Season of Mist
The blurbs that press officers use to entice us lowly hacks into spending quality time with their normally third rate musical artistes is usually a numbingly bland collection of superlatives and over friendly banter.
‘Hey guys, hope you’re all really fab, have you seen we’ve got the new release from the brilliant ‘Smashed by the Bell? They’re so amazingly godlike they may actually turn the sky black with their particular brand of generic metalcore, and so hip they’ll break your ironic lenseless glasses!’
These sunny sided missives are usually so crushingly awful that ordinarily they lead to over-judicious use of the delete button, which may tend to explain why your favourite website, like, ever, (this one) never feels fit to review anything.
So colour me slightly surprised to see the following opening line on this here band’s wiki:
‘Black Sheep Wall; either a cheat code in Starcraft, or a band that is characterized by the monumental amount of anger, disgust and desperation in their music.’
Excellent. Count me in.
Black Sheep Wall are a Californian drone/doom band, and you can tell the latter by the fact that hitting play on this with your volume up too loud is a fairly express route to getting an appendicitis. From the opening squeal of feedback and hit of their downtuned to shoelace level opening riff you can spot pretty quickly that there’s not going to be a lot of light and shade in this album. And so it proves to be. That pithy line that piqued my interest is not kidding. I’d say that whatever else, these people are cross about something, not that you could tell what when the roar of vocalist Trae Malone is this monotonously guttural.
If you like your doom to have traces of folk or prog or space-prog-folk-whatever then I’m afraid you are resolutely shit out of luck. This is relentless in every way, every song wrapping itself around a singular repetitive riff like a priest wraps himself around circular logic. Looking again at the old press release there’s copious references to the band’s traces of similarity to Mastodon and The Deftones, but such comparisons seem very wide of the mark and a trifle ungenerous to the band’s singular vision, which seems to be to make music to demolish buildings to. Strap a stereo with enough low end to the side of Battersea Power Station and run the middle riff from second track ‘Liminality’ through it and you’d have one less cultural landmark cluttering up the London skyline making everyone think about Pink Floyd.
Don’t think for a second that I’m using the one-dimensional nature of this album as some kind of stick to beat it with. The remorseless battering is quite staggering in its effectiveness. Just as another riff has done its job and blocked off all mental faculty and loosened something in your bowel region, another one arrives like a demented bus, pounding away at you with all the subtlety of Vin Diesel and The Rock beating seven shades out of each other, but with none of the homoerotic subtexts. There are moments where it’s not quite so full on, but it’s not like they are whipping out the ukuleles and dancing around a fire. Even when its quiet it’s grim, nasty and dark.
Musically, well, I’ve no idea to be honest with you, so deliciously thick and soupy is the sound that it may as well be the Cookie Monster’s appeal to give him cookies sent through some manic distortion field and looped back on itself in an infinite loop. It’s probably not. In fact I don’t think it is, and I’d hazard a guess at traditional guitars and bass and drums and that, but the low end is so utterly low as to render unidentifiable. It’s not clever, but it’s very very big, and very listenable too. It doesn’t overstay its welcome,either, each song knowing exactly when to make way for the next ungodly racket.
So overall, good press officer, blinding slab of sludge.