Posts Tagged ‘Sludge’

Christopher Nosnibor

Seems like gigs at the Vaults are cursed when I go. Just as headliners Witch of the East cancelled the last time I was down, so PAK40 have had to bail due to Covid. Yep, over two years on and it’s still having a significant impact on live music. But the good news is that REDFYRN are worth turning out for, as previous outings have shown, and even prior to PAK40’s withdrawal, it had the air of a double-header.

It’s fucking melting. I mean, I’m drinking cider, it’s that mafting. And I’m sweating it out faster than I can drink it. My skin is like a sieve or muslin bag. It must be absolutely punishing on stage.

Openers Beswick get off to a bit of a ragged start. But then, it is their first gig in three years, and they’re not looking like the kind of band who get tour-tight. It would be wrong to complain about the lack of guitar definition with a black metal band, and they lean towards the lower, slower end, where everything slips into a sludgy mid-range mesh, thanks to the five-string bass and seven-string guitar and the most fuckedest cymbal I’ve seen in use in a long time.

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Beswick

The main vocalist has three distinct styles: a penetrating, shivering squawk, a low growl, and a cleanish, atonal punk snarling shout, which actually works at least half of the time as they swing towards a dingy punk style at various points during the set. They do seem like a band in a bit of a stylistic quandary as they slither hither and thither, but they’re solid entertainment. The final song is a nod to their previous incarnation as Tokechamber, and sees the set conclude with billowing drone doom chords and feedback. I would have happily watched that for an hour.

REDFYRN start as they mean to go on, bringing the riffs slow and steady, with more five-string bass groove through an immense effects rack. The bassist has bounding energy, smashing every note with fists and feet, and the weighty guitars contrast with the soaring vocals. Big brave but stoner with a bluesy twist, chunky gritty riffs.

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REDFYRN

The solos aren’t overdone, and showcase the fact Cat Redfern is an excellent guitarist on a technical level as well as being a heavy hitter. She plays with only a handful of pedals, but a lot of crunch and a big dense sound and big volume.

A big hairy moshpit happened during the last song, and the half dozen beardy guys going crackers down the front was enough to bring the band back for one more, and they encore with ‘Unreal’, to an even more vibrant response. For a hot Thursday night when people would have likely been lured to a beer garden to toast the announcement of the Prime Minister’s departure, albeit at some time in the future, and for a stand-in headline slot, REDFYRN delivered a commanding performance and owned the night. Having only recently found themselves in headline slots, REDFYRN look ready to take it to the next level.

Cruel Nature Records – 24th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of second album Can’t Be Arsed, Cruel Nature have repackaged the eponymous debut from the Manchester makers of ‘kitchen sink punk for the 21st century with a whole side’s worth of remixes from both previous releases – including two pretty radical reworkings of snarling single cut ‘Brain Driver’.

First, to revisit the debut – it’s a primitive, noisy document of disaffection. Adam Stone’s drawling, sneering vocal style is vintage punk, less about holding a tune as conveying attitude, and from the off they set the tone with the seven-minute ‘Food Chain’. A thick, dirty bass grinds out just a couple of notes over a plodding drum while Stone vomits vitriol. If ever a track encapsulated the monotonous drudgery of existing in Boris Johnson’s Britain, this is it. Most of the songs churn away for around seven minutes, but if you’re wondering just how far a band can push low, slow, trudging bass repeating the same simple motif atop a plodding beat, then the answer lies in ‘Half Priced Chickens’ – and the answer is just shy of fourteen minutes. This quarter-hour slog is a gloomy, dark, monotonous trudge: the kick drum sounds like a wet lump of wood, and the sneering shoutiness is replaced by a blank monotone spoken word, and in combination, they create an oppressive sonic fug. The scenes depicted are mundane. Words drift in and out – mobility scooters, office, boyfriend, cough mixture, cheese pasty – and these objects assume bleak resonance as you ask yourself, ‘is this it? Is this life?’ and the answer is there, slumped, devoid of energy, eyelids half closed: yes, this is life. And this is as good as it gets. And it’s fucking endless. Until it ends, in a swampy morass of slow decayed distortion and noise.

