ALBUM REVIEW: -16- – Into Dust


Grinding away in the sludge metal fringes for over thirty years, Los Angeles, California’s -16– are one of those “how have I missed them?” bands that seem to fly below the radar for many, but once detected are unlikely to be forgotten. On Into Dust (Relapse Records) the band drop their ninth album, the follow up to 2020’s Dream Squasher, sounding as amped-up, powerful and determined as ever to charge head-first through the nearest wall.


Though it wouldn’t be fair to reduce -16- to a simple comparison to a couple of bands, the easiest quick description (of the band’s latest album anyway) would probably be Crowbar and Down. This is sludge metal of the most crushing, sonically heavy variety. This sounds like music that’s going to capsize your boat and have it quickly sink to the bottom of the ocean.

Once you’re down there you’ll feel the full-force of gravity that seems to emanate from songs like ‘Misfortune Teller’, ‘The Deep’ and ‘Dirt In Your Mouth’. Indeed, Into Dust is very much in spirit what the album, and track, titles suggest: sonically pulverising metal and lyrics that remind you of the old Henry Rollins (Rollins Band) line: “believe me when I tell you, life will not break your heart, it’ll crush it.”


Sometimes though a soundtrack to being beaten down by life can be pretty damn energising. Could there be, for instance, a song that makes you feel more like you need to immediately drop and knock out ten push ups than ‘Null and Eternal Void’? With its off-kilter drum rhythm and descending melody that has a whiff of Biohazard about it, the track is a prime example of what the album does very well, namely taking a brutally pounding verse and attaching a catchy, memorable chorus.


To be honest, this whole album fits the (modified) famous saying: you don’t have to lift weights while you listen to this album, but it helps. From start to finish the power and intensity is relentless. The drums knock holes in the floor, the guitars lay ten tons of concrete with every churning riff, the smothering bass holds you underwater, while the raging vocals of Cris Jerue spit relentless fire.


While the band have never quite had their own ‘Planets Collide’ or ‘Temptations Wings’ to put them on that top-tier sludge metal platform, they come damn close with tracks like ‘The Floor Wins’ and vocalists Jerue’s cries of “I sold my soul to conquer vertigo”.


As can be the case with the above mentioned Crowbar, for those who are not massive fans of this NOLA-style crushing sludge metal, twelve tracks and forty-plus minutes of this world might get a bit fatiguing by the end, but to the band’s credit, every track offers something a little different in terms of (brutally heavy) ear candy.


Take your pick of any track really. There’s the lifting energy of ‘Never Paid Back’ with its almost soaring chorus, or the grooving churn of ‘Dead Eyes’ (is that a cowbell in the background?). Basically, if you listen to the first song and think “Yes! This is what I’m looking for” you’ll likely get to the end feeling satisfied.


Speaking of the end, it’s unlikely you’ll be expecting the jazzy, bar-room elements of album-closer ‘Born On A Bar Stool’, where the band incorporate lounge passages, including saxophone, to the punishing battery. It’s a rather surreal Mr. Bungle-style finale and possibly the best track on the album.


Is Into Dust going to make -16- stars? Almost certainly not. Does the band deserve to be more well-known? Unquestionably yes and with this album, after more than thirty years, the band has delivered a record that holds its head up high amongst their sludge metal peers.

Buy the album here:


8 / 10