I first saw Croydon bludgers Slabdragger three years ago and, having been completely flattened by their bone-crunching resonance, immediately bought first album Regress (Holy Roar Records). Despite it being good, I subsequently felt they were a band to be witnessed rather than merely heard.That all changes here. Sophomore long-player Rise of the Dawncrusher (Holy Roar Records) is a mammoth, sprawling journey through the black holes of the cosmos, an achievement all the more amazing given the setbacks the band has suffered in recent years. The musical twangs of opener ‘Mercenary Blues’ carry enough portent to warn of the forthcoming walls of forest-levelling sound and, despite the melodic hollers of Yusuf Tary and Jim Threader, the ensuing riff grabs your soul and sticks it in a blender. Stoner-Sludge in tone and feel yet Psychedelic in its warping terror, the difference here is the wonderfully enlivening, Progressive nature of the linking passages: versatile verses with vocal switches between Blackened screams and guttural roars, still underpinned by the cavernous yet occasionally cascading stellar pathway.
Whatever Slabdragger had before, the ability to flick such a heavy pattern through the chords has multiplied their appeal tenfold. With four of the five tracks here easily surpassing the ten-minute mark, the listener is in for the long haul, yet will not for a second feel dragged along. The elongated coda of ‘…Blues’ possesses an electrifying emotion that rips apart the fabric of the template; while the segue into the bulldozing, YOB-tinged ‘Evacuate!’ pulverises the ears and introduces a rampant, occasionally nasty Jazz-infused groove. Severin Black’s drum pattern following the ominous intro of ‘Shrine of Debauchery’ is simple yet potent, hauling Tary’s terrifying bassline in its wake and setting the tone for the claustrophobia of the swelling, pulsating body.
And this is merely halfway in. The album’s last two tracks cover 33 minutes and crush so comprehensively they create a vacuum, riding and bouncing off planets as they travel along. The beauty of this second slab of vinyl is the paradoxical compatibility between its extremes: the implosive power of ‘Dawncrusher Rising’s opening gambit begins so steadily, growing almost unnoticeably to a gravestone-cracking rut whilst remaining compelling, hypnotic, masterful. The monstrous Blues of closer ‘Implosion Rites’, meanwhile, is Cream slowed to a crawl and delivered by Zeus, Poseidon and Hades: the slowed rhythms fulminating and muscular, the harmonised vocals Ozzy-esque yet resplendent, the pedal effects gradually halting the earth’s rotation.
Quite simply, and to retain the mythical analogy, this is Atlas: utterly despondent, pissed off with his fate, and deciding to fling the planets around after a few beers and a reefer. Rise of the Dawncrusher is fucking incredible, an unmissable masterpiece of both its genre and its times.
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