I don’t know about you, but for me the nineties were pretty slim pickins’ as far metal went, what with the obsession with ‘groove’ spreading like a plague through death metal – even weakening the mighty Slayer – thrash disappearing up its own overcrowded bloated rectum and Metallica losing the plot big time.
Praise de lawd, then, for the sounds of the underground. Whilst everyone else was writing overblown ballads, emulating The Black Album and misunderstanding industrial music, labels like Rhetoric, Slap-A-Ham , Pessimiser and, especially, Bovine were putting out music that was keeping the flag firmly hoisted for ugliness, viciousness and sheer fucking heaviosity. This was the fetid swamp that spawned EyeHateGod, Soilent Green, Cavity and the case in point here – Floor.
Formed in 1992 by guitarists Anthony Vialon and future Torche frontman Steve Brooks – and joined by a variety of drummers across the lifespan of the band before settling on Dove/House Of Lightning man Henry Wilson in 1997 – across a slew of seven inches, splits and compilation appearances, Floor evolved from lo-fi stupendously heavy Godflesh and Fudge Tunnelisms into a precursor to Torche’s ‘sludge/thunder pop’ sound, in which low-tuned guitars deliver riffs that manage to combine pristine major-key melodies with the legendary Bomb String technique of the top string being colossally detuned and used to deliver massive tolling notes and utterly crushing muted chugs.
By the time of 2001’s self-titled debut LP, Floor had utterly perfected their sound, with Brooks’ pop vocal hooks and melodic delivery – radically evolved from the pained, distant buried yelling of the nineties seven inches – further adding to the beautiful side of their hulking sound and making tracks like Scimitar and Downed Star memorable classics. Following a final split in 2003, and a posthumous release for their unreleased 1994 LP Dove in 2004, activity surrounding the massive 10 LP/8CD exhaustive discography set Below And Beyond in 2010 coalesced into a return to action for the Vialon/Brooks/Wilson line-up, eventually leading to this, Floor‘s third LP Oblation.
Now that we’re all up to speed on exactly who Floor are for those sadly uninitiated and we all have a rough idea of exactly why we should care about them, it’s time to delve into Oblation itself.
Now, being that it is their first album in thirteen years, expectations amongst Floor aficionados could go either one way or the other but I’m happy and relieved to report that for those who love latter day Floor, Oblation picks up exactly where the self-titled LP left off, tonally. Of course lovers of those K-Tel Presents days will still find much to grumble about, but, hey, a band has to progress, right? The riffs are still lumbering and ma-hoo-sive, things are just cleaner and brighter is all.
Kicking straight in with the title track, Oblation itself, the first thing we hear is a series of gigantic tolling notes, that crushing bomb string chug, drums crashing in and we’re away. Brooks doubled vocal sits back in the mix, shrouded in reverb, smearing the edges of his lines as his and Vialon’s guitars soar and plunge around him, eventually leading to an echoing guitar filigree that sits prettily atop the depth-charging strings that crash against one another like loose power cables. It sounds like Floor and not a hair has changed since 2001.
Rocinante ups the pace to a swinging gallop, guitars set to ‘stun’, leading to a lurching chug breakdown, Trick Scene is a doomed pounder and Find Away makes like Quicksand in a tarpit and is the first overt show of Brooks’ knack with a hooky vocal line. Elsewhere there are upbeat riffers like The Key and closer Forever Still, hypno-lumberers like New Man and Sister Sophia, doom-sludger Love Comes Crushing and instrumental The Quill.
Standout moments, to these ears, are the taut riffer War Party – a catchy, compact number with the best vocal hook on the album – the melancholy Homegoings And Transitions – built around a throbbing, stuttering effected main riff and laying bare Brooks’ double-tracked and gorgeous vocal – and the near-eight-minute minimalist ethereal drone-prog-art-pop epic Sign Of Aeth – a Rush reference, according to a recent interview with Vialon. All superb.
The only real misstep is Raised To A Star, which Wilson attacks with an almost D-Beat hardcore-type drum pattern that gets bogged down and sloppy-sounding due to the overall sound of the recording being set up with such a wide-open reverb headroom. A shame, but at least they tried to break things up stylistically….which kinda leads me to my one real criticism of the album.
Understand that I’m not particularly speaking for myself here, but it seems that the album could feel a little overlong, with a sense of tonal fatigue setting in before we even reach the climax with Forever Still due to the lack of variation in guitar and vocal tone and the drum sound used. As I say, I like it, but I could imagine some listeners getting a little tired of it after a while – Torche fans may miss the bass and riffier moments, for example.
That aside, and speaking personally, I bloody love Oblation and am overjoyed to have Floor back and producing new material again – not only that, but new material that doesn’t bring shame on their good name and back catalogue, which is often a worry when bands have been inactive and have members who have been out of the game for so long, as is the case with Vialon.
I think we can most assuredly call Oblation a triumphant return, and hope that we Europeans get some tour dates off of the back of it as I’d like to experience the rush of a live Floorgasm before I’m too old to appreciate it.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson