Sometimes, you need a record that is no-nonsense. You don’t always need a huge prog rock record packed to the gills with flowery guitar work and instruments you’ve never heard of. Sometimes you just need a record that’s straightforward pure rock fury. You need a record that’s just aggression given form. You want a record with balls? Rongeur has got you covered.
The Norwegian trio plays a very aggressive brand of sludge metal. They really bring it back to its hardcore punk roots, focusing more on attitude and emotion than pure musicality. This record ain’t 2112. Not that it’s bad songwriting at all; it’s simply accomplishing a different goal of pummeling your brain with distorted guitars and shouted vocals. And it does that well.
Rongeur also dabbles frequently in experimenting with the sound. Just because they prefer to play it straight doesn’t mean they can’t be loose with it. There are elements of groove to what they do that can drive a great beat and rhythm to their songs. Imagine how the drums in a lot of High on Fire songs can really drive their rhythms and you wouldn’t be too far off. Of course, Rongeur’s riffing is little more subdued than Matt Pike’s. They take a more punk aesthetic to their riffs opting for chugging power chords instead of acrobatic picking.
Even then, however, limiting this band to some specific subgenre would be incorrect as they strive to embrace many different things in their songs. “Wellpisser” shows the trio beginning with a nearly symphonic play on keyboards with some simple guitar riffs a cut above power chords. This more musically-complicated section returns for an instrumental interlude including a guitar solo and plays with harmonies. It’s the most interesting song on the record and really shows that Rongeur isn’t a one trick pony.
Still, Rongeur is at their best when they pump out raw aggression. The first track, “Weltschmerz,” really kicks everything off right. Aggressively blasted power chords immediately hit you with the additional punch of blasted bass and crashing cymbals. Vocals come in with an intensity that’s truly difficult to match in other bands. It’s a raw anger-filled shout. These vocals would feel right at home in a political rally: the sound of vitriolic rage directed at a target. Whenever you need something to rile you up and kick you in the seat of the pants, “Weltschmerz” could definitely scratch that itch.
Here’s the thing about Rongeur: they are a pretty straightforward band that is more than capable of dabbling in some flowery musicianship. Not that that is a bad thing at all. If you’re good at something, then you should do that thing. Rongeur is at its best when they’re pumping out raw emotion. Screaming bloody murder is a unique entry on a band’s resume, so you should stick with it if you’re good at it. However, that’s not to say they shouldn’t continue the dalliances with more complex songwriting. The sections where they stray from sludge are excellent segues on this record. We should all look forward to what Rongeur does. Despite the bleak nature of the group, there’s a bright future ahead for them.
An Asphyxiating Embrace is available now via Poacher Records and can be purchased via the above Bandcamp link.