Since their inception in 2013, Manchester quintet Barbarian Hermit has focused the vast majority of its Sludge grooves on live audiences around its home city and the rest of the UK. After two years of upheaval which has seen one original member return and two leave, debut album Solitude and Savagery (self-released) sees the band set out toward a brave new horizon.Continue reading →
It’s grim up north, so the saying goes. Which, of course, must be the reason why our particular brand of Sludge is occasionally filled with so much joyous Funk that James Brown would be proud to get his good foot on it…Lancastrians Bastard Of The Skies have been flying this flag wonderfully for some years now, and Leeds quartet Corinth have emerged as serious contenders for the Yorkist crown.
Corinth (No Fun Intended) is the band’s third EP in as many years, opener ‘Solar Flare’s rapid rhythm battery immediately ceding to a vicious, knee-buckling groove. Ben Corkhill’s throaty roar duels with the evil scream of vocal counterpart Tom Clayton and the constant time switches, intricate yet weightier than a herd of elephants, bring Clayton’s jazzy bass and bountiful bounce to the fore. The thunderous rhythm section sees drummer Andy Baron change tempo numerous times whilst leading his team flawlessly.
The immense ‘Those With No Eyes’ begins, as the title suggests, with a more sinister feel: a deep-toned, tolling intro adding gravitas to the earlier powerful stomp, before a slow swing coincides with more of Corkhill’s holler. Vanessa Murray’s Maiden-esque leads have a more pensive, melancholic feel here, and head softly into a snarling yet tethered menace: the riff ever building toward a hostile, hateful tone before dropping deliciously into a low yet subtle, squalling morass.
There’s a Stoner vibe to the early strains of epic closer ‘Ironclad’ which initially threatens to cheapen the overall vibe. Whilst that somewhat lumbering beat rarely fluctuates there is, however, a steadily growing swell which is influenced by the howl of the morphing riff. A blend of harsh, soulful and bluesy vocals leads to an explosive mid-section, powering the track into the booming realms of Conan and assuring its eventual status as a modern Doom classic.
Here is a band who have constantly showed themselves to incorporate myriad influences into their intrinsically Low-end sound. This is their most expansive and intelligent offering yet, each track having a different feel without straying too far from home, and maintaining Corinth’s path toward inevitable greatness.
On 1st June 2013, I spent my mid-honeymoon Saturday at Gulliver’s in Manchester, watching the gig of my life for the princely sum of a fiver. Undersmile I knew and loved; Blackburn’s Bastard of the Skies were (and still are) my favourite band; and the magnificent Ishmael were to put in their final and most intense performance later in the evening.
The second band on the bill however, West Midland trio Grimpen Mire, flattened the intimate venue with a devastating set that left me open-mouthed. The most striking element was the gnarled, gangly frontman: wringing hideous notes from his bass with vicious intent, the pain and bitterness of his roared lyrics etched across his face. I chatted with the band after their set and was struck by their collective warmth; their excitement over their forthcoming ‘split’ with their Lancastrian friends on the bill (it would eventually materialise to critical acclaim the following April) shining through. We got on so well that we agreed to share a few pints when we next met.
Sadly and suddenly, a posting to their still-maintained Facebook page last Tuesday 9th June alerted fans to the passing of that wonderful frontman, Paul van Linden; this after the seemingly reluctant decision by the band to split almost six months earlier. The thread following the announcement, full of heart-rending condolences and reminiscences, reads like a ‘who’s who’ of the modern UK Doom and Sludge scene – testament to the regard the band was held in by its peers, and to the impact the bassist / vocalist left on all he met, however fleetingly. Luminaries of the scene such Conan, Sea Bastard and the band’s fellow protagonists on that fantastic night two years ago have all posted their own tributes to their own pages.
A fifteen-minute conversation was all I ever had with Paul. Long enough to know, however, that he made a lasting impression on me. The many who met him seem to share the same opinion: a hugely talented musician, the brutal intensity of his stage presence contradicted entirely by his warmth, wit and unflinching honesty. Everyone at Ghost Cult magazine offers our sincere condolences to his wife Alex, his daughter Lizzie, and his loyal, devastated bandmates Jim Goad and Ian Davis.
