Phantom Winter – Sundown Pleasures

I really like the direction the band has gone with this album. Their last record was much more on the heavy sludge side, with some atmo sludge elements, and here they go much more on the atmo sludge side, with very heavy sludge elements. I really enjoy the sort of soaring, climactic approach to a dirty, heavy sludge album. Songs like The Darkest Clan embody this more than anything, giving a sort of grander scale to the album, rather than staying close at home with the heavy sludge riffs. The album just feels larger this way, and the experience is much more unique than if they had just played loud and proud.

Hence why the first track is so inexplicably mediocre. Phantom Winter introduces the album by playing this noisy, chaotic sludge track, that tries to masquerade as atmo sludge. The doesn’t work, and makes the fact that the entire rest of the album doesn’t follow this trend all the more confusing, especially considering the consistent quality of the other 5 tracks. I think all Phantom Winter needs to do is give their 110% for a full album, and maybe up the time to around 45 minutes rather then 40, and they’re be approaching the 9/10 category. Really enjoyed this, some of the best atmo sludge this year.


Sumac – What One Becomes

They’re back and better than ever. Sumac got heavier and added more nuance to their music, creating this mathy sludge monster with a truly unique guitar tone and atmosphere that separates themselves from any other atmo sludge band around. I have to take points off for how much of a massive disappointment Blackout was. Didn’t go anywhere, felt like a long waste of my time, especially compared to how awesome the rest of the tracks were. Other than that, this was a step up from their last effort, which I also loved. Gonna be interesting to see where this band goes, I have a feeling these guys could change the game.


Inter Arma – Paradise Gallows

I really, really love atmospheric sludge metal. Even though I don’t have a massive amount of experience with it, it’s definitely in my top 5 metal genres, maybe top 3 when done well. I also really, really hate post-metal. Now this is a bit of a strange opinion, as the general consensus is that post-metal and atmospheric sludge metal mean essentially the same thing. I would argue however, that they absolutely do not. In my mind, atmospheric sludge metal is something more in the vain of Neurosis. Sludge metal that uses atmosphere and older post-rock elements to create massive, momentous atmospheres, and often utilize other genres while still keeping very much in the realm of sludge metal. Post-metal on the other hand, is essentially just really heavy 3rd wave post-rock. Now, despite my distaste for one and like for the other, this is not to say that all atmospheric sludge metal acts are amazing, and all post-metal acts are steaming piles of cat vomit and old condoms, mixed together with the same 3 types of chord progressions over and over again. However I will say that when a band really takes what atmospheric sludge metal means to me at heart, it’s something I can greatly appreciate.

I love creative music, music that pushes boundaries. I also like metal, which is only known for being very creative in a more modern sense. Most of the old out there bands did that by a bit of an accident (or so it seemed that way much of the time). When they did, they became cult classics (i.e, Written in Waters, Nespithe, Drawing Down the Moon, etc.). Inter Arma is a modern band, with a modern sense of how atmospheric sludge metal should work, however they maintain that bit of creativity and stay at least somewhat true to the foundations that Neurosis laid upon the world. In such they create an epic adventure of an album, filled with variety in emotional expression, and one that I certainly won’t forget any time soon.

That being said, I do feel like the album doesn’t really “start” until track 4. The intro is pretty much an afterthought, and to me seems honestly a bit pointless, especially since it doesn’t have much in common with the rest of the album. Tracks 2 and 3 are basically the same track, stated in slightly different ways. That’s not to say they’re bad, quite the opposite. The first introduction you get to the album are these brutal, sludgy atmospheres, which are done well here. However I can hear that on any old album. Lots of bands do really awesome, super heavy, doomy sludge metal, even atmo sludge bands. What makes this album special is what comes after.

Primordial Wound takes a new angle, moving away from sludge and into straight up doom metal. It’s a hypnotic, almost ritual like track, which is backed up by the distant, ancient sounding ritual vocals, almost like some kind of Gregorian chant. This is the first demonstration of how Inter Arma can change styles from track to track without sounding schizophrenic. And they prove me correct in the next two tracks which I think are the highlights of the album.

