Nurturing. Protecting. Helicopter parents. Sannhet’s latest sonic endeavor explores the metaphor of a mother shielding her child’s eyes from harm. The cover is certainly an evocative image, and while one could interpret the record as taking a stance on “safe spaces”, I think this Brooklyn band had something else in mind. Too often, we are, let’s face it, afraid of all that life has to offer, and we all seek out escapes from pain, loss, or just existential dread (lot of that going on lately, eh?). Sannhet have chosen to ask the listener to take life’s punches and hit back, or at least revel in the glory of actually being alive.
That’s all accomplished because the group are easily one of the most lyrical and expressive instrumental acts around. AJ Annunziata’s thundering bass hints at the darkness around us, and the shimmering fretwork from John Refano gives way to a certain optimism, even if it’s couched in an existential tone. So Numb isn’t exactly a happy record, but the title seems to speak more to our collective unease at doing anything other than escaping to our comfort zones. I can safely admit that, even as a rather even-keeled teenager, it takes a lot to really affect me as a thirty-year-old, and that has a lot to do with how easy it is to duck onto social media, hide away on Netflix, or even (humorously) put on headphones and tune out the world. We’re numb to the evils and joys of this world because the darkness seems like it’s greater than the light right now. Maybe trying something different might work out better, at least in our own little circle; that’s the message I get from this haunting and astoundingly poetic gem from Sannhet.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the band’s latest stylistic switch is certainly for the better. Sannhet were one of the best instrumental metal bands around, as Known Flood and Revisionist excellently meshed black metal, sludge, and post-rock. There is still a slight amount of the metallic influence here (the blackgaze in “Way Out” is stellar), but this is much more in line with a noise rock-inflected shoegaze. Credit has to go to producer Peter Katis (Interpol, The National), who has found a way to marry the reverb-loving style with a bit more clarity than that typically associated with shoegaze. Sannhet have boldly moved on to their next sonic stage, and that daring is admirable and impressive. All this posturing and adventure would be all for naught if So Numb faltered. Aside from a couple minor moments, it most certainly does not. This is a stunning achievement, to say the least.