Thursday, May 19, 2011
Below - "St. Anthony's Fire" (2011) [Karmic Swamp]
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.