Oscar Wilde believed that life imitates art far more than art imitates life, but like most great art, music is at its most affecting when it draws from personal turmoil and the internal struggles we experience daily. Life is pain etc.
My first impression of Body Void’s debut LP, Ruins (Crown & Throne / Dry Cough) was that this album is both painful and punishing to get through. But in the very best way. Continue reading
If Undersmile’s snail-like tempo is too slow for you, stop now. On debut album Unavailing (Dry Cough), Nottingham duo Bismuth coats that pace in a warm yet evil fuzz, every chord bringing the world crashing down around your ears with a weight similar to a Sea Bastard riff.
What the listener will find here is that the ingredients and tension build ever so gradually until the willing victim is uncomfortably writhing in their seat. Opener ‘Tethys’ does all of this yet closes with a delicate, lamenting final movement: extremely reminiscent of the aforementioned Undersmile, but with Tanya Byrne’s smooth harmonies more in tune with Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrell.
A sparingly picked, torturously slow acoustic riff leads the ensuing ‘Of the Weak Willed’, and for the first half of this sixteen-minute epic that’s really all that happens. Then comes the slightest change, a crawling increase in volume; and the hushed, singular drumbeat of Joe Rawlings that’s been whispering in the background for some time, alongside a mournful intonation, is suddenly very noticeable. Here is the magic of this hidden gem of a band: by the track’s three-quarter point, where the crushing mass and Byrne’s guttural screams are seamlessly and almost surreptitiously reintroduced, the increase in pressure has been so smoothly executed that it’s been with you like an old friend by the time you realise it’s there.
Following sinister, solitary drumbeats, the odd, sporadic bass notes of ‘The Holocene Extinction’ begin that building process all over again into a crawling, horrific echo: the riff city-levelling, the rasping howls a seduction into Hell. Closer ‘Solitude and Emptiness’ is the oddity of the set: its hypnotic beats and oscillating, pulverising pummel being of a slightly faster ilk and disembowelling from the off, the second period’s return to a slower template still crushing yet evoking the spirit of the track’s title.
Silence is often a great thing and, for us Low-end freaks, it’s an essential part of the listening experience. It augments this delightfully horrific album, another cracker from the Dry Cough stable and an exercise in creative perfection. Rest assured it will warm the cockles of those who love their riffs to be colossal and their aural terror to be slooooowww…
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.
Sea Bastard, Brighton’s kings of monstrous doom, have made a huge impression in 2014 with their sophomore full-length Scabrous (Mosh Tuneage / Dry Cough), and here they set out to reinforce their place in the murky backwaters of the psyche with the more than able assistance of Californian duo Keeper.
There’s a track each on this nefarious ‘split’, issued by Dry Cough in Europe and soon by Medusa Crush in the US and both are of the nastiest, most monumental evil imaginable, running to 35 minutes in total. Keeper’s contribution, ‘777’, is a mere bagatelle at fourteen minutes, but is the kind of blackened doom immediately evoking comparison with Indian and Lord Mantis,Penny Keats‘ hateful scream coating claustrophobic atmospheres and rhythms veering from sparing and slow to an oppressive swell. The pace of the verse structure is torturous, dictated by tolling riffs and Keats’ resonant percussion, really allowing the harrowing horror to wind freely around the gut. It’s gloriously uncomfortable and twitch-inducing, with the squalling lead feedback of the last few moments utterly nerve-shredding.
The ‘Bastard’s twenty-minute stroll through the swamps, ‘Astral Rebirth’, is a lumbering, jurassic behemoth stalking its prey. The intake of breath prior to Ian ‘Monty’ Montgomery‘s vocal commencement is as effective and portentous as the ensuing delivery, a murderously deep and slow growl which suits Oli Irongiant’s funereal riffs, Steve Patton’s bass prowl and George Leaver‘s fearful, summoning drums. The central riff section is about as downturned as it’s possible to get, with a wailing lead undercurrent, and when that voice kicks back in to introduce a tribal quickening it is both brutal and terrifying – that lead showing brief periods of frenetic explosion which add to the slow, chopping destruction in the latter stages.
There’s a controlled brutality here, heavier yet just as ominous, this is from a dark place which no soul should inhabit but thank God for us listeners they do. Nod majestically at the front, ye worshippers, this is a mighty, frightening split highlighting the best aspects of two bands whose diseased outlook is matched by their deliberate, tolling power.