Genres can be a contentious thing for music fans in general, and metal heads in specific. Some people are incredibly exacting with their labels and definitions, while others, like my mother, just label it all “Devil Music.” On the spectrum of labeling preciseness going from “Blackened Melodic Pirate Mathcore” to “Lucifer’s Lyrics” I end up somewhere in between.
I appreciate honing in on what the essence of a band or album is, but these days, it seems like it’s getting increasingly hard to pin things down along strict genre lines. One of my favorite line-straddling genres, is the grimy, muck-filled morass that is sludge. So sit back, slip on those headphones and enjoy four sludge albums from Bandcamp.
1. Rat King: Barren
Clocking in at around 22 minutes, spread across three tracks, Rat King’s Barren may be terse, but it doesn’t lack in power and impact. The opening and title track, “Barren,” starts low and slow, building an oppressive atmosphere before unleashing a cacophony of drums and crunch-riddled guitar. From “Barren,” the album proceeds through “A Passing Thought on a Starry Night“ and “Desert.” All three songs have a slightly different feel to them, with “Passing Thought…” reminding me of 90’s grunge and “Desert” keeping my head nodding with a slow groove.
Favorite Track: “Barren”
I cannot overstate how much I love strong drums, especially when they are put front and center in the beginning of a song. The first 30 seconds or so are key for me, and “Barren” delivers.
2. Black Tundra: Black Tundra
Black Tundra is a fitting name for this album and band. The first track leads you into a cold, foreboding sonic wasteland, not with a smile and hand to hold, rather a scream and kick in the ass. This album seethes aggression from each track and nowhere is it more evident than the riffs and the vocals. But this isn’t a Pantera-esque, “I’m-going-to-smash-your-face” type of aggression. It is more measured, like the difference between a firecracker and a sparkler. Along with that vibe, however, are contemplative interludes, giving the listener a moment to catch their breath. Though this album was tagged with sludge, the songs run the gamut, one with leanings toward black metal and another
Favorite Track: “Circling the Dead”
This was a tough choice for me, between this song and the first song on the album, “Before The Fall.” But in the end, as always, I gotta go where the drums take me.
3. Lizzard Wizzard: TOTAL WAR POWER BASTARD
TWPB is one of the fuzzier entries into this list, in guitar tone and genre placement. They list themselves as “stoner doom” but there is an almighty amount of sludgy-ness to this album. The doom definitely does come through in the slow, plodding pace that songs like “DADFATHER” take. Just like good barbeque, sometimes metal is more delicious when prepared low and slow.
Favorite Track: “SNAKE ARROW” and “MEDUSA BUT SHE GETS YOU STONED INSTEAD OF TURNING YOU TO STONE INSTEAD OF SNAKES SHE HAS VAPORIZERS ON HIS HEAD…DRUGS”
Sit down everyone, I can already hear the rumblings of your discontent.
*But, Justin, that’s two tracks…can you even math?*
I can math…most days. I’m counting the two of these songs as one, because when listened to back to back, “SNAKE ARROW” becomes a seven minute lead-in to “MEDUSA.” These two songs build and build in intensity, finally unleashing a torrent of sound a little over the two minute mark of “MEDUSA.”
4. Sludge Bucket: Sludge Bucket
This is the second band on the list that hails from Australia, and by no means were they the only ones I found. At least three or four other bands that didn’t make the list were from Australia. There most be something about an entire ecosystem attempting to murder you at every turn that makes for good metal.
This album is raw and dirty, and I love it. Although not in the same “genre,” Sludge Bucket reminds me a lot of old Entombed, with the tuning of Sludge Bucket’s guitars and a hint of Entombed’s “Death ‘n Roll” aesthetic.
Favorite Track: “Skeleton Man”
Quick, dirty and to the point, “Skeleton Man” is the track that gives me the most Entombed vibes, which in my book is a good thing.
Each album was a blast to listen to. I really had a lot of fun with this one, especially since I found a number of bands that demand further listening, but didn’t fit into the theme of this list.
My bar none, absolute favorite this time around is Barren. Although the album was the shortest on the list, it made the biggest impact on me, and I cannot understate my love for heavy drums that are up front and in your face.
So much sludge and so little time…