Please ensure this amazing artist and his band are never forgotten by downloading their music, now available in entirety through Bandcamp.
Brazilian metallers are streaming Timekiller‘s “Sick Of Myself” off Eolian Empire’s (We’ve Got) FIENDS IN LOW PLACES: Heavy Vibes Internationale compilation, out February 3, 2015, here.
Listen to UK based Meadows’ “I Am Gobshite” here, and Finland’s Throat’s “Clean Cleaner” here.
A gnarled calling card with more than fifty minutes of audio, the fifteen stark, aggressive, noise-laden tunes on FIENDS IN LOW PLACES are worked over with smarts and wicked humor on this compilation of exclusive tracks. With contributions from THROAT (Finland), ARABROT (Norway), HEALTH PROBLEMS (USA), MoE (Norway), THE GREAT SABATINI (Canada), DEAD (Australia), BASTARD OF THE SKIES (England), HOMBRE MALO (Norway), SAME-SEX DICTATOR(USA), TEEPH (USA), CYBERNE (Japan), TIMEKILLER (Brazil), ELEPHANT RIFLE (USA), BATPISS (Australia), and MEADOWS (England), the comp is a wild trip through twisted noise rock, bludgeoning sludge, psychotic metal, blackened hardcore, and damaged punk, with each act’s warped worldview in full effect.
(We’ve Got) FIENDS IN LOW PLACES is the sequel and companion compilation to the (We’ve Gotta) KEEP OUR HEADS: Heavy Vibes from Portland, Oregon, yet instead of focusing on Portland-based acts as with the label’s twenty-nine previous releases, FIENDS IN LOW PLACES marks a new low for the Eolian horde, as its contributions were culled from friends playing off-the-wall heavy music in overlapping scenes internationally.
Those who feel that the grand, experimental The Great Cessation was bloated and overlong, or that the fantastic follow-up Atma was a little too commercial, have not truly embraced the second coming of Eugene, Oregon low-end trio Yob. They are, of course, still revered by large swathes of that fraternity and, as a result, this first album in three years seems like it’s been a long time coming.
Atma was all muscle and power; like Leviathan-era Mastodon on zopiclone, with Mike Scheidt‘s remarkable vocals at times a falsetto evoking an angry Geddy Lee, at others Brett Hinds incarnate. Clearing the Path to Ascend(Neurot) begins by showing a return to the inventive aspects of …Cessation as opener ‘In Our Blood’ sets out with a gently repetitive chord, the mellifluous tones soon riding a colossal riff moving with the speed of a tortoise, augmented by harsh vocals. A brief lull broken by an explosion of noise returns to the crawling weight, from which the track builds to a crescendo aided by an undercurrent of lead running a length of steel through it.
The brutality continues with the ensuing ‘Nothing to Win’, a faster, rolling rhythm with cavernous, semi-tribal drums down in the mix, the power of the shimmering riff almost sickening. Scheidt’s vocal is phenomenal, veering from the roar of a deranged gorilla to screamed choruses, via passages of spat malevolence; while Travis Foster keeps up a sensational pace through the first seven minutes before dictating an eerie, somewhat aboriginal comedown in a remarkable show of drumming.
‘Unmask the Spectre’, with its whispered vocal and subtle guitar initially offers stark contrast before the unstoppable creeping juggernaut crashes in once more, Scheidt’s evil roar reminiscent of Bastard of the Skies’ Matt Richardson. The tide is stemmed occasionally by those softer interludes, the voice hushed but frantically straining to be let loose, before returning to that slow, deliberate pounding. A throaty blues lead is employed here giving a mournful edge around the halfway point and breathing real emotion into a track which throbs and glides, briefly deliberating too long before closing in a euphoric crash of snail-like rhythm and spacey atmospherics.
