Wovoka – Saros (digital Locust Rising Music / CD Battleground Records, 14 April 2015)
LLNN/Wovoka – Traces/Marks Split LP (Pelagic Records, 16 June 2017)
LLNN – Deads (Pelagic Records, 27 April 2018)
So a few years back — about three, actually — this Californian heavy sludge band called Wovoka reached out to let us know they were releasing their debut record. We really dug it at the time, and have been revisiting it often ever since then, but somehow never quite got around to writing anything about it. Then last year we got word that these guys were participating in a split LP with Danish band LLNN. And then sometime after that, we learned that THOSE guys would be issuing a new album themselves (their second). That will be hitting the streets tomorrow, but today we’re going to cover all three of those releases.
Also, earlier this week saw the start of a month-long European tour with LLNN joining Bison. After you’re finished reading, keep scrolling down to the bottom where we’ll fill you in on those dates!
The Saros album, with seven tracks stretched to just about an hour in length, showcases a band who has clearly spent some quality of time perusing the Neurosis body of work. This is especially evident in the gruff, bellowed vocals, but overall the sound here is very slow, post-sludgey, heavy, dark and expressive — with a few mellower, lighter moments scattered here and there in between the fuzzier or chuggier parts, but for the most part just sort of dismal.
If one were to specifically and precisely define what is meant by “post-metal” (or “post-hardcore” or, in this case, “post-sludge”) it would be a pretty tricky undertaking. But one part of that definition would have to include particularly jazzy, colorful-sounding augmented chords (for the non-music majors out there, basically taking the standard chords everyone uses, but then spicing things up with extra notes that don’t normally belong, which serves to both thicken the sound as well as adding a bit of nuance and overtone). That technique is used here in abundance, sometimes with the flavor of the tones bumped up even further through the liberal use of overdrive — like in the long, spaced-out, feedbacky coda of “The Sight.”
“Sleep Eater,” first released as a single the year before this album came out, is highly recommended as an epically heavy highlight. Similarly, don’t miss the fourteen-minute closer “Eclipse,” which is a bit slower and builds very slowly, but when it does, boy does it ever build. Especially the last few minutes when it seemed to fade away to nothing, but then comes back with a feedbacky vengeance.
To conclude our discussion of Wovoka (named, by the way, for a spiritual leader of the Paiute), let’s check out “Traces” (which is actually side B of the split record, but we’ll start there for the sake of continuity). This single track of 17-1/2 minutes is still plenty fuzzy; a cold and desolate landscape, and yet on closer inspection actually very busy — with layers of guitars crunching and fuzzing and jangling, and vocals that have grown into an impassioned and pained roar. Two years removed from their debut, here is a band showing that not only do they have lofty aspirations, but clearly the means to achieve them.
On their own side of Marks/Traces (which we’ll assume is called “Marks”), LLNN offers up a total of six tracks. With a total running time around 21 minutes, clearly the average length here is considerably shorter. Nevertheless there is no death of intensity, heaviness, or emotion. Oftentimes a bit more ambient, wavery and trippy synth sounds are combined with harsh feedback as a foundation for hard-hitting hardcore-style vocals.
Though at times the synths lend a darkwave feeling, the heavy rhythms give off more of an industrial leaning. Not to mention the particularly INTENSE vocals — overall whipped together into a sort of electroindustrosludge. With an extra heavy dose of hardcore doom thrown in, courtesy of the super intense slowdown near the end of “Eye of the Covenant.”
Digging into this week’s brand-new Deads — eight tracks spanning about 38 minutes — we once again find gritty, crunchy, hard-hitting sludge-core; if anything the record seems heavier, with even more intense, shrieked vocals. The biggest difference though, or so it seems at first, is that the arrangement is far less synthy than the earlier material.
At least, until we reach “Civilizations” nearing the middle of the album, which is mostly ambient, soundscape-type stuff. And a little later, “Structures” is entirely industrial and ambient sounds. But generally speaking, Deads takes the industrial-hardcore-sludge concept and then amps up the heaviness and the intensity.
* * * * * * *
Copies of Soros available here; the Traces/Marks split right here; and Deads can be pre-ordered here.
* * * * * * *
* * * * * * *
Bison + LLNN European Tour 2018
23 April – Copenhagen DK – Beta
24 April – Linköping SE
25 April – Oslo NO – Revolver
26 April – Stockholm SE – Kraken (Bison only)
27 April – Jönköping SE – Sofiehof Underjord
28 April – Hamburg DE – Droneburg Festival
29 April – Utrecht NL – DBS
30 April – Karlsruhe DE – Stadtmitte
01 May – Wiesbaden DE – Schlachthof
02 May – Brussels BE – Magasin 4
03 May – Bulle CH – Ebulition
04 May – Porrentruy CH – Galerie du Sauvage
05 May – Paris FR – L’International
06 May – London UK – Desert Fest
08 May – Prague CZ – Underdog’s
09 May – Vienna AT – Viper Room
10 May – Zagreb HR – Vintage Industrial
11 May – Cluij RO – Hard Club
12 May – Craiova RO
13 May – Bucharest RO – Control Club
14 May – Budapest HU – Robot
15 May – Krakow PL – Alchemia
16 May – Warsaw PL – Hydrozagadka
18 May – Kiel DE – Alte Meierei
19 May – Berlin DE – Pelagic Fest
Pingback: Bison – You Are Not the Ocean You Are the Patient (2017), Earthbound (2018 reissue) | Valley of Steel
Pingback: LLNN – Unmaker (2021) | Valley of Steel