Steve Gullick is a talented rock and roll photographer whose work has been used for slews of album covers (Bonnie Billy's Master And Everyone and the most-recent Mudhoney release to name a few), as well as found a home in his print magazine Loose Lips Sink Ships. In addition to his photography involving musicians, it seems he has a great eye for framing in general, as the cover that graces the cover of his debut album under the name Tenebrous is about as bleak and haunting as they come. It's a fitting photo too, because the music of Tenebrous sounds like the work of someone who is wrestling with inner demons and not really winning the battle.
I'll just come right out and be honest in saying that listening to this album by Tenebrous has been one of the toughest slogs I've had in listening to music in quite awhile. The pace of the album ranges from slow to slower, and the sparse arrangements and vocals feel downright laborious most of time. Gullick's voice actually reminds me of Jason Piece in places, although the weary delivery on the songs sounds more influenced by downers than stimulants. After a short opening track, "No Culture" sets the course for the album with slow strums on an electric guitar backed with quiet but dissonant guitar shrieks. Gullick half mumbles and half-sings his sometimes double-tracked vocals, building to one moment of growled tension before splaying out again.
"Throne" finds wheezy organs and sparse, distorted guitar notes mingling in a carny-gone-bender track as Gullick again adds almost slurred, meandering vocals. The main problem with the album is that tracks just never really seem to develop and go much of anywhere. "Been Hit" breaks out of the pattern just slightly with some nice electric guitar dynamics and a chorus at the end (including kids) that repeats the line "don't wanna die" to great effect. Elsewhere, though, the album is completely aimless. The album-titled "Tenebrous" is almost seven minutes of distorted guitar chords and muffled vocals while "Berlin - Been Evil" mixes field recordings and all kinds of random noise and feedback together into a ten minute track that will again test the patience of most listeners. While the album manages to convey the gloomy namesake, unfortunately it's just not a very compelling listen.