The final track, ‘Bunker’ locks into an uptempo groove, but while the drums rattle and bounce away, the mood remains tense, equal parts The Fall and Uniform. As the track progresses, so the anguish builds, and the effect is cumulative Stone hollers roughly about world war as feedback wails and the bass and drums just batter on, and on. Same old, same old…

There’s nothing pretty about Pound Land – the band or the album – and this is a good thing: they deal with the gritty reality of living in shit times. Pound Land articulates the languorous torpor of demotivation, of waking daily to feel the aching anguish of being beaten by life, every minute of every day. Sonically, it’s a long, long way from early Swans, but the density and oppression are very much shared aspects.

By the end of the five tracks, you’re absolutely harrowed and drained.

The remixes are a nice addition, though. The Ruffians on the Train Remix of ‘Brain Driver’ ventures into swampy, almost avant-jazz / trip-hop territory, before kicking into gnarly space-rock swirl. The drums are crisp but overloading, while the bass is pure punishment. Where remixes for most other bands are either dancier or more ambient or whatever, this set – with three of the six from R.O.D., these are primarily exercises in accentuating the gnarliness of the originals, with everything simply sounding even heavier, more crushing.

Pound Land is the real soundtrack to the now. They may have to change their name to Tenner Land before the year’s out the way things are going, so you’d be wise to bag this while you can, and hunker down before things get really tough…

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VALBORG have unveiled a visualiser for the first single ‘Sehnsucht nach Unendlichkeit’ ("Longing for Infinity") that is taken from the German sludge monster’s forthcoming album Der Alte ("The Old One"), which has been slated for release on September 9.

Watch the video here:

VALBORG comment: "The working title for ‘Sehnsucht nach Unendlichkeit’ was ‘Techno’ due to our use of a steady kick drum", vocalist and bass player Jan Buckard explains. "The tune originates from the idea of writing a super simple song regarding its structure, but with rather complex and deep harmonics. In this respect, ‘Sehnsucht nach Unendlichkeit’ can be regarded as an experimental piece from our end, which turned out to be worthy to be picked as the first single. The title is actually derived from the name of a spaceship in one of Alastair Reynolds’ hard science fiction novels."

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Human Worth – 3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Because being in several awesome bands simply isn’t enough for some people, various members of Lump Hammer, Lovely Wife, Penance Stare, Möbius, Plague Rider have another band, the soft-sounding Friend. They’re practically a scene unto themselves, and you can pretty much guarantee that anything noisy emerging from Newcastle will feature one or more of James Watts, Tim Croft, and Skylar Gill – to the extent that the involvement of any one of them is essentially an assurance of quality. Putting the stamp on that assurance is the fact that Friend’s debut is being released by Human Worth, the London label that has, in a very short time, racked up an outstanding roster of new and established acts, all of a noisy persuasion, without a single weak release in their rapidly-expanding catalogue. And Friend’s Champion is a worthy addition.

It’s a proper gnarly take on the classic power trio format with driving riffs dominating from the opening bars. ‘International Top Bloke’ crunches in and batters away hard with a simple, cyclical riff reminiscent of Blacklisters; Tim’s guitar is so dense and dirty it sounds like guitar and bass all in one, while Gil’s drumming is megalith-solid, pounding away, nothing fancy, just all the heavy. And there, low in the mix, Watts gargles and gurgles tormentedly, sounding as if he’s being throttled by Satan’s very own flaming hands. As guttural growlers go, he is exceptional when it comes to channelling all shades of anguish by means of throat alone. But for all that, there’s a flicker of joy – or, perhaps more accurately, a cathartic release – which emanates from Champion.

The pitch is that they’re ‘pulling from influences ranging from Soundgarden, Smashing Pumpkins and Failure to Old Man Gloom, Floor and The Abominable Iron Sloth’ and while on paper it may seem an incongruous combination, in practise, it not only makes sense, but absolutely works.

