Being self-analysed as having “…the total absence of tonal sanity” can cover a multitude of sins for a band, including that of openly peddling a load of pretentious shite in the name of self-expression. Fortunately, German quartet Bellrope contains some serious pedigree, being formed from the Musk Ox-bludgeon that was Black Shape Of Nexus, so debut long-player You Must Relax (Exile On Mainstream Records) is dripping with intrigue even before it begins.
Opener ‘Hollywood 2001 / Rollrost’ has the listener squirming within seconds: a madcap ride through a discordant cacophony of twisted sound, an unhinged expression of primal screams and roars, squealing chords and brutal feedback. In a tribute to a brand of rye whiskey the following ‘Old Overholt’ has more songcraft and is more relatable to that former incarnation: a brooding, resonant monster, the drum, and dual bass groove battery overlaid with horrific vocals and given a pounding, oscillating coda with more of Gebbo Barome’s screeching leadwork.
No matter what the variations in style, it remains a weighty assault on the senses. The title track is initiated by ominous paradiddles before exploding in a slow seepage of tar. The switches of tempo move the track into a Blackened Sludge via mid-paced tubthumping sessions, evoking both Mastodon and early Kylesa, before descending again into an infected morass, closing with a colossal show of rhythmic power.
The penultimate ‘TD200’ begins with lead howls straining to be let loose before shattering the walls with agonised screams and steady, pulsating noise. It’s again characterised by the phenomenal power of the basses and Marco Hauser’s drums, but here an added nuance of spooky melody is provided by Treedeon’s Arne Heesch and Yvonne Ducksworth, alongside a chilling mid-section which gradually swells and absorbs the mind like a sample-swallowing black hole.
Seventeen-minute closer ‘CBD / Hereinunder’ shows more of that pregnant resonance, a Conan-esque mass so great that the pressure seems akin to holding the water of the Marianas Trench on one’s shoulders. The strange ting of a triangle and wildly whirring guitars, however, fling around that incredible weight like a kitten, creating a possessive euphoria and showing dexterity amid the skull-crushing intensity. The sheer madness of the opening track aside, Bellrope’s “…absence…” tagline is, thankfully, somewhat misguided: it does not detract from an album of pulverising might, uncompromising and monolithic, and as such one that is worthy of its protagonists’ history.
7 / 10