Here comes Part II (read Part I here) of the Swamp Monsters run where sludge, doom and drone gets judged by an avid listener. This lot however is a lot more varied than the one before…
BITCHO – Toybox
Bitcho is a Dutch 6-man band and Toybox is their debut album. Bluntly put, that is as much information that scouring the web will allow you, which probably only adds to the dark nature of their music. Toybox, a four-track album that runs at a total of 79-minutes, is without a doubt thee darkest release of this segment so far.
Why? During the first few minutes of “Lost Me There?”, a sample is used and the whole nature of it is pure shock and awe… and successfully left me with my jaw hanging wondering if I really did hear what was said.
The sample is a cold explanation by a man to a woman during a kidnap situation. He, calmly and almost casually, tells the victim of the torture, drugging and raping that is to ensue in her captive situation, and that she “won’t remember” any of it. The sample is split up into short, echoed injections that feel like punches to the throat each time, all the while static feedback plays underneath – and so feels more like a noise track than that of a doom one.
However the band comes in once the sample ends in a muddy mess of screams, bass, distortion and drums – it’s more than just ‘dark’, it’s like a doom Peter Sotos project, making you feel unbelievably uncomfortable. The remainder of the track is a simple doom jam, which is overkill with a run-time of 23-minutes, but the intro still haunts you.
Third track “Expectations” is a bit more straightforward, slugging along with a heavy bass, slow-yet-constant use of cymbals and low-mixed yells. The band seem to have more of a direction or aim here and are just downright more captive with their groove – that is until a questionable use of a high-frequency beep that appears relentlessly through the majority of the song, and simply distracts you from any progression of the instrumentation. Bluntly put, it is just downright annoying.
However, it is understandable why these guys have seen the success that they have had with sales from Toybox. It’s a leering monster filled with thoughts of cruel murder and torture, so it can be pretty exhausting with its intensity.
If you enjoy Gnaw Their Tongues during his more ‘ambient’ tracks, and partial to some Neurosis as well, then you’ll probably love Bitcho, who are equally as horrifying as the former with their combination of doom metal and noise.
Old Man Lizard – Beelzebeer Blues
Old Man Lizard is a three-piece that hails from Suffolk, England and describe themselves as “Stoner-noir/Country-sludge”, which is a better and more accurate than anything I could come up with. “Beelzebeer Blues” is a track due to appear on a forthcoming release and the band is made up by Jack Newnham on vocals and guitar, Gav Senior on bass and Dan Beales on drums.
The first thing that hits you about the “Beelzebeer Blues” is that Old Man Lizard may have been fans of Swansea’s Taint, or just so happen to sound very similar to them, either way, a great first impression. Old Man Lizard however have a far more stoner/psychedelic leaning in their sound which becomes abundantly clear with the bass that sounds like something you might expect from Weedeater, but a whole lot cleaner and not so ‘sludgey’.
Jack Newnham’s vocals are especially grabbing, keeping a rough but clear style, enough that the lyrics audible, which is great with frustrated lines like “I’d like to give you a piece of my mind / But I’m so tired, I’m so tired”. Plus, Beales’ creative drumming just fits so nicely in the mix and stands out on its own. Simply put, the whole band all stands out, and no single instrument is shadowing the others, all equally as impressive and exciting.
Basically, if you like your stoner/progressive rock with a jamming feel (accompanied with a few cans of beer), then the coming Old Man Lizard release is definitely something to keep an ear out for.
Telepathy – Lucretius
This time we have instrumental sludge/post-metal, and Telepathy is a four-piece riff machine from Colchester. “Lucretius” is a lone single, and hell, what a treat it is!
The track opens with muffled yet shining guitars before they burst into full distortion and a hammering riff – from here on in, the band changes direction constantly: quiet, loud, heavy, soft, low, high, slow, fast(er). The math rock influence is clear in terms of the song structure and especially the movement at 2:10 with its cheeky tweedling guitars, which reminds you heavily of And So I Watch You From Afar.
Then the band just drops into a heavy sludgey groove – something that you would definitely expect from Pelican. The heaviest moment (personally) comes at 4.58, as the guitars and drums that bludgeon like a jackhammer on your head – it’s actually a shame that it doesn’t carry on longer than it does, because it easily could do so while keeping the listener’s attention.
That aside, the overall sound of the track is just real nice and Telepathy clearly know what they’re going for with their mix of huge soundscapes and hard-hitting riffs, and while influences may be very obvious, they have enough of their own flavour to make their approach unique. Definitely for fans who like their sludge with a strong post-metal/rock influence.
Meadows – Meadows EP
Meadows are a sludge monster that currently thrives in Suffolk and the four-headed beast is made up by George Newnham, Chris Moore and Charlie Kilshaw on guitars and Jack Newnham on drums – so it seems that sludge music runs in the Newnham family blood.
This time around, you can expect this brand of doom-sludge to feature some heavy crust punk influences as backbreaking speed comes into play just as much as filth-ridden tones.
The first track, “The Head Of Henry Grey”, pummels you at full steam with its dirty crust-meets-sludge sound – imagine His Hero Is Gone but even thicker and muddier. The lo-fi recording of the (often group) vocals only adds to the intensity of the down-tuned fury of the track as the drums drag along with a monolithic sound.
“Earthborn (10,000BC)” continues along the path but steers nearer a pure sludge sound, keeping at mid-pace for the majority of the track, resonating a much darker, nihilistic feeling than the previous track’s pure rage. The group vocals in particular add almost a feeling of hearing voices from different levels of hell – some coarser, some higher, some pained, some frustrated.
“Plough” is a riffatron that doesn’t hold back and somehow pulls off a majestic sound with certain riffs that appear through the track, while the drums are just bone-crushing and furious at times. They experiment with both the fast and sludgier phases, almost switching between the spirits of High On Fire and Harvey Milk. The last track, “We Are The Last” is just a gruelling beatdown and is the musical equivalent to a bloody fight in an alleyway that will only leave one person standing.
Meadows are fucking furious to say the least. Their take on crust-influenced sludge is refreshing and filthy… could they revered name with other genre mergers Dystopia and His Hero Is Gone? This EP proves a possibility.