‘The Beast’ is appropriately titled, for it is, indeed, an absolute beast. It begins with unexpected delicacy, a brittle, chorus-tinged guitar picked is as much The Cure as it is ‘Black Hole Sun’, but then the drums and distortion pile in and it’s a huge, throbbing surge of overloading sound that threatens to damage the speakers.

Whatever Geoffrey’s done, it must be pretty bad, as they rear through five minutes of bludgeoning brutality. There are some gritty, cyclical riffs reminiscent of Bleach-era Nirvana beneath it all, but the production is so dark and dirty the end result is wonderfully nasty sludge metal, then there’s ‘Dungeon Master’ that sounds like… well, it sounds like downtuned grinding hell. Not so much Sunn O))) as a total eclipse. Watts’ vocals aren’t the focal point: they’re another instrument (of torture) in the band’s arsenal or aural abrasion. If ‘Wellness’ seems to offer some light, some respite, it’s a pale, sick sense of hope that glimmers as Watts sounds like he’s writing through his last moments of torturous, gut-ripping pain.

The last two tracks – the eight-minute ‘Uncle Tommy’ and ten-minute ‘A Reminder’ combine to deliver a devastating finale. They’re so much more than heavy noise, too, with texture, tone, gradual builds and even moments that feel truly uplifting – even if they are blown away by bulldozing distortion. The former is a surprising blues / glam stomp, while the latter feels like an album’s worth of riffs of heavy metal thunder packed into a single track. It’s not only intense, but finds Watt’s deliver some audible lyrics, albeit briefly.

The word ‘friend’ may connote comfort, company, companionship, even cuddliness, and while the band offer none of these things, Champion does offer a kind of awkward solace through monster riffery and outpourings of angst. An album worthy of its title: proper champion.

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Sydney-based sludgy doom-metal merchants Mountain Wizard Death Cult have recently dropped a music video for a brand new song to be included in their yet-untitled debut album coming later this year via Blighttown Records.

The band comments: "Initiation" feels like a culmination of the journey we’ve been through together as a band… channeling our frustrations, influences and aggression to bring the listener into our World. The record is going to be one hell of a journey and this track is a great example of what’s to come.”

Watch the video here:

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4th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s fitting that a doom / sludge metal act should take their time over things – and Sheffield trio Kurokuma have really taken their time over things in order to deliver their debut album. Having formed late 2013, they’re one band whose progress can’t have been said to have been hampered by the pandemic: instead, they’ve been evolving their sound over the course of a number of single and EP releases, notably the Advorsus EP in 2016 and 2018’s ‘Dope Rider’ single. This means that the arrival of Born of Obsidian feels like an event, a monumental summit in the band’s career. And if five tracks, in the face of it, does‘t look like much by way of a definitive statement that represents the apogee of some eight years of work, the fact that all bar one are over eight minutes long and each one packs the density of a black hole gives some necessary context.

‘Smoking Mirror’ lands things perfectly; there’s a definite groove, even a hint of funk – not in the Chili Peppers’ funk metal sense, but in a twisted, fucked-up psychedelic sense – to the bassline that bounces along before the crushing power chords crash in. The vocals snarl and scraw and everything comes together to deliver optimum weight. It may be a cliché to sat it needs to be played loud, and playing any metal not loud is a mistake, but having been recorded in London with Sanford Parker (YOB, Eyehategod, Indian), volume really increases the appreciation of the quality production. There’s not only great separation between the instruments, but each brings something more to the overall mix. On ‘Smoking Mirror’, your attention is likely to be on the churning guitar, but the drums are outstanding in the way they kick through the dense, treacle-like distortion.

They promise an album that’s ‘equal parts primitive brutality and mind-bending psychedelia’, and it’s all there in the pulverising repetitions of ‘Sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli’. For its brevity, it packs in a neatly-constructed structure, with intro, verses, chorus, mid-section – which brings an explosive change of tempo – and megalithic, gut-churning riffing that rages hard and heavy. It demonstrates that there’s a lot going on with these guys, and that they’re not just lug-headed chord-thudders, but possess a level of musical articulateness that separates them from many of their peers.