Epic closer ‘Marrow’ sees a reappearance of that post-style jangle, before a laconic powerhouse of a riff leads that high vocal on a psychedelic crush through the cosmos. When the moving keys and a voice so deep it’s almost inaudible bring the track down it introduces a passage of real beauty, affecting leads dragging a titanic, howling riff and some real passion from Scheidt as the swell gradually builds to the desolate coda of what is essentially a prog-doom ballad, and arguably the band’s finest moment.
All four tracks far exceed the ten-minute mark yet, unlike …Cessation’s occasionally meandering nature, none here exceed their welcome. Combining the best aspects of the band’s aforementioned last albums this is a perfect blend of weight, hostility, melody and ecstasy, and will need many plays to yield its full array of splendour.
That this gig even went ahead, given the steady stream of disaster befalling so many of its protagonists, was a miracle. Some weeks before the event, rising Liverpool-based doom trio Coltsblood had agreed to step in for the original headliners; while on the eve of the onslaught, Huddersfield swamp monsters Wort were forced to withdraw also.
A sequencer arrived as if from nowhere, and Peter Callaghan soon began to add his psychedelic bleeps and squiggles to the heavy as hell, occasionally funereal sludge of Stoke’s Space Witch. Bassist Ian Hickton, a less hirsute version of Lord of the Rings’ grumpy dwarf Gimley, rumbled his weapon so deeply I was fooled into thinking I was shitting myself: doubtless aided by the venue, around eighteen inches taller than me and about twice the size of my living room. Initmate? You betcha. At times the sound and weight felt like a train crash but despite the bleeding horror there’s a languid bliss in the audience, mirroring the brutal ease with which Dan Mansfield abused his kit.
The hypnotic, groove-laden sludge of Blackburn’s Bastard Of The Skies led to myriad knees and hips being displaced during an incendiary set. A Punch in the Fucking Lungs saw front man Matt Richardson roar his usual spoken verse and begin to flush like Rooney at a World Cup: his scathingly sarcastic lyrics delivered with a malevolence which belied the ease the trio undertook its task. Despite Matt Aldred breaking sticks to the apron, he and bassist Claire Horrocks laid waste on the pounding Yarn and the brooding, darkly portentous Bao Fu, both from their recent split with tonight’s original co-headliners Grimpen Mire; whilst the explosion from the lull within …Dicknose? was executed with the synchronised violence of a band at one with each other.
Sadly the night ended prematurely, due to Coltsblood guitarist Jemma McNulty needing hospital treatment after an allergic reaction. Hence four were reduced to two and focus therefore remained on Bastard Of The Skies: arguably the coolest band in the world right now, despite their friendly and unassuming demeanour, this lot demand your whole attention.
Since its birth in 2006, there can’t have been many harder-working bands than Lancastrian sludge-groove monster Bastard Of The Skies. After three full-lengths, an EP, and a ‘split’ album, long-time guitarist Rob Beesley stunned its dedicated and growing fanbase by departing the fold earlier this year. Prior to their recent gig with Space Witch, I asked about the effect this had had on the band, plus their recent, incendiary split with fellow Brit sludgers Grimpen Mire. Over the next forty minutes they proved themselves affable, open and disarmingly self-deprecating.
I began by asking how a band from Blackburn, with not much of a metal scene to speak of, were garnering such a name for themselves? The humour is evident straightaway: “When I came for an audition’, says bassist Claire Horrocks, ‘Matt and [Rob] Beesley were sat there with a clipboard and a book entitled ‘How To Be A Successful Rock Band’!!” Rather shame-facedly, vocalist / guitarist and founder member Matt Richardson affirms this fact with a nod. “It’s everything you need’, he jokes. ‘I think my first gig was in Blackburn”, continues Claire, “but the venue closed soon afterwards.”‘I think Blackburn closed!’, replies Richardson. So how get noticed enough to break out of there? “Despite a couple of early tours in the Midlands I’ve always followed what’s gone on in Manchester, which is now a home-from-home for us”, continues Richardson. ‘I knew a couple of guys here, and had seen a few gigs that Dave at Future Noise (the band’s record label) had put on there, so I hooked up with him.’ Youthful-looking powerhouse drummer Matt Aldred joined later: ‘Matt [Richardson] knew my elder brother and asked me to come down. He initially rejected me the first time around, but I came back successfully a year later. They’d obviously tried all other options!” The thing that sets BotS apart from the majority of sludge bands out there, aside from Richardson’s terrifying roar, is a huge element of groove amidst the ferocity. It’s something the rest of the trio are willing to lay at Aldred’s feet: ‘I’m from a pop-punk background’… ‘but listen to a lot of Tool, Mastodon, Russian Circles, and I find their kind of flow sneaks in to my playing.’
