Metal, especially Extreme Metal, can be somewhat… single-minded. It doesn’t need to be a bad thing – this unsubtle devotion to conjuring a particular mood or emotion has led to some of the most beloved classics of the genre – but sometimes a can be so focussed on their goal that they forget to include anything else.
Nightslug are horrible. Being horrible is what they do. It’s all they do. Sewage thick guitars, crude, ugly riffs, tortured vocals and bursts of feedback-laden noise create a genuinely unpleasant atmosphere, but it’s not clear what they really want to do with that atmosphere once they have it. Riffs churn endlessly with no clear aim in sight, tension is built and not effectively released, and tracks run into another with no real sense of purpose. One of the biggest traps in playing this kind of Sludge or slow Doom is the very fine line between hypnotic and boring – and it’s a trap that Nightslug never really release themselves from.
Part of the problem with Loathe (Broken Limbs/Dry Cough/Lost Pilgrims) is that in the last few years a number of bands – Keeper, Primitive Man and Indian amongst them – have been pushing the envelope on music which is both disgusting and interesting. Abstract compositions and elements of psychedelia and Electronic Noise have taken sludge metal into disturbing, engaging new territories – but Nightslug just want to keep playing big horrible riffs all day and croaking. I can imagine them going down well live in the right context, but on record there’s just not enough to distinguish them from a large number of other bands who’ve done the same thing.
If you’ve been reading this and wondering what I’m complaining about, then it’s probably worth giving Loathe a shot. Nightslug achieve exactly what they set out to, and they’re certainly garnering positive reviews elsewhere for doing so, but if your expectations of disgusting, slow music have been raised by recent releases from more adventurous bands, you’re likely to find Loathe disappointing in its lack of ambition.