House of the Tiger King (Self-Released) is a record that very much wears its influences on its sleeve. Born out of Leeds’ underground DIY scene, the members of Nomasta have put in the legwork over the past 10+ years, with vocalist/guitarist Owen Wilson and drummer Andy Richards previously being a part of the very much missed Canaya as just one of many examples. Channelling the psychedelic spirits of the likes of Mastodon, Baroness, and a huge helping of High On Fire, the UK’s new favourite sludge-mongers Nomasta have put their name to an energetic, riff-heavy, and crudely produced record that has more complexity than you would initially assume on first listen.
The vocal comparisons to Matt Pike are undeniable. There’s so much Pike worship on this record that ‘This Trail Has Got The Best Of Us’ wouldn’t sound out of place on either of the last two High On Fire records, which isn’t to say it’s a pastiche but rather it is just that good of a track, and the riffs have this earthy weight to them that will knock you senseless. ‘At The Mercy Of Sleep’ has this tripped out, jarring instability to it, which seems only more appropriate for a song written about the Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island nuclear disasters.
The subject matter of each of these songs is just as dark and ugly as the music itself. The rumbling bass found on tracks like ‘Dawnbreaker’ and the neck-ruining title track adds an extra layer of grit to each song. The clean, Red Fang-like vocals do break flow occasionally and feel out of place amongst the grubbiness of the rest of the album, but on ‘Alchematic’ they become more a focal point. As a result, it feels more akin to Blood Mountain-era Mastodon or Metallica on …And Justice For All by using those vocals to help amplify the eerie atmosphere of the track.
House of the Tiger King doesn’t exactly reinvent the wheel so much as rumble alongside it while making a horrible racket like a sludgy locomotive. It’s an entertaining listen with a lot of bite, plenty of dirt under its fingernails, and plenty of catchy riffs to keep you coming back for more. Far from the finished article, but it maintains enough depth and character to make Nomasta worth keeping an eye on in the future.