Posts Tagged ‘Sludge’

Bleak Recordings/Division Records – 22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Black Earth is pitched as and expansion on their previous releases, and as ‘a sonic mammoth that pushes their music even further into new dimensions of heaviness, harshness and despair.’ We also learn that ‘the lyrical themes are directly related to the presence and function of men in the planet and, particularly man himself.’ Given that man has pretty much singlehandedly fucked up the planet – creating the ‘black earth’ of the title, it’s small wonder that this is a work of seething fury edged with self-loathing and guilt.

‘(No) Shelter’ hammers out an industrial metal trudge reminiscent of Godflesh and perhaps even hints at early Pitchshifter, the mechanised drum explosions slicing through a wall of low-end grind that’s countered by tripwire guitars with some attacking treble. From the relentless, rhythm-driven maelstrom, vocals howl pure blackened nihilism. It’s a punishing eight and a half minutes and a brutal way to open an album.

‘Feral Ground’ plunges deeper into doomy drone in the opening bars before a pulsating throb of battering ram percussion and churning guitars and bass blended into a thick wall of sonic clay. It’s all about the chunky chop ‘n’ thud, stuttering, stop/start riffs, the trudging grind. One can trace a lineage of brutally nihilistic music which achieves absolute catharsis by simply bludgeoning the listener with brute force, and which possesses a tangible physicality from Swans’ initial phase, through Godflesh and Pitchshifter via Earth to Sunn O))). It’s within this context that Process Of Guilt introduce elements of Neurosis’ gnarly organic enormity to the slow pounding fury of their precursors.

On ‘Servant’, the guitars shriek in tortured anguish, the notes bent out of shape into howls of feedback while the rhythm section pounds on, hard. The twelve-minute title track is a relentless succession of sledgehammer blows, tearing guitar chords and straining feedback, and provides the album with a towering centrepiece.

The fifth and final track, ‘Hoax’ is a trudging dirge of a tune, nihilistic fury distilled and dragged to around 60BPM.

Black Earth is bleak, and it’s heavy, and it feels like the end of days.

AAA

Black Earth Cover

Advertisements

Crypt Of The Wizard – 3rd November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

2015’s Of Ruin was a sludgy, doomy epic of monumental proportions, and its successor, PYR (2016), which saw them expand to a three-piece heralded the arrival of a more expansive sound. Stoic signifies a further evolution, and feels like their most focussed work to date. This means that there’s nothing quite as vast as the 21-minute ‘Desperate Thrang’ on Stoic. Nevertheless, it’s an album of immense scope and equally immense weight.

Opening with the nine-minute ‘Nothing Dreamt’, Ghold intensify both the droning doom and the heavy psychedelia of their previous outings. The vocals, low in the mix and drenched in effects, swirl amidst a backdrop of guitars as thick as slow-crawling lava. The thunderous riffology is balanced with extended passages of nuanced atmosphere which are delicate, even beautiful, as elongated drones drift into ambience.

‘Ruptured Earth (Head in Sand)’ brings both pace and volume, showing that Ghold haven’t lost sight of their thrashy roots, but have instead honed their sound into a glorious hybrid that’s uniquely theirs.

‘SKHUL V’ brings the heavy trudge, its ultra slow, ultra low sludgefest reminiscent of early Melvins. The percussion is immense, with light years passing between beats. It bleeds into the raging tempest that opens ‘SKHUL VI’, a frenzied and sustained sonic attack. It shudders and burns, and by the four-minute mark has achieved an optimal throb before gradually disintegrating, collapsing in on itself. It’s twelve-minute duration is a succession of cycles, a slow, grinding riff emerging from the howl of feedback only to become buried, lost in a vortex of its own slowing tempo, re-emerging at last as a crawling slice of glacial, minimal jazz.

If the whole deal sounds a shade incongruous, it’s to the band’s credit that they make it work, and so seamlessly. Stoic isn’t just a solid album, it’s an incredible album that pushes further toward the reaches of categorisation.