Single cut ‘Jaguar’ is, it turns out, entirely representative, a roaring beast of a tune that has a rare swing to it – and a lot of cowbell. It warps and lurches with remarkable dexterity for something of such colossal weight. The repetitive riffery of ‘Ololiuqui’ batters and bludgeons relentlessly, maintaining its form and instead varying the tone and depth of the distortion, and stepping up the volume incrementally, before the nine minute ‘Under the Fifth Sun’ delivers a decimating conclusion.

With bulldozing, unyielding mass and density, Born of Obsidian is high-impact: Kurokuma have mastered the power of hard volume and brutal force – as is in keeping with the genre. But where Kurokuma stand apart – and above – is in the detail, the nuance, the deviation from the blueprint, which shows a unique flair, and surely Born of Obsidian is destined for cult status.

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Rotherham based three-piece, sludge band Swamp Coffin have shared the video for new single ‘Your Problem’, taken from their upcoming album Noose Almighty set for release on 26th November (APF Records). Vocalist/guitarist Jon Rhodes comments,

"We were close to finishing writing the album but knew that we needed something huge and pissed off to open the record with, to really set our stall out for what was coming. “Your Problem” was one of those songs that just came together really quickly. I went in to rehearsal with the verse and chorus riffs and by the end of the session we’d got what you hear on the album. Lyrically it’s about those people that have followers instead of friends who are never seen to do any wrong but are ultimately only out for themselves and will happily stab you in the back without ever letting the mask slip. It’s about revenge after a betrayal and we wanted to play off that with the video and make it as claustrophobic a viewing experience as possible.”

Watch the video now:

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5th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Oslo-based Norwegian stoner / sludge metal trio Rongeur came together in 2012, drawing influence from the likes of Eyehategod, Seigmen, High on Fire, Neurosis, Darkthrone and Arthur Schoupenhauer, ‘with the intent of making raw, heavy and honest music’.

Ahead of their second album, Glacier Tongue – the follow-up to 2017 debut An Asphyxiating Embrace, they’re offering up a single cut in the form of ‘Gutter Marathon’.

So what is a gutter marathon? After hearing this savage roar of noise, I’m none the wiser, although it feels like crawling on your belly splashing through murk and dirt in a rush to swim to the drain: it seems fitting at a time when the entire world seems like it’s drowning in shit, a lot of it if our own making.

Marathons are usually long, endurance tests, and similarly, stoner / sludge metal is often on the slower side, so the visceral blast of ‘Gutter Marathon’ comes as something of a surprise, blasting in at breakneck speed and being over in a minute and twenty-three seconds making it more of a sprint. But it’s grimy and overloading, a ferocious blast of snarling guttural rage, and sounds like their dope’s been laced with amphetamines. So Rongeur it must be right!

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Rongeur

Rotherham based three-piece, sludge band Swamp Coffin will return on 26th November with the colossal new album Noose Almighty on UK label APF Records. It’s an incredibly cathartic record covering depression, trauma, grief, betrayal and a general disenchantment with the world. Vocalist/guitarist Jon Rhodes explains,

"Something not a lot of people know is the day that we were due to travel to London to record our 2017 demo me and my wife were woken up at 2:30am by the police to tell us her brother had been killed in a car accident. When we eventually got in to the studio a month later it made that demo session all the more emotional as he and I we were close, he’d always been a big music lover and I was gutted I never got to share any of this with him. 9 months after his death we had a housefire that left me and my family without a home for 6 months so the two events were massively influential’.

For the recording of ‘Noose Almighty’ the band returned to Top Floor Audioworks in Sheffield to again work with Owen Claxton who recorded, mixed and mastered their previous record.

Recorded in only three days, the band had rehearsed the material to death beforehand so they could record efficiently and more importantly leave time for their usual ‘mad experimentation’ and layering which takes a record from being great to something truly special.

‘Welcome To Rot’ is the first single to be shared from the album. Jon adds, "When we were close to finishing writing the album I remember saying to the other guys that we needed something incredibly nasty and horrible to finish the record with. Welcome To Rot came together really quickly and fit the bill perfectly. In the words of Owen Claxton, who recorded the album, “It’s fucking gross”.