Attention turned to their blisteringly heavy, hostile, and rather magnificent new ‘split’ with Birmingham (UK) trio Grimpen Mire, which I seemed to recall being ‘plugged’ at a phenomenal night both bands played in Manchester a year earlier. ‘I’d actually already recorded the Grimps’ side of the ‘split’ before that gig!’, Richardson states matter-of-factly. ‘I’d spoken to Ian (Davis, Grimpen Mire drummer) about the possibility, and Future Noise agreed to fund it. I recorded their part in about three days, and our four tracks in about eight months! Our last album, ‘Tarnation’, had pushed my old desk to its absolute limits: this has been finished on a new desk.’ I opine that their contribution is a slight return to a more pacy, groove-laden nastiness, after an occasional dalliance with drone on ‘Tarnation’: ‘When we set out writing’ begins Aldred, ‘we don’t really have an aim. It kind of…develops. ‘That’s one reason why it took us so long!’ continues Richardson. ‘Nothing ever ends as you think it’s going to. It takes its own little journey and usually goes somewhere else.’ ‘Something will just spark something off’, continues Claire, ‘and before you know it half a song’s re-written. It’s happened to us so many times.’
I wondered, with the preponderance of bands doing splits these days, what the attraction is from a band’s point of view? “It’s just a better way of getting your stuff out there”, says Horrocks. “It’s economical”, Richardson adds, “and good in a geographical sense as people from a different area, the home of the other band involved at least, will hear your stuff. We did a split a couple of years ago with a band called Catatomic. They’re from Wisconsin and, although it didn’t do much for the bank balance, it got us heard in the US”. “In fact, we know we’ve some kind of following in Brazil as we get quite a few downloads of our stuff from there, and we’ve heard that some guys in Afghanistan were playing Tarnation in the humvees as they were out on patrol!”, reveals Aldred. “Yeah: I’m not really sure how I felt about that one…” jokes Richardson.
So does this, and the fact that Tarnation received airplay on some US online stations, mean that things are on the rise internationally for BotS? ‘I don’t know’ sighs Horrocks, ‘we’ll go where it takes us. To be honest we just do what we do, and don’t really expect anything out of it. You can’t get an ego about it: quite often, if you do, the rug gets pulled out from under your feet.’ ‘We got PR in North America for the split’ continues Richardson, “and if you look at their client list, Neurosis are on it, which was like ‘Oh my God!’. But, small fish, big pond. That’s the way we see it. Dave knew the PR guys from other occasions and they actually contacted us to do it, so it’s nice. It’s not like we can get over there anytime soon but it’s fantastic if we go down well over there.” So how’s the split been received? “Well Terrorizer gave us a great review,” Claire positively enthuses, “so that was a real “t-shirt over the head” moment! It’s generally been really good, and at the moment that’s probably been the highlight.” Some reviews haven’t been so kind in the past, with one rather huffy reviewer taking issue purely because of the many tongue-in-cheek song titles the band produce. This, it seems, is largely the work of Mr. Richardson: ‘Take ‘Bao Fu’ from the split, for instance’ states Horrocks. “There’s no spiritual meaning; it’s the name of a chinese takeaway! I quite like the idea of some people wondering if there’s a deeper meaning behind a song named after a local chippy! We have discovered since that it’s also the name of a film character.’ ‘Also, ‘What Are You Looking At, Dicknose?!’ (from ‘Tarnation’) is taken from a t-shirt in the film ‘Teen Wolf” states Richardson, in no way ashamed of this rather cheesy link.