The Summer Drones and Potomac are the two shortest tracks on the album sans the intro, but both are the biggest statements that Paradise Gallows makes. Summer Drones is structured almost like a modern Swans track, starting off with some low-key, yet ominous bass riff that evolves into these soaring, driving guitars that keep droning their riffs louder and louder until you can’t take it anymore. Then they keep going anyway. It climaxes in a way that doesn’t give a resolution, so it feels like you just took at that pounding for no reason, and yet despite feeling no sanctification, you enjoyed every moment of it. There’s a sexual joke in there somewhere, but I feel like there’s no way I could make without sounding overly explicit, even for me. Use your imagination. Anyway, it segues into Potomac, which, in a bizarre yet not unwelcome turn of events, is this epic, heavy metal-esque ballad that puts the entire album on it’s head. God fucking damn, that main riff is going to be stuck in my head for a while, that’s legendary shit right there. If you were tasked with creating the most epic and memorable sludge metal track possible, you would be hard pressed to do better than this. I feel like it’s the best track on the album, which is no disrespect to the rest of the tracks (except maybe the intro). This just feels like something I haven’t heard much before, if ever. You don’t typically hear riffs that sound like they came from if Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was released in 2010 in a sludge metal album. And now that I heard it, I fucking want more, which sucks, because there’s no way to google “heavy metal riffs in sludge metal albums” and find good results. I tried, fucking Godflesh came up. It kinda sucks now, because this band has set a president of shit I want that I can never find by any other way than sheer luck.

And by sheer luck (or stupidity, probably stupidity) Potomac managed to end the worst possible fashion possible. It’s a fucking fade out. Like what the mother fuck? I was actually thinking to myself “you know, if this does anything but fade out, this is gonna be one of my tracks of the year”, AND IT FUCKING FADES OUT LIKE ARE YOU SHITTING ME? This is literally KD going to the Warriors, nigga chose the one solution out of every conceivable solution that no one wanted, how do you fuck up that bad? KD could’ve literally hung up his cleats and joined the Westboro Baptist Church and everyone would’ve been like “ok KD, you do you man, you do you”. But no, he wanted to be the evil empire. This is the evil empire of track endings. Ok yeah, maybe as an album closer that would’ve been ok, but fuck there’s still 3 more tracks to go, jesus. If there is one actual fault of this album, it’s the transitions. The track transitions are in these awkward states where they flow from one to the other, but not directly. So like one track will end, then fade out slightly and there new track will begin. It makes it seem like the tracks are trying to be related to each other, but they really aren’t in any way. It’s not really terrible, just really awkward.

The final 3 tracks aren’t quite as good as the two middle ones, but still of high quality, as expected. The title track continues on the theme of Potomac, while giving it a much more sludgy vibe, and trading epic solo material with more questioning, and sometimes even a bit bluesy sludge riffs. It leads right into Violent Constellations, which as the title implies, is pretty fucking violent. It harkens back much towards the earlier tracks, however nothing is held back as it acts as a rhythmic assault on the ears. This track is also where the black metal influences are the most pronounced, in both guitar tone and blast beats. I feel like the black metal aspects are played up a bit too much by other people, but I will agree that they are there. It’s probably a good thing they aren’t a played up, I feel like there’s just enough to keep things spicy without detracting from the fact that this is a sludge album. Kinda like a cherry on top, except people would actually eat it. If someone actually eats the cherry on top, don’t trust them, that’s the kind of dude who’s going to say yes to absolutely everything and his computer will crash because he clicked on too many popups that said “CONGRATULATIONS, YOU WON!!!!” and “WHY THE FUCK WOULD YOU PAY FOR DICK PILLS??!!”. As a closer, I feel like it would’ve been fine, definitely better than what actually closed the album.