The title is inspired by our hometown and lyrically it’s about overcoming that claustrophobia that seems to affect all dying towns. There’s that mentality that things were always better in the good old days when in reality everything has been slowly falling apart for years, shops and houses are boarded up and only those that can’t go anywhere else are left behind. It may be a shithole, but it’s a shithole we’re proud to have come from. Filming the video DIY style in a cramped, filthy barrel store under a pub seemed like a fitting location."

Watch the video here:

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Swamp

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a long time. An insanely long time. Apart from a brief spell where there were a handful of seated gigs on offer around August of last year, live music has been off the menu for the best – or worst – part of sixteen months, and a long, torturous sixteen months it’s been for so many of us – not least of all those whose livelihoods depend on it, but also for those of us who find comfort and catharsis in the experience, a few hours’ escape from the grind of daily life.

I haver to confess having anxietised over the prospect of attending my first live show since August 2020, since which time I’ve barely set foot in a pub or anywhere really, having been working from home since forever. Less fearful of Covid, more of social situations in general, fearful I’d lost the little social skill I had from before, I simply wasn’t sure what to expect, and the worst fear is the fear of the unknown, and this had perhaps tempered my immense excitement.

In the end, it transpired I needn’t have worried, and everything was nicely managed at the Victoria Vaults. They’ve moved the bar since I was last there, and the refit works well in making for a significantly bigger gig space and next to no bottlenecks, plus the bar staff were friendly and attentive with their table service – which was perhaps as well, because it was sweltering and needed to maintain a flow of cold cider.

Sitting just feet from a real drum kit with my shoulder against a PA stack felt great, and simply being back in that environment brought a great joy. Then there was the lineup: one of the last shows I’d seen, back in January 2020 had featured both My Wonderful Daze and Redfyrn. Both had impressed then, and given reason to come back for more. Although, of course, January 2020 feels like another life.

With King Orange having dropped off the bill without explanation, it’s a later start with Redfyrn straight on and straight in, with the power trio kicking out hefty blues-based grungy heavy rock with a sludgy/stoner vibe, driven hard by some crunchy 5-string bass. Cat Redfern’s soaring vocals are at times almost folksy, and contrast with the hefty lumbering riffs. Collectively, they’re tight, the songs textured and dynamic. There’s a lot of cymbal, but some proper heavy-hitting drum work and the sludgy sound is both steeped in 70s vintage and contemporary influence, resulting in some solid swinging grooves. The mix could have perhaps done with more guitar, but then I was sitting in front of the bass amp and about six feet from the drum kit. Closer ‘Unreal’ has bounce and grit and groove and is a solid as. The band were clearly pleased to be on stage again, and it came through in a spirited performance.

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Redfyrn

My Wonderful Daze’s singer Flowers may be feeling and looking a shade off colour but is in fine voice and all the better once she’s taken her boots off at least for a while. The band bring more big, lumbering riffs, and any concern they may have been rusty after the time out proves to be unfounded, because they’re tight – and loud. They bring all the rage early in the set, coming on more Pretty on the Inside – era Hole than Live Through This, more Solar Race than L7. It’s not long before she’s sitting down to sing because she’s dizzy, and yet still fucking belts out the angst, and despite visibly struggling throughout, it doesn’t affect things sonically: the band don’t just play on, but continue to give it their all. Watching this set really brings home just how hard bands work to do what they do. The slow-burning ‘Dust’ is something of an epic that’s emotionally rich and transitions from a gentle chime to some simmering power chords with some audience participation clapping to aid the build.

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My Wonderful Daze

They announce apologetically that they’re cutting set short to skipped to encore song Tommy for fear of fainting, but it’s a valiant effort and the right choice, although Flowers didn’t make it past the first verse before rushing from the stage. The rest of the band finish the song – and the set – with force, and all the credit to them for their consummate professionalism. Both bands did themselves truly proud, and delivered a great night, and hopefully the first of many.