Unearthing The Metal Underground: The Sludge Metal Scene
There’s a whole lotta metal out there, spanning dozens to possibly hundreds of sub-genres, and it can be difficult to find new music to match your tastes if you don’t know where to start looking. Every Monday we unearth three lesser known or unsigned metal bands within specific genres or geographical areas that deserve to be heard by a bigger audience.
With metal’s roots firmly rooted in thrash, and with styles like power metal dominating a big portion of the playing field, heavy music is generally thought of as something fast and furious played while lightning fast fingers work up and down the fretboard. While this is often the case, there’s a large section of metal that likes to take a nice leisurely stroll down aural destruction avenue.
Today we’ll put the spotlight on three acts that have a seriously sludgy component to their music. Sludge, stoner, doom, drone: these genre tags and more all get lumped together and frequently intersect at varying points, so there may be some crossover and any given listener may decide these bands are more one than the other. My only qualification here is that they utterly annihilate musically, usually in slow motion and with a fair share of drawn out notes, like a low speed avalanche of crushing molten metal.
This California act is a bit of a dream for fans of sludge or funeral doom. Formerly called Bewilderbiest before dropping a proper release, Bereft is still very much an unknown in the overall metal scene, even though it features names that will be familiar to fans of extreme metal, including Derek Rydquist (The Faceless) and Charles Elliot (Abysmal Dawn). Moving away from their normal modes of operation, these musicians are producing a more primal, less technical form of extreme metal that’s a disturbing look into the hate and despair humanity is capable of feeling.
Bereft has now released debut album “Leichenhaus” (reviewed here), and while tracks from the release are unfortunately sparse online, there are a few ways to check out the music. A live performance video of two songs off the album can be heard below, or you can check out the full album version of “Withered Efflorescence” via Facebook. Noisecreep is also currently hosting a stream of the track “Ethereal Dispersal” at this location.
A total unknown I accidently stumbled upon on Facebook that is just beginning to see coverage across the metal community, Minneapolis act Earthrise has a surprisingly high quality release in the form of the new “Eras Lost” album. It has the reverb and slower moving aspects of sludge, but weaves in a post-metal sound flirting with avant-garde concepts that keeps the music fresh and original.
The vocals are also a plus, sounding almost like a death metal version of distinctive extreme metal icon Ihsahn. If you don’t mind a little melody and experimentation in your sludge, check out the full “Eras Lost” album through the bandcamp player below, or keep up with the band over at Facebook.
Black Shape of Nexus
Germany’s Black Shape of Nexus works the extended song lengths (six minutes is the lower end, with 10 – 20 minutes on the upper) to bludgeon, eviscerate, and blow up its audience as long and frequently as possible. The band’s third album “Negative Black” was just released, and it’s as incomprehensible as the bizarre song titles and artwork would indicate. While there are long instrumental segments where the guitars and drums do the pulverizing, metalheads who need extreme vocals to complete the package won’t be disappointed.
Personally the non-stop guitar feedback schtick normally annoys me when it drags on too long, but the six minute opening track “Illinois” weaves it into the music in an interesting and engaging way that’s hard to stop listening to – even when it becomes painful. Like all metal it’s punishing, but in this case it actively tries to hurt the listener’s ears.
You can check out two songs from “Negative Black” in the clips below, or hear the full thing over at The Obelisk.
What did you think of these picks, and which sludgy metal bands have been destroying your ear drums lately? These are only three of the many groups in this style out there, and obviously there are loads more quality acts in the sludge scene, so feel free to share your suggestions below. Check back in again next Monday as we continue to explore more of the metal underground.
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