A cold Yorkshire wind blows through the speakers before a tapped out bass line floats along. It’s immediately reminiscent of the hammered-on, happy-go-lucky turned sinister oddity of Primus’ ‘Here Come The Bastards’, and forms the lilting lynchpin of the song. Quickly, ‘RVN’ becomes a colossal Stoner Metal riff barrage, filled with the same grooving bounce the bass line laid out. Suddenly any quirkiness that evoked feelings of Primus is dissipated, and in its place, a muscular yet peculiar creature is presented. This is Kurokuma.
Vocally the song trades dual screaming between shouted, bruising attacks and a rasp that it’s almost Black Metal in its execution. It keeps the song dynamic and engaging for its near seven minutes despite the simplicity and repetitive nature of the riff underneath. The repetition is not a negative note however, it becomes an enrapturing experience akin to the likes of Sleep and their hypnotic, relentless use of one riff and its variants. As the track reaches the vocal midpoint, the pace is picked up and the stoner feel is replaced with a sense of urgency; an unrestrained, bestial slobber knocker of a variation of the main riff hammers the listener and remains hard-hitting till the song’s detuned end.
Spheksophobes will find themselves squirming in discomfort as ‘Wasp Nest’ begins with the unsettling buzzing of the vindictive insect. A fear of wasps isn’t a prerequisite to a sense of unease with this track, however; the lumbering and sinister bass that starts proceedings is rather frightening, a feeling that turns into desperation for an escape as the slow, droning guitars accompany the rhythm section. It feels almost like an interlude solely focused on messing with the listener’s emotions, going from the teeth-gritting joy of ‘RVN’ to this claustrophobic nightmare.
‘Deeper Underground’ maintains this feeling of uneasiness beginning with a Funeral Doom pace – I. E. None whatsoever – slowly festering and growing over its ten-minute run time. Around three and a half minutes in the song kicks in properly as the percussive smashes take precedence and provide a suitably crashing backdrop for the bruising vocals to pummel the listener. Once again the riff stays mainly the same throughout adding to the alluring feeling of familiarity in Kurokuma’s music. The squalling guitar that arrives around two-thirds of the way through is written in such a way as to crawl under one’s skin, and befits Kurokuma’s raison d’être: to deter the listener from any semblance of pleasure, and instead to challenge and confound. This is not for the faint of heart.
The finale of this release summarises Kurokuma perfectly. An electronic reimagining of ‘Wasp Nest’ with a tender piano reprising the main riff, it is completely out of leftfield and entirely unpredictable. This is not a band that will bow to pressures of the rulebook, instead of wishing to carve out their own unusual yet charming path of Stoner/Doom weirdness. While some ideas may drag on just a touch too long, and the production loses some of the subtleties of instrumentation, this is a rather brilliant release for the band to put under their collective belt and will delight and confuse listeners in equal measure. They certainly live up to the hefty gauntlet thrown down in the title and are easily one of Sheffield’s most exciting prospects.
7 / 10