Thursday, May 19, 2011

Below - "St. Anthony's Fire" (2011) [Karmic Swamp]

DOOM is at least a 40 letter word.

Most of you should know of Kentucky doom giants Seidr by now; they've gotten reviews all over the internet, attention from Crustcake and Stereogum, and, of course, a pretty substantial full-length release from up-and-coming US label Flenser Records. While all these sites are hyping the fact that Seidr is in fact a Panopticon-related project, which is a good selling point, we see them neglecting the rest of the band's musical repertoire. Little do we hear about guitarist Crow's work with his avant-drone project Wheels Within Wheels, nor, to get on topic, bassist A. Nicholson's 3-piece sludge/doom band Below. Perhaps it is time to shed some light on this pretty awesome, heavy-as-the-fucking-sun project.

I've noticed a recent trend that what is now known as "sludge" has been split into two categories: the happy-go-lucky, bottom-heavy, "funtime" bands like Baroness, Black Tusk or old Mastodon, or the post-rocky, Neurosis/ISIS worship bands about which I ranted in my recent 413 review. Now, I ask you, what happened to the actual sludge bands? With everyone too busy creating textures or sounding more like a detuned "party metal" band, people really have forgotten about the greats. Does this new generation of "sludgesters" know about Grief, Corrupted, or Buried at Sea? The music might be good, but, dammit, I need some mind-numbingly thick and heavy DOOM every once in a while!

Luckily, Below provides a pretty hefty supply of drugged-out cojones with their recent release, "St. Anthony's Fire"; enough to make up for any that might have been lost in recent years. Stretched out over four extra-long tracks, "St. Anthony's Fire" is an exercise in balance, moving between super-heavy, slow-as-chilled-molasses doom and spacey, 70s-tinged psychedelia. Everything about this album just screams power, from the menacingly sharp guitars and heavy-handed drums to the deep, roaring vocals. Even the atmospheric, psychedelic sections, like in the 14-minute closer "Khnum-Khufu," retain the muscular strength seen in the heavy, straightforward sludge parts. Clear your schedule for this one, for it demands your full, undivided attention; I had to set down my copy of Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy because I couldn't stop concentrating on the music happening all around me.

Although this album is absolutely fantastic, my one complaint concerns the guitars: while they are SHARP, they aren't really thick enough. A quick bass-boost on the guitar tracks would make this album that much better. Otherwise I really don't have any complaints - we need more albums like this.

The Below crew have graciously shared "St. Anthony's Fire" as a free download, which you can grab from their official download link here. Be sure to keep an eye out on their Facebook page for physical copies, which should be available in the near future.



  1. Met these guys at a Thou show in Louisville, great bunch of guys and they played an awesome set that night.

  2. excellent review! these are some of my favorite heathens on the planet and i've never had more fun being involved in a project than with this one. i think you hit the nail on the head with MOLASSES DOOM!

    as far as physical copies, the band did a limited run of CDr's for some shows earlier this year. a few leftover copies of those might be available by contacting

    for general release, we're having this monster pressed onto cassette, which we're going to box up real nice and make available worldwide via mailorder. copies will be available in the coming months from both the label and the band.

    labels / distros interested in wholesale copies, feel free to email me at

    and in supplement to the link above, we posted a new track from below on the music player at KARMICSWAMP.ORG , it is total psychotic molasses torture, so be sure and check it out!


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