The Ghost Cult album round-up is back in town for your vulgar delectation, with our penultimate selection of 2017 taking you down amongst the silt, with a selection of Sludge, Doom and post-Metal antidotes to any festive cheeriness that may be unsettling your disgusted souls… Continue reading
Sealclubber is an excellent name for a metal band, isn’t it? It brings up all kind of unpleasant images and no doubt scare all the grandmas. Luckily this sludgy quartet from the UK’s West Midlands make music that’s as repellent as the moniker suggests.
Stoical (Medusa Crush) is the Black Country band’s debut; 45 minutes of abrasive sludge, hardcore and general noise. It’s unrelenting, largely unpleasant, and devoid of anything as superfluous as melodies or hooks.
Opener ‘Tales of a Romanian Horse Whisperer’ grinds away at you for nine minutes, a brief solo and near ambient phase around the five-minute mark act as a brief reprieve. ‘Haima’ is a furious barrage with vocalist Simon Blewitt sounding like he’s ready to burst a blood vessel. ‘Catalogue of Failings’ is a lumbering monster that drips with reverb, one point slowing down to the point it almost grinds to a halt.
This kind of chaotic noise is normally best taken in small doses. But rather than lots of short, sharp, punk-like hits, nearly two-thirds of Stoical’s 45-minute runtime is contained within just three songs. That said, each track has its own distinct style, and the two tracks that make up the second half of the album are a surprising juxtaposition to the first. The 8-minutes of ‘Vow of Silence’ oozes eerie atmospheric doom with the odd moment of brutality, while the near 12-minutes of album closer ‘I Only Desire The Things That will Destroy Me’ almost strays into shoegaze territory before kicking into life just before the end.
If you’re looking for a cathartic mass of noise, Stoical is essential listening. Uncompromising, unpleasant, yet managing to avoid being unlistenable (just), Sealclubber have created an album befitting their name. Heavy, yet with a few surprises in the second half.
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.
I presume the name of this Phoenix rumbling machine is pronounced ‘Twin Giant’, rather than being some bizarre moniker for someone who suffers sudden painful episodes [you mean like Twinge-ee-unt? That’d be odd… Phonetics Ed]. A somewhat irrelevant point, you say? Maybe, but none more so than certain passages of its sophomore full-length Devil Down (Medusa Crush).
That said, there’s a neat line in southern-infused stoner here, with luscious, howling lead solos a la Vulgaari‘s Brett Hedtke to boot. Delightfully-named opener ‘Old Hag’ is a languid yet moody beginning, all ‘stoner meets The Doors-in-the-Mojave, the dust getting right into a grainy production which completely suits the feel, some seriously chunky riffs planting the coda deep in the sand. Former Black Hell vocalist Jarrod Leblanc’s whisky-soaked growl rails over the more up tempo ‘Dead to Rights’, which carries something of the bloated stodge associated with the genre but is enlivened by some fascinating lead and rhythm work. Meanwhile, some plundering bass work from Leblanc sets up the ripping ‘Daisy Cutter’, a barrelling pace combining 70s suvvern rawk with the inhospitable wastelands of a desert storm and a moody, howling centrepiece.
So, it’s not to say the album’s terrible, but the main accusation frequently levelled at this sort of stuff is that it too often sounds like an easy Sunday afternoon jam session at your local rock pub; a little lazy, like your lovable Dad with his middle-age spread (hiya Girls), and not a little dated. Despite some swelling riffs and crushing power, those deficiencies appear throughout the aptly-titled ‘Through the Motions’; while the jerky, Allman-infused ‘Under a Blood Moon’, despite occasionally stirring the emotions, threatens to get going yet never really makes it. In a disappointing ending, only a sludgy vocal and the brief explosion of a pounding riff rescue the closing title track from utter tedium.
That said, this does, at times, rip, those driving riffs sounding like a firing engine with groove-laden, trippy leads dancing all over ‘Tiger Lily’. It’s a warm, heavy sound which isn’t for everyone, but evokes welcome memories of days gone by and will certainly get a gasoline party going.