Having been involved in promoting Metal, Doom, Sludge , Drone, Noise and just about any kind of extreme music they can get their hands on since 2002 Manchester based Label/PR company/Booking Agent and kitchen sink collective Future Noise know a thing or two about the underground scene in the UK.
Working with just about everyone under the sun and releasing albums from quality artists like Monolith Cult, Lazarus Blackstar and Undersmile it is always worth paying attention to anything they put out and this 12′” split featuring Blackburn’s Bastard Of The Skies and Birmingham’s Doom titans Grimpen Mire is no exception.
Taking a side a piece, the two bands have about twenty minutes worth of music in which to showcase everything that is good about what they bring to the scene.
First up is Bastard Of The Skies; back in 2012 they released via Future Noise the full length album ‘Tarnation‘, a huge punishing collection of violent riffs and sonic intensity that truly announced their rightful place as a force to be reckoned with. Here they deliver four tracks of hard hitting, confrontational music that walks the line between pure blackened sludge and eerily melodic noise.
Mid tempo opener ‘Yarn‘ has an echoing, cavernous feel to it and has a rolling lick that mixes full throated roars with technical guitar and brutal grooves. A lazy comparison is early Mastodon, but in truth on this the Bastards feel more organic and leans more towards pounding doom than the increasingly mainstream bothering crew from Atlanta, Georgia.
The pummelling drums accent and punctuate the low end riffing and bass rumble to create a huge sound that has plenty of memorable passages without compromising on the full force of the song.
The pronunciation challenge of ‘Bao Fu‘ adds a chanting effect to go with the pounding vibrations as multi-layered vocals conjure a crushing intense atmosphere. The whole weight of the opening half of the song seems in danger of buckling under the weight and focus the band pour into it, before suddenly the methodical rhythm eases for moments of dalliance with almost ambient, quiet moments. However, this change in tempo is only fleeting and a vehicle to crank the tension back up and add variations and flourishes to the original groove.
‘Wounder‘ is a more straight forward, urgent, violent, pit inducing bludgeon. Short and nasty it is more like a stop gap between the preceding doom and the closer of ‘Old Vessels’ but is no less relevant with its pulsing vibe and raw screaming. Propelled along by frenetic and creative drumming the track is over all too soon.
Closing out the A-Side with an epic feel Bastard Of The Skies utilise big, ringing chords and a relentless metronome like march that sees the introduction of creeping staccato and haunting melody. The spoken / growled / strangled vocals of the verse add a deeply unsettling edge to the power of the already dread inducing music.
On the flip side Grimpen Mire look to continue the trend for delivering their quality blend of Doom meets Sludge that they have built a reputation for. Following on from their 2013 full length album they offer three distinctly different tracks, the first of which being ‘The Hollow Wreck‘.
Seemingly a song of two parts it opens with a vicious Death n Roll type vibe that see dual vocals spat with gleeful venom that reminds me of Satyricon’s ‘K.I.N.G.’ with it’s ability to stamp on a groove until it breaks. In an almost ADHD type moment the band tire of pummelling you with catchy brutality and start to expand and introduce dizzying string bends and an almost psychedelic vibe before bringing it together for the finish. The blend of styles are contrasting and more importantly, interesting – making it something more than the run of the mill Doom fare.
A fuzzy introduction and slow gargled vocals kick off ‘Vermin Hive‘ but do not completely hide the beautiful, mournful melodic guitar work that noodles away in the background before giving way to chug that classic Black Sabbath would have probably killed to put on their last album and, if it was possible, the vocals manage to get even more gruff.
One thing is definitely apparent and that is the number of catchy parts that the band cram in to the short space; from the space rock feel of the end to the plaintive higher vocals cries that close out the track complete with squealing guitar.
Rounding the B-Side contribution off, like Bastard Of The Skies, with an epic feel Grimpen Mire save their purest slice of Doom for ‘Fragments Of Forgotten Craft‘; a track slower than an asthmatic ant carrying some heavy shopping the notes echo with a slow building intensity. It may not be the most memorable of the three but it is oppressive and smothering with its unrelenting wall of sound, and not to mention it is the most complex.
Packaged beautifully with Michael Cowell’s evocative artwork which helps convey the sense of despair and dread that the two bands were going for, this is a quality item for Doom for fans everywhere. There is more than enough distinction between the two styles to compliment each other and yet stand alone.
Chances are you’ll buy this as fans of the bands already, in which case you won’t find yourself disappointed as both offerings are condensed illustrations that see both bands focused and back to some of the strongest writing of their careers to date. If you are buying this as a sampler of their works, then this is an album length collection of music from two of the brightest, er, darkest bands on the scene today. Either way only a really po-faced Doom fan could really find too much to fault here.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden