow-burning behemoth of pent-up tension, teasing and tormenting the listener with the promise of a release that never comes. The ensuing material can't compare to it in terms of evoking sheer rapture, but continues to impress nonetheless with its overall complexity and diversity. The spidery-riffed "Black Lie" achieves another distinctive high point before giving way to a series of more laid-back, almost folk-oriented songs, culminating in the plaintive acoustic strumming on the rain-swept "Lull." The dreary, ten-minute downpour which follows belies the band's far-from-morose outlook (but still sounds pretty cool) and, all in all, the Sabians' beautifully layered trance riffs show incredible promise of things to come.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia