Posts Tagged ‘Sludge’

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

Heavy Baby Records – 21st January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Ok, so I’m not one to judge a record by its cover, but obviously there’s a lot to be said for packaging music in – or with – cover art which reflects the contents in some way. Heavy Baby Sea Slugs’ new offering, the Teenage Graveyard Party EP has artwork which says ‘sixteen minutes of raw, full-tilt sludge-metal racket’, and funnily enough, that’s precisely what it delivers (as one might reasonably expect from a band who previously released an album entitled Fistula Missile and who seemingly enjoy considerably more success in Japan and Taiwan than at home in Texas).

‘King Midas of Shit’ launches the EP with a savage deluge of nasty, gnarly noise, piledriving in at a hundred miles an hour. Talk about a sonic slap round the chops! It’s a frantic, frenetic and stubbornly unpolished aural assault which spits and snarls and spews in all directions.

The title track slows the pace and actually offer some semblance of a tune, with some proper singing and everything – at least until about halfway through when the band put their collective pedal to the metal and thrash their way senseless to the end. Don’t expect any cuddles from the bass-led thunder of ‘Pit Bait’, either. It comes on like a Motorhead 45 being played at 33.

The six-minute closer, ‘Zero-One’ really brings the grind with a downtuned, gut-churning trudge that’s somewhere between early Swans and early Melvins. It’s a gruelling dirge which makes no real attempt to get going, and instead spends is time making threats, with slow, heavy drums, scrawling feedback and yawning bass drone. It’s crushingly heavy, and feels like the soundtrack to an eternity in purgatory.

It may only be sixteen minutes in duration, but Teenage Graveyard Party is a gloriously unpleasant, dirty, mangled mess of noise. Party on, dudes.


Heavy Baby Sea Slugs – Teenage Graveyard Party


Fancy some low-slung, tweaked-up, bass-heavy stoner rock for the weekend?

We recommend ‘Without’ by Ex People ‘cause it’s ruddy fucking mint. and can’t wait for the album due later in the year.


Christopher Nosnibor

It’s the hottest, or second-hottest, night of the year so far, with temperatures teetering at the top of the twenties. I managed to knock off work early to get the train over from York to Leeds in order to conduct an interview before the show, and having managed to chill with a pint in the North Bar for half an hour before the gig, I’m now back underground in the small, dark, box venue that is The Key Club, trying hard to make my £4.20 330ml bottle of Punk IPA last more than five minutes while I sweat my tits off and wait for the first of tonight’s three bands, By Any Means.

Sporting beards, vests, tattoos, and knee-length shorts, the Belfast band crash in hard. Their front man may strongly resemble Brian Blessed, but I suspect he’d be more likely to crush Flash’s oesophagus with his bare hands than proudly declare him to be alive. They crank out a set of intense, dense, throbbing metal and these no shortage of chug ‘n’ grind(core) in their meaty riff-driven tracks.


By Any Means

Next up, Stoneghost, sporting beards, vests, tattoos, and knee-length shorts take to the stage with a holler of “Leeeeeds! How the fuck is everyone?” Everyone is fucking melting, as it happens, and the relatively restrained response is by no means an indication of a lack of appreciation. In comparison to By Any Means, Stoneghost are sonically denser, the guitar lines more technical, the drums more frenetic, the sound more brutal, and the front man more bullish. He’s got a mean look, and I certainly wouldn’t mess with him. But for all the thunder and aggression, they’ve got some monster choruses, and they earn themselves a one-man slam-dancing moshpit for their efforts.



Raging Speedhorn may be purveyors of gnarly sludge metal, but they’re certainly not uncivilised: drummer Gordon Morrison pours beer from bottles into (perspex) glasses before they play. After an inter-band playlist that featured, amongst others, Fudge Tunnel, they walk on to ‘The Heat is On’ by Glen Frey, and yes, the compact basement venue is fucking boiling. With the stage drenched in feedback, vocalists John Loughlin and Frank Regan stand, silent, at the front of the stage, simply leaning out toward the crowd, looking menacing, they hold it for a full minute. This is showmanship, and it’s the band’s commitment to the performance element of the show is integral to the live experience. That said, they’re not posers, by any means: in fact, they’re just a bunch of middle-aged guys with beards and tattoos, wearing vests / T-shirts and long shorts, but they give one hundred percent to the music, and the aggression, the brute force with which the songs are played is so genuine it’s scary. Their contrasting styles work well: Loughlin screams maniacally and looks deranged as he charges he stage, while Regan is almost nonchalant and looks like he’s relishing goading the crowd with ‘come on’ hand gestures before he spits and snarls into the mic.


Raging Speedhorn

They pile in with ‘The Hate Song’ from second album We Will Be Dead Tomorrow, although much of the set focuses on the new album Lost Ritual, which is fair play, and no bad thing given that it’s a riff-led stonker. ‘Bring Out Your Dead’ and ‘Motorhead’ are slammed down early. Delving back to their debut for ‘Redweed’ elicits a strong reaction, and before long there’s a tornado of bodies frothing in front of the stage.


Raging Speedhorn

One guy who’s filming the set on his mobile has his phone confiscated and starts whinging like a kid about how he wants to show his friends the show. No doubt he’ll be gutted that his footage won’t include the ball-busting climax: they close the set with a pulverising rendition of ‘Thumper’, and still have it in them to return for an encore of ‘Ten of Swords’.


Raging Spedhorn

The full set – twelve tracks – may have lasted just under an hour, but no-one’s feeling short-changed. In the blistering heat, they’ve delivered a relentless set that shows Raging Speedhorn are as vital now as ever.