Beelzebud – Self Titled (digital/tape self-released 23 October 2015; CD Cyclopean Eye Productions 13 February 2017)
Mudbath – Brine Pool (Saka Čost / Troffea Records / GPS Prod / Grains of Sand Records / Third-I-Rex, 02 May 2017)
Since we missed publishing anything new yesterday (sorry, but about half of the company I work for decided to take the day off, it seems, leaving the rest of us to pick up all of the slack…), today as an extra treat I’ve got two things to share with you. First will be the self-titled album by Singaporean noise-doom duo Beelzebud, which was released without much fanfare in 2015 but later discovered by the owner of India’s Cyclopean Eye who immediately decided the album needed to be re-released. And secondly, the latest release from avignonnais sludge-doom quartet Mudbath (their second album). Both of these are available to download for free from the respective bands’ Bandcamp pages, but physical copies can be purchased from the various labels associated with these two releases. Enjoy!
One thing you’ll notice on this debut release is that Beelzebud certainly know how to pick song titles. Opening track “Jahannam” is named for the Islamic “hell” — and following a droney and suspense-filled intro that lasts almost two minutes, an ultra-distorted, super-fuzzy-and-bassy sludge-doom guitar kicks in; the harsh and acidic yowling vocals (and a bit later a second vocal part, a deep growly roar that provides counterpoint to the lead) certainly conjure images of a place filled with pain and retribution. The second track — constructed from glacially-slow riffing, rather in a similar vein to Ommadon actually, apart from the inclusion of some more shrieked vocals, and which later introduces some sort of shoegazey elements in the guitar along with the second vocal part returning — is just as aptly named: “Sengsara” (which means “suffering” or “anguish” in Malay).
On these first two tracks, the drums mostly keep in time with the guitar riffs — never seeming haphazard or random — but they don’t feel repetitive at all, as they seem to be constantly moving all over the place. The third and final track (“Durhaka,” or “deceitful” in Malay), though, which at nearly twenty-six minutes is longer than the first two put together, consists almost entirely of a simple, sparse drumbeat repeating over and over (although it does increase slightly in complexity and intensity, this happens almost imperceptibly over a rather long time). Sans vocals, the drums are accompanied by various layers of atmospheric noises and droney vibrato notes, all with cavernous reverb. About halfway through, the track suddenly and unexpectedly switches gears, very briefly employing a more frenetically-paced horror movie sound (bringing to mind the theme from Halloween, for example), but then goes right back to the same part as before. Only it’s clearly more intense now, becoming thunderous, and increasing exponentially in speed and complexity for a while before starting to slowly wind its way back down, grinding almost completely to a halt over the final few minutes.
You can listen/download at Bandcamp (below), and get in touch with the label for a copy on CD.
* * *
The aptly-titled Brine Pool by the just-as-aptly-named Mudbath sometimes feels like an exercise in a band trying to find their precise identity, because these songs are sort of all over the spectrum of sludge-related music. However, it turns out to be an unusual case where they’re trying to be a little bit of everything, and yet all of it is done rather well.
“Burn Brighter,” the first song and the longest at eight-plus minutes, for example, starts off with sort of an overdriven mellowness and some slightly dissonant harmonies — but then suddenly these distorted, almost blackened-tremolo, stoner-sludge riffs take over along with some hoarsely howled vocals — and then after a bit we end up with a combination of the mellower intro guitar with the harsher distorted stuff, the vocals getting very intense; and finally over the last few minutes the song turns slower and more grandiose with hints of post-sludge.
Similar twists and shifts spice up most of the tracks: “End Up Cold” is sort of grungey, but subdued and understated, in the intro, switches to a sludge-flavored funeral doom, before ultimately landing in atmospheric-doomy-post-hardcore territory; and “Seventh Circle” opens with clean, reverby guitars but then goes to slow, heavy, monolithic doom.
Some of the songs don’t necessarily make any drastic changes — “Rejuvenate” is fairly mellow throughout while “Fire” is nicely heavy throughout — but even still there’s more than enough happening to draw (and maintain) your interest to the very end as the band piles on more and more layers of suffocatingly slow sludge.
Brine Pool is also available to listen/download at Bandcamp, and physical copies are on sale through Saka Čost.