In a way, aside from the intro and outro, the album kind of goes full circle. Starts off raw, gets more progressive towards the middle, then ends really raw. I would’ve like that as a possible intentional detail if tracks 2-8 had been the whole album. Unfortunately this is not the case. The final track, Where the Earth Meets the Sky, is essentially a whimper, focusing on acoustic (this actually said “autistic” for like 10 minutes until I realized what I wrote, wow) guitar and the promise of an epic secret track. Full disclosure: I fucking HATE secret tracks. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate them. There has never been a good secret track in the history of music. They’re supposed to be rewards for those who stayed around after the credits so to speak, and instead act as ways to mock the listener, saying “Haha holy shit, you actually just sat through 20 minutes of silence for this? What a fucking loser! What would your mom think of you if she saw you now? Hey, let’s take his lunch money…” etc. This album is no different. After 5:30 of actual music, you get 20 minutes of silence until your finally greeted with basically that shit you get that takes like 20 minutes to actually get out of your asshole, and then when it is it’s like the size of a quarter. You’re massively disappointed and you feel like nature itself just conspired to rip you the fuck off.

That said, aside from the transitions between tracks, none of the negative things I said about this album are really faults, just disappointments that prevented it from being better than it already was. I can shit talk that fade all I want, but let’s be real, it’s a fade that literally lasted like 10 seconds of the 70 minute album. As whole, this is absolutely my sludge metal AOTY so far, and I’m really curious to see what tops this, both in terms of heaviness, and sheer creativity in atmosphere.


Cobalt – Slow Forever

You know like when you’re about to hook up with a nice 8/10 chick at a party? And like she’s not a super model but she has all the parts of someone you can get with. And then you get a bit frisky, you’re about to go at it, and then like you can’t get it up. Like there’s this beautiful chick in front of you, all naked, which should make your dick fucking cement. But nothing happens. For some reason, you can’t get it up. That’s this album to me. I love Neurosis-style hard atmo sludge, and I love black metal. So you would think this thing would be a slam dunk for me, right? Well no, not really. Throughout the whole 80 minute endeavor I felt like there was a distinct lack of variety, the only break coming with Breathe, a 2 minute, folkish acoustic guitar track, which I felt this album needed much more of. Besides CD 1 being mostly atmo sludge and CD 2 being mostly black metal (though both CDs have elements of both), I thought that there just wasn’t enough creative content other than “muh atmosphere and hardness” to justify a full album’s worth of music, let alone basically 2. It’s perfectly nice to listen to, but nothing so supremely great that I need to fuck this album right now. I really wanted to like this record a lot, but I ultimately couldn’t get more than a half-chub out of it.


Bloodiest – Bloodiest ALBUM REVIEW

These driving rhythms are amazing. It feels like each track is constantly moving forward towards the climax, and then continuing onward into infinity. It feels almost tribal, like each track that isn’t an interlude is a ritual that you’re hearing be completed. And how about those vocals? God damn these vocals are absolutely perfect. Partially strained cleans that continue to rise into high intensity screams as the climax beings. Bloodiest has Neurosis levels of buildup and climax in their tracks. Meaning they’re one of the few bands in their genre to actually know what the fuck they’re doing. There are no cheesy chord progressions, the buildup is built on dynamics (not just playing louder), rhythm, and overall intensity. The tracks have progression in them. It feels like there’s a beginning, middle, and end, despite being continually on the rise until the final climax. Is the piano maybe a tad over the top? A little, yes, but it doesn’t hurt it at all. Honestly, this is one of the best atmo sludge albums I’ve heard in a long time…

Until I realized that once I heard the first track, I’d heard the entire album. Never have I been more disappointed with a lack of variety in an album than this. Because god dammit, the actual musical formula is brilliant, and makes for a perfect atmo sludge record, like literally what I would dream a perfect record of that genre to be like. But very rarely can you make an album that is essentially all in the same key work, and rarely is an album with a severe lack of tonal variety going to get the best marks from me.

