Where to start with a traditionally British doom band that have plunged headfirst into a dystopian sci-fi future fitting of the artwork they adorn their debut with? Wallowing‘s debut full-length Planet Loss (the band’s first real recording of any merit) jams high-brow concepts of self and humanity’s folly into doom that doesn’t want to fester and doesn’t deserve to be misnomered as stoner or sludge. It’s an 80’s sci-fi comic brought to life by way of distorted speakers and brutalised drum skins, stopping at the local Miners Club for a crust show and leaving with a badly done Judge Death tattoo. Does it stand out in a year full of exciting and captivating doom releases? Sure it does.
Considering Wallowing’s debut is a doom-heavy concept record that is meant to be played as one single track split into different movements, the attention-deficit among us will rejoice that there’s a “single”. Rejoice we shall too, because “Phosgene” delivers with mechanical shovels full of sci-fi shrapnel. The rough production gives the laser gun guitars and absolutely monstrous kick drums the room to punish and torture the listener – a form of torture that the decibel lovers of Thou and Vermin Womb will adore alike. Pick and choose which bands are relatable in this case. It’s highly unlikely any two reviews will use similar comparisons.
“Endless” opens the record in suitably bombastic fashion, though it sucks the air out of the planet with a much more turgid crawl. You could be forgiven for assuming the rest of the record would be a post-metal barrage of wretched vocals and expansive chords, but for the carefully faded bleed into the aforementioned “Phosgene”. The jerky, odd timed riff that jerks around like an android in an all-synthetic orgy really captures the band self-professed love of Rush‘s 2112 without ever really turning into a prog passage. “Phosgene” also has the most obvious example of the masked, screeching vocals. They are almost smothered under the rest of the instrumentation and tertiary sound elements. Now, whether this was a conscious effort or just a happy accident, it really pushes across the idea that the human element of sci-fi is the most captivating, yet not always the most obvious or celebrated part of the story. Just a thought.
The one bummer to be taken from this really fucking loud record is that two of the four real tracks (“Prologue” and “Epilogue”s titles tell you all you need to know) do seem to take a while to find their feet. Both “Hail Creation” and “Vessel” flirt with big, booming riffs that Sabbath would have written in the Twitter age, and the latter even twists into a sort of dry, skramz style guitar break for a while, implementing one of the rawest and purest guitar tones that will make hairs stand on end. They just take ages to get to the goods. Considering each track hangs around the seven and eight-minute mark, the expansive, spacey doom fills the gaps, but if you’re not totally invested it might be easy to drop focus. There are moments that might have a first-time listener reaching for their phone to check in to what new atrocity the planet is facing.
Planet Loss is an ambitious debut jacked full of white-hot noise that could burn holes in the dystopian future it alludes to. Wallowing’s debut shifts easily from passages of oppressive Orwellian doom into studded belt death-punk more fitting of a garish, violent issue of a 2000AD comic; it really nails the blend of genres that the band clearly want to avoid being pigeon-holed into. It’s half-hour run time is a massive benefit, but still drags in parts where it feels like the band hasn’t quite settled on how they want the songs to turn out but, for the most part, you’ll struggle to find a more engaging doom release this year that doesn’t belong one of the bigger labels. Wallowing’s raw, riff-fuelled expression of fear for the coming days is a winner. It’s just a shame there’ll be little left for them to celebrate, the way things are going.