Highly-respected Ulster Sludge/Doom outfit Slomatics is as well known for its countless splits, most prominently with fellow Doom yellers Conan, as it is for its own produce. So it’s something of a surprise to discover that Canyons (Black Bow Records) is the band’s sixth album in its fifteen-year existence, but as expected it shows a soupçon of originality in the unrelenting, slothlike heaviness.
Opener ‘Gears Of Despair’ is true to the Caveman Doom template but, despite the Davis-esque holler, Slomatics possess a true singer in Marty Harvey: his high-pitched wails displaying an amazing range and a welcome ability to hold a note with subtle tremor. Oscillating lead breaks and atmospheric airs permeate the hulking oppression, Harvey’s rapid gunshot drums closing a nifty blend of fire and ice. There’s a more Sludge-like quality to the sickening riff of ‘Cosmic Guilt’, the harsher growl and a slightly higher tempo embellishing the more hostile feel, but brief harmonies and a post-Black midriff are more fine examples of the band’s versatility. This is further exemplified in the brief ‘Seven Echoes’, just over a minute of planets colliding with stunning musicality.
This huge sound is dictated as much by Harvey’s sticks as by the marvellous, hugely resonant guitar work of Chris Couzens and David Majury. ‘Telemachus My Son’ begins with powerful paradiddles to the fore, leading in a truly mammoth riff and Harvey’s bellicose roar. Still, there remains a subtle, astral air: psychedelia which, when coupled with that earth-shattering power, is reminiscent of both London marauders Slabdragger and Italian Heavy Prog giants Ufomammut. The ensuing ‘Beyond The Canopy’ reaches the summit of Everest and rains down blow after cudgelling blow, Harvey’s vocal resounding across the miles and piercing the thick wall of guitar. Its midsection is, in contrast, eerie and delicate: post-Rock jangles and whirling soundscapes depicting the isolation of the spacewalker. Given this the resultant, sudden explosion would make the strongest of constitutions soil the mattress, making the track a true wonder of moving disembowelment.
Interlude ‘Arms Of The Sun’ revisits the cosmos with spiky atmospheres and soaring leadwork, opening with cavernous depth into the stunning wall of sound that is ‘Mind Fortresses On Theia’. Here Harvey again displays his tremendous vocal range, while the strings of Couzens and Majury harness the power of the universe: those pedal effects adding melancholy and melody to a track that displays beauty and brutal might in perfect harmony. These effects open the album’s stunning denouement ‘Organic Caverns II’, a work of crushing depth which blends pummelling riffs with a meaningful vocal and gorgeous lead segments.
Canyons is an album without filler, without excuse, without a lull. Each track, no matter the length, builds on its predecessor: increasing the swell yet introducing an ambience that is deeply appropriate for the setting. It shows an ever-growing maturity in Slomatics which is, delightfully, allowing them to expand on that undoubted talent.
8 / 10