It’s hard to believe Death Is This Communion is a decade old this year. High on Fire have quite a few great albums in their discography, and while I got into them some time after Blessed Black Wings came out, it was Death Is This Communion that really cemented my…
The early 2000s brought us a wealth of riff-worshipping, bone-quaking goodness – what has essentially become the foundation of many current doom, stoner, and sludge metal acts. Bands like Mastodon, High on Fire, and Baroness expanded upon the standard set by metal’s forefathers with more progressive tendencies, expansive arrangements, fiercer presentation, technically demanding performances, and (presumably) better strains of grass. At the same time (and likely benefitting from the same improved… *ahem* genetics), there was also a bubble of traditionalists like The Sword, Wolfmother, and Saviours who made the case that a more conventional approach was worth revisiting, reinvigorating classic sounds for a new generation of headbangers. It’s from this very specific nexus that Australia’s Hypergiant explode, harkening back to familiar territories on both sides of this early-00s coin.
As a genre, sludge has it tough. As the oft-neglected son of the more well-established sounds of doom metal and hardcore, sludge often seems trapped in relative obscurity compared to other thriving and evolving scenes of the past few decades. Whereas, for example, black metal has consistently expanded its worldwide…
When you try and cage what was never intended to be caged, a primal rage can be brought to the surface. Trapping an animal can lead to the unlocking of something deep inside that lets it know it was never supposed to be kept from its freedom. Though the vicious All Pigs Must Die are free to roam the hellscape of life, it would seems that they’ve found a way to channel this cage induced rage on their latest album, Hostage Animal. Their latest record is the sound equivalent of chewed, worm cage bars, sleeping in the blood on the floor of your cage that’s leaked from your teeth when you’ve gnawed on the metal for too long and being prodded endlessly by those who only seek to harm you.
The allure of extreme music, for most, comes from its roots in counter culture. The hippy-dippy era had no idea what the hell was happening when Iommi picked the first distorted tritone. Fast forward all the way to the present day and a lot of extreme music can be branded and catered to specific groups. Counter culture is consumer culture. Honest extreme music is much more difficult to come by and much more difficult to consume when it finally shows up. It doesn’t get much tougher to swallow than this. Primitive Man are the embodiment of an “acquired taste”; the Denver residents playing doom that most fans of doom can’t even stomach. Consumption of their new full length Caustic is not advisable for anyone of a weak disposition.
Belgium’s Amenra are one of those bands that consistently produces quality material for a comparatively modest but incredibly devoted following. Having been around since 1999, collaborated and toured with a wide array of other acts, and even started their own artistic collective with Oathbreaker, Black Heart Rebellion and others called Church of Ra, Amenra are nothing if not dedicated to their craft. All the better that said craft happens to be a mesmerizing mix of doom, post-metal and hardcore.
Writing a standout doom metal album is a difficult task nowadays. This isn’t due to an overall lack of quality within the genre’s modern progenitors, but because of the antithesis; more and more excellent doom metal albums seem to enter the running for our year ends lists with each passing year. MONARCH! (Monarch from here on out) has never struggled with this endeavor over the course of their 15-year career, particularly when it comes to their recent output with the eminent Profound Lore Records. Yet, while Sabbracadaver was certainly a doom highlight in 2014, Never Forever sees the band returning this year with their most colossal and grandiose album to date, presenting a masterful synthesis of drone metal with doom’s more macabre characteristics. We sat down with the band to discuss the process of writing their latest epic, as well as a handful of other topics related to their past, present and future within the shifting landscape of modern doom.
Loincloth are an interesting group, one that meshes together various elements from realms of metal but keeps a very distinct sound of sludgy, crushing, and almost atonal instrumental metal. Their records sit nice and snuggly on their Southern Lord label, baring resemblance to the general dark ambiance and heavy production that bring together other artists in this territory. Not only do they have their sound up to scratch, but they even get quite progressive within their sound, employing left-field rhythms and grooves that are extremely math-core inspired and really grab you and keep you engaged. This band have so much going for them, and they truly showcase what it means to do a lot with a little. Not to mention I absolutely love that I can put an image to this music of three shirtless, bearded guys in a claustrophobic room, jamming intensely while getting lost in the power of the riff. But yet, while this record is a fun experience at first, there’s some qualities to it that need some workshopping because this release wears pretty thin, pretty fast.
Ufomammut are a strange band. Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat. The Italian trio of metallers moonlight as professional graphic artists in the Malleus art collective, and also have an expansive back catalog of albums that plunder elements of psychedelic, stoner, and sludge-infused doom with reckless abandon. Given this mix of styles, the band are fairly difficult to pigeon hole into any specific subgenre niche in metal. Which is simultaneously both one of the best things about their music and one of the worst aspects of it when trying to explain how they sound in a review. But bravely shall I endure for the cause.
Subtlety isn’t a common approach when it comes to sludge metal, which rather favours blistering, distortion-focused guitars and thunderous drums since the notoriously volcanic heaviness of genre spearheads Electric Wizard and Weedeater. Although in a genre that finds it’s bands in a battle of extremes, seeing who can cause the most damage to the PA system with their amps, the 2010s have seen sludge been taken down a number of different avenues. We have Mastodon using it as a basis to conjure up progressive, multi-layered musical odysseys, Indian using noise experimentation to make it as hellishly freaky as possible, to Bongripper putting an emphasis on the direct riffs in creating a mood through repetition. However, we have Melbourne underground head-turners Sundr, dragging the style even further out to a much less assertive sound, yet a much more ethereal and tension-building experience on their vertiginous sophomore LP, The Canvas Sea.