Album Review Round-Up: Sludge Metal

Dues to various life happenings, I was a bit slow off the mark with these, but here are three fairly recent sludge albums that are all worth checking out.

Tides of SulfurParalysis of Reason

It’s grim down south. Or so you’d think, listening to the pessimistic sludge seeping out of South Wales via Tides of Sulfur’s Paralysis of Reason. The trio’s newest release is a five track EP that features the filthiest riffs you’ll find this side of Primitive Man, venomous vocals and an overarching horrific sludge noise. Things commence extremely well with the punky “Worms”, a crusty grind song propelled by the pace of drummer Tom Lee’s thudding kick drum and popping snare. All the while some furious riffing from Anthony O’Shea, and Chris Bull’s gnarly, throat-shredding vocals make this a no-holds-barred introduction to the EP. Select snippets of garish dialogue from Snatch, 44 Inch Chest and Bronson intersect the feedback-drenched and down-right nasty sludge-doom of the humorous/crass second track, and the leaden, unrefined anger continues on “DLMM”. The final and longest track on the EP, “Paralysis of Reason” mixes all of the nihilistic noise that has come before: thick down-tuned riffs from on the edge of feedback guitars, harsh, snarling vocals and a sampled Thatcher speech. Uneasy-listening throughout all five tracks, on Paralysis of Reason Tides of Sulfur juxtapose the pace of crusty grind with the slow and low riffing of sludge and doom to enjoyably ear-splitting effect.

Paralysis of Reason is available now

Tides of Sulfur: facebook | twitter | bandcamp

Inter ArmaSulphur English

Sulphur English is Inter Arma’s follow-up to 2016’s marvelous Paradise Gallows, and it sees the Richmond quintet offer up so much more than just straight up sludge and challenge the genre’s long-standing tropes. Delving deeper into the prog, post-rock and psych sounds and structures that Inter Arma used on previous releases, but maintaining doom, sludge and black metal as touchstones, Sulphur English is a giant evolutionary and exploratory step for this already experimental band. A profound, darkly immersive and epic listen that ebbs and flows throughout its 65 minutes, Sulphur English moves from devastatingly heavy death-doom (“Citadel”) to mournful, bluesy atmospherics (“Stillness”) and back again with aplomb, often within individual tracks. It’s as if nearly every song on Inter Arma’s fourth album is a long-form centerpiece, and the dynamic builds and crushing releases make for an emotionally exhausting/exhilarating play-through.

Sulphur English is available now

Inter Arma: official | facebook | twitter | bandcamp

Lord DyingMysterium Tremendum

Mysterium Tremendum is an album that maybe doesn’t belong in a sludge metal round-up, but given Lord Dying’s previous efforts I’m willing to go with this… A remarkable shift in direction for the Portlanders, Mysterium Tremendum has Lord Dying embrace the roots of 60’s and 70’s prog for a vast and conceptual exploration of death and beyond. That makes it sound a bit pretentious, but it’s really not. Moving out from under the shadow of fellow Portland heavy-hitters Red Fang and the likes of Mastodon and Baroness, the driving force behind Lord Dying, Erik Olson and Chris Evans, have produced an experimental, ponderous and affecting album. Riffs and intricate solos abound, and Lord Dying do occasionally revisit the High On Fire / Mastodon heaviness of their earlier work in brief flourishes but the majority of Mysterium Tremendum is relatively more melodic and ornate. Although not as instantly gratifying as their 2013 debut Summon The Faithless or 2015’s excellent Poisoned Altars, Mysterium Tremendum rewards multiple play-throughs to unlock its full journey.

Mysterium Tremendum is available now

Lord Dying: facebook | twitter | bandcamp

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