Bloodiest is fantastic at what it does, but unfortunately you can only repeat perfection so many times until it’s no longer perfect anymore.


Anfinnsaas – Anfinnsaas ALBUM REVIEW

This is probably the single hardest album I’ve ever had to rate. I could put this anywhere from 7/10 – 10/10. My gut instinct tells me this is the album of the year, but another side says this is just pretty good. Going over what this album actually is, Anfinnsaas has created an atonal riff-based atmo sludge record with lots of djent influences in it and one of the worst/best production jobs I’ve ever heard. It’s like if Gorguts formed an atmo sludge band in their garage. Aside from that analogy it’s hard to really describe what kind of music this is. As you can see by my tags, this is really all over the place in terms of style. It’s one of those things you need to hear in order to really understand.

To attempt to start off this review, the most obvious aspect of this album that’s easy for anyone to hear is that the production job is a piece of trash. Straight up probably the worst production job I’ve heard this year. As I stated earlier, it sounds like someone recorded this in their garage, and considering this band is composed of just two guys from Norway, they probably did. However in it’s atrociousness, there is beauty. I imagine that these are two teenage musical savants, crafting a work of genius with just two instruments and the cheapest equipment they could barely afford with their allowance. It adds a sense of mystique to the whole atmosphere.

And that atmosphere is one of confusion. This record is extremely melodic and riff based while being almost entirely atonal. I almost wanted to label this progressive metal, because there is a clear sense of progression and method to the seeming madness of this record. It feels disorienting, yet awes inspiring. It’s like being transported to a different dimension, where everything is not what it seems and Jeff Dunham is funny. This is the kind of record I’d want to put on to meet god. However in this scenario, when you meet god he stays silent, instead spilling his knowledge unto you in a form of twisted illusions you don’t understand, rather than words.

It’s truly surreal, and that’s entirely done by two main elements of this album. One is as I mentioned before, the dissonance. Heavy use of dissonance creates the disorienting feel that Anfinnsaas creates. The other which I haven’t mentioned, is the heavy use of poly-rhythm. This goes into the whole djent aspect. There is a lot of off rhythm beats and use of multiple beats at the same time, which creates the sense of ominous godly presences, and being as if you’re in another world. That also continues the aspect of young geniuses, as this drummer can really smack those lids. This is seriously some of the best drumming I’ve heard in a long time, which isn’t something typically focused on in metal albums.

I feel that if the album had a more impactful climax this would’ve maybe been the album of the year. While there is something quirky and unique about being made with two instruments, I feel like it also heavily limits how hard this album can hit, which is important in atmo sludge. And again, the production job both giveth, and the production job taketh away. While it does go with a unique lo-fi aesthetic, it’s still almost Pure Fucking Armageddon tier, which is seldom ever good, even when intentional for effect. Despite that, this is one of the most unique listening experiences you’ll ever have, and I encourage anyone looking for something new, or just want a good fucking album to check this out. Definitely one of my top albums of the year.


Phantom Winter – Cvlt ALBUM REVIEW

Slow, dark, punishing, heavy. That’s pretty much all I need to sum up this album, but I’ll type more because I like reading my own words. The atmosphere is like a dark wall of sound and punishment. The album is a little long, but nonetheless there is just enough variety and tension building that it’s ok to listen to. There is however one little problem. For the first time, I feel like I listened to an album that was a generic epic atmo-sludge album. I didn’t even know epic atmo-sludge was a trope, but it feels like this album fits the bill of it. The sweeping fuzz drones of the guitar, the tension building, the vocals that seem more like just yelling than actually singing. It’s good music and all, but I feel like I’ve heard this before. The spoken word samples also completely detract from the atmosphere of the album, and seem a bit cheesy. So yeah, this is a good album, but at it’s core it’s really nothing special, just good atmo sludge. Nothing wrong with that obviously, just not something I say a lot, and not something that’s going to get an amazing score.