AA

Ghold correct album artwork

Nuclear Blast – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

When charged with the task of covering a new release by a ‘big’ name act, or an act which has been around a long time and developed a significant global following, but that you’re not an ardent fan of, the pressure is on. As a reviewer, you’re supposed to know everything about every aspect of every band ever, and the kind of act who has an established fanbase is also the kind of act who has a fanbase who expect critics to really know their shit before passing comment on ‘their band. At least, that’s my perception based on hard experience from sitting on both sides of the fence.

That progenitors of gothic metal Paradise Lost are still here to launch the fifteenth album of their career is impressive by any standards. And while I’ve been aware of them for an eternity – as a Sisters of Mercy fan for an even longer eternity, it was their cover of ‘Walk Away which provided an introduction – I’ve never really spent any time getting acquainted with their back catalogue. Nevertheless, and despite their death / doom roots, the fact Medusa is strong and proper heavy is even more impressive, especially given their forays into Depeche Mode-style synthpop and electronica and a stint on EMI which saw them move further into more commercial territories.

As the press release notes, ‘most people will know Medusa as the Gorgon from Greek mythology; she is the infamous beast with venomous snakes for hair who will turn anyone that dares to look into her eyes to stone. It is this hideous creature who Paradise Lost have chosen to be the figureheard for their 15th studio album, as, from a philosophical perspective, she is more than simply a monster.’

It’s the epic, doomy trudge of ‘Fearless Sky’ which grinds out for over eight and a half minutes which gets the album off to a dark and suitably intense start and demonstrates they’ve still got the high-art bombast which defines their sound, and of the poem which gave them their name in the first place. It was hearing segments of Milton’s immensely epic poem read aloud by one of my university’s more eccentric but enthusiastic professors which turned me on to his work, and in context, it all fits together. Medusa is an immense and ambitious album, and it’s also as heavy as hell.

The thunderous tribal drumming which propels the low-end focused sludge riffery of ‘Gods of Ancient’ leads the album deeper into darkness before the snarling desolation of ‘From the Gallows.’ ‘The Longest Winter’ is perhaps more accessible with its processed, dry and altogether more melodic vocals, but the guitars are still are thick and overdriven as you like. As for the title track, it brings the sense of immense portent with its groaningly heavy guitars and noodling lead, paired with a sense of gothic theatricality which lends it a kind of poeticism.

This is an album that trudges, dark and heavy, for the duration, and any comparisons to other bands from either the goth or metal sides of the equation are essentially redundant because it was this band who effectively spawned the hybrid which Medusa so perfectly epitomises anyway.

What makes Medusa a great album is that while it is heavy, it’s heavily gothy and it’s ultra metally in the snarling, guttural sense, and it’s also got immense range. As such, it doesn’t ever feel formulaic or dull, and ultimately, Medusa is a strong album which stands up in the Paradise Lost catalogue.

paradiselostmedusacd

Ipecac Recordings – 7th July 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Melvins’ 415th album since their formation in the Mezozoic era is a double: their first. As if the founding sludgelords, the masters of the megalithic, needed to take it to another level of epic indulgence. A Walk With Love and Death isn’t exactly a concept album, as much as an album of two halves. So says the press release. If anything, it’s actually two distinct albums released together: Death, a proper Melvins’ release and Love, the score to the Jesse Nieminen directed, self-produced short also titled A Walk With Love and Death.

But of course, it’s a Melvins album. Which means that, fundamentally, it sounds like a Melvins album. That’s no criticism: I want a Melvins album to sound like a Melvins album but then, would it ever sound like anything else?

They really make full use of the double-album format for this outing. It begins with a slow-building, expansive six and a half-minuter that has echoes of ‘Mine is No Disgrace’ from The Crybaby, but instead of erupting into a blistering wall of noise, keeps the focus tight on a proggy trip with a vaguely psychedelic hue.

‘Sober-delic’ follows, a mid-tempo trudge which also stretches beyond the six-minute mark and ‘Euthanasia’ is vintage Melvins, a hefty sludge trudge with heavily treated vocals. ‘What’s Wrong With You?’ is a warped psychedelic stoner rock tune with a twisted pop edge, propelled by a thumping bassline and wild guitars. The nine songs which make up the Death album don’t exactly offer up any surprises (which is arguably a surprise in itself given the band’s wildly varied output over the last 30 years), but do deliver a Melvins album that’s as solid as anything they’ve done. It brings the grind. It hammers with the riffs. It’s sludgy, grungy, yet packs some great pop moments. And what at times it lacks in terms of attack, it compensates in scale, with the prog leanings of ‘Flaming Creature’ partially submerged by the low-end churn that they’ve made their own.

