Given the name, you’d expect Baltimore quintet Asthma Castle to deliver a wheezy form of Stoner/Sludge derived from the likes of Hollow Leg. Debut album Mount Crushmore (Hellmistress Records), the band’s first release for nine years, shows considerably more bounce and fun than any such misplaced assumptions, but flattens it all with unfathomable, cosmic weight.
The humour is in some ludicrous, puerile track titles that nevertheless provide a chuckle. Opener ‘The Incline Of Western Civilisation’ (see what they’ve done there?…) begins, however, with powerful intent: Jeff Davis’ trammelling bassline leading into a slow Stoner rumble, muscular melodies dueling with mighty yet progressive patterns and different vocal styles á la Mastodon. Pig Destroyer drummer Adam Jarvis pulverises the kit yet, as one would expect, proves expert at deftly changing the pace, leading the chaos to a riotous conclusion.
The live title-track is again bossed by Jarvis’ stickwork, Zach Westphal’s horrific roars providing a Death element which is nailed down by a monstrous wall of sound and leadwork that rains down like lightning. Despite the undeniable songcraft it’s the paradoxically fluid Metal structures that bewitch the mind: the organic switches of ‘Here Come The Black Ship’ incorporating Funk and Blues into its unstoppable flow. The brute force of the bass mid-section grows into Foreman-esque punches, incoming roars giving a Blackened edge to the whiskey-soaked lasciviousness of Bon Scott, the rampant pleasure of the denouement a battering incarnation of ‘Rock Bottom’-era UFO.
‘Methlehem’s dark humour is evinced by the crumbling walls of Greek temples, the harsh hollers blitzed by the inconceivable weight of the riffs and howling leadwork skipping like a wounded troll. It’s an experience which leaves the listener violated yet purged, every personal demon not exorcised but impaled on a pike, Jarvis’ sickening power obliterating all before it.
The penultimate ‘Brazilian Catbox Incident’ begins and ends with a huge grin but despite the increased lightness of being, indescribable might still carves a path with the arrowing strength of a diving Peregrine: while the closing ‘The Book Of Duderonomy’ is as heavy as a mammoth shitting after a month-long bout of constipation: the thunderclap of the bass strings slapping the drums solidly around the face, in fact, every instrument is a weapon of the deliciously unbearable, oscillating power.
Let’s get one thing straight: there is nothing new about the path this album takes. By unifying everything that is joyous and vital about modern Heavy Metal however, it is become a destroyer. Absorbing and bloody irresistible.
8 / 10