Actors and actresses do crop up with alarming regularity. I asked what the influence was. “Simple. I watch shit films. I love ’em! I suggest these things and they just stick.’ ‘There’s a new song we’ve written called ‘Tehachapi’, states Horrocks, “which comes from ‘Critters 2.’ ‘Debbie Rochon, the horror film actress, actually had our track named after her (from second album ‘Ichor! Ichor!’) as the theme on her website for a time!’, affirms Aldred. So are the songs about the people? ‘Largely, no!’ confirms Richardson. “They’re more often than not based on scenarios. The titles are just random suggestions that seem like an idea at the time!” Richardson also has a steadily-growing resumé as a producer. Is word getting around about this string on his bow? I produce anyone who asks! But I’m between premises at present. I’ve had a studio for the last ten years but, at Christmas, I got a call saying it was to be pulled down. So the gear’s in my back room at the moment! ‘He’ll record anything though’, states Horrocks, ‘some bloke across the way chanting Muslim prayers, the Elvis impersonator down the road…anything. But there’s a lot of doom also: The Human Condition, Arkham Witch, Black Magician’...it’s an expanding list which is growing ever-more impressive.
The split is the first product the band have released without the beloved guitarist Beesley. I asked the reason for his departure, and how he’s missed: the response ‘Well, Claire now has to drive!…’ immediately dispels any suspicion of a fallout, and shows the band still love their absent colleague. ‘One of us may have to learn now’…continues Aldred. ‘Basically, he now has family responsibilities, and can’t commit to the band.’ ‘We miss that big grin’ laments Horrocks, ‘and the fact that, when ‘the dictator’ [Richardson] got going in the past, he’d go over and rub himself up against him, which diffused any situations.’ ‘So he had to go!’ declares Richardson in mock-tyrannical fashion. The teasing of Richardson’s status as leader reaffirms how well they get on with each other. Horrocks later opines that this is the most important thing about being in a band, whilst Aldred suggests that not living in each others’ pockets, a mistake that results in so many bands losing members these days, creates the breathing space necessary to reinforce the bond between them.
One of the most unassuming, funny, approachable units I’ve ever met, it’s almost paradoxical that the violent noise Bastard of the Skies creates is so brutal, crater-creating and downright irresistible. With their portion of the new split sounding as vital and powerful as ever, they are surely one of the greatest, coolest outfits around right now. You know what to do…
While the UK may lack the swamps or deserts that inspire our fellow Sabbath-worshipping cousins across the pond, we more than make up for it in grim urban sprawl, which is more than depressing enough to fuel our own fertile sludge scene. So what better time to take a look at a new split release (on Future Noise Recordings) from two homegrown lurking horrors that dwell down in the deep?
First up we have Blackburn trio Bastard of the Skies who have been knocking around for a good eight years or so now. While adhering fairly rigidly to the well-defined sludge template with the plodding, mid-paced rumble-along that is opening track ‘Yarn’, there is a pleasing undercurrent of menace and violence in the riffs and delivery which is just quite nasty sounding, frankly. This is exacerbated by vocalist Matt Richardson’s strained and haggard vocals which appear to have been recorded in some grimy cellar bereft of light and hope. ‘Bao Fu’ continues the trend, adding in a few Sourvein style anti-grooves before the brief curveball of ‘Wounder’ increases the pace. Closing number ‘Old Vessels’ veers into doom territory and makes good use of quiet/loud dynamics before locking into a monstrous groove to finish things off. Lovely stuff.
Erdington trio Grimpen Mire have also been doing the rounds for a similar length of time and their experience on the toilet circuit has clearly paid dividends for they have evolved into a tight and thoroughly abrasive unit with an appreciation for Black Flag at their most unpleasant. ‘The Hollow Wreck’ coils and slithers menacingly like a venomous serpent while ‘Vermin Hive’ does its best to wear the listener down with waves of monolithic misery. Eight minute closer ‘Fragments of Forgotten Craft’ starts slowly but then adopts some Wounded Kings-esque Hammer Horror vibes that go down a treat, ending things in suitably sinister style.
A cracking release that shows just how healthy (or should that be fetid?) the UK sludge scene currently is. Well worth a look.