Commencing with a vaguely experimental intro track, in which mellifluous piano notes drift through the sound of chatter, the Love set is a very different proposition. The fourteen tracks are shorter and stranger, leaning toward noisy ambience, and find Melvins revisiting the kind of territory explored on Prick and the playfully perverse ‘Cowboy’ single from the mid ‘90s.

When they do actually play tunes, it’s whacked out, trippy psychedelic pop or fucked -up jazz: ‘Give it to Me’ is a zany, mess of doodling Hammond organs and theramins duelling with thumping percussion that’s pure 60s garage. But mostly it’s weird shit like ‘Chicken Butt’ and ‘Halfway to Bakersfield’, and it’s all very much ‘what the fuck’?

It’s Melvins’ eternal capacity to confound which is an integral aspect of their enduring appeal. It would be so easy, and no doubt more career-savvy to work to their tried and tested formula and to put out an album of straight ahead sludge rock every two to three years, instead of going off on infinite tangents and releasing two albums a year. But the fact is, they’re actually very good at producing weird, far-out experimental shit, and the results of some of their collaborations have been as strong as unexpected. It’s their drive to create, and to endlessly push in so many different directions which keeps Melvins fresh, and above all, relevant.

Melvins - Love and Death

Exile On Mainstream – 21st April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It begins with a howl of feedback. Of course it does. The sustain continues through the opening power chords: doomy, slow, before it all comes crashing in, trudging tempo and gut-churningly downtuned.

Obelyskkh’s fourth album isn’t so much about surprises, but about continuing – and extending – the trajectory of its predecessors, albeit with a greater emphasis on groove. Not that this is an album you can dance to: it’s very much one to slow headbang to. The press release draws attention to the fact that the album’s title ‘evokes one of H. P. Lovecraft’s iconic poems, providing inspiration for the album’s lyrical content and the artwork for The Providence. Another dimension to the album is illustrated almost perfectly by French revolutionist Victor Hugo: “Above all, you can believe in Providence in either of two ways, either as thirst believes in the orange, or as the ass believes in the whip.” The band lived by this message throughout their uphill battle to complete the record.’

It’s taken them four years, and The Providence feels like four years’ anguish and slog distilled into six immense pieces. The title track, which opens the set, is twelve minutes long. It’s not pretentious, but heavy with portent: this is a vast doomscape of an album, dominated by some colossal guitar riffery, propelled by a juggernaut of a rhythm section.

Things get a bit progressive folk-metal in the middle of ‘Raving Ones,’ but when the riff hits its stride, it’s a throbbing, driving rush. Elsewhere, ‘Northern Lights’ veers toward classic, vintage horror, with a deluge of cataclysmic guitars burning a purgatorial furrow on the scale of the Grand Canyon. And just when the thick distortion threatens to burn out the eardrums, a shift toward upper frequency overload provides the punishing attack needed to complete the abominable mission. The fourteen-minute ‘NYX’ stands as the album’s centrepiece, and is a classic slab of thunderous, sludgy doom metal. Over the course of a succession of passages, it grinds its way to a punishing critical mass, with velocity consumed by density.

Clocking in at under six minutes, ‘Aeons of Iconoclasm’ feels almost throwaway in its brevity. Fear chords weave and waft almost subliminally, and it feels at first like a mere interlude, but then the gates of hell open and every screaming demon ever known tears down from the blackest of skies.

In contrast, the slow, but so, so, dense guitar overload of ‘Marzanna’ feels like a gentle wind-down, although at over nine and a half minutes of roaring thunder and groaning, droning, slowed riffage and mangled vocals that squeeze Sabbath through a Melvins filter it’s hardly some kind of loungecore fluff.

Everything about The Providence is immense. This is heavyweight, it’s doomy metal exactly the way it should be.

 

 

Obelyskkh – The Providence