Sometimes you can just feel an album from the very first chords.
Described as incorporating aspects of drone and crust punk into their slow and heavy style the grinding 4 plus minutes of feedback that crawl from the speakers at the start of Illinois stamps it’s authority on your brain you know that this is going to be a deliciously uncomfortable listen.
Sure enough as 60WV kicks in with guttural vocals and lumbering riffs it is clear that if you have followed the German based Black Shape Of Nexus they have been fine tuning their monstrous assault through high profile appearances at festivals like Roadburn and an extensive touring regime and the result is the monumental 80 sonic assault that is ‘Negative Black’.
What is evident from their full length debut for Exile On Mainstream is the self belief that these guys now have in what they are creating. Not afraid to let the dynamics of a track develop naturally, the footnotes to this album could simply read ‘long and slow’, but to simplify would be to do B.SON a disservice. The end of 60WV builds to a crescendo that is as complex as it is multi paced and the instruments simply pummel you into submission as does most of Negative Black for it’s mammoth run time.
The limited edition drone album they released following their self titled 2007 album clearly helped shape the direction of the album as they manage to combine suffocatingly heavy and painfully slow doom with acrid, harsh drones; at times the phrase ‘down-tempo’ could well have a picture of the album cover next to the definition and their soupy Sabbath tones teeter on a tightrope that collapse into feedback and noise rock. Despite the sloth like tempo that dominates this release it is an incredibly intense, bitter and aggressive affair, vocalist Malte Seidel deserves a special mention for it’s unrelenting nature as he howls, barks and growls his way through epic length tracks such as 1000 uF like his larynx has been caressed by sandpaper.
Elsewhere they are of not afraid to abandon the crushing weight of their chief stock in trade and experiment with blissed out interludes that never quite comfort, but offer a chance to throw the darkness of their full on sludge into sharp relief; still with the title track clocking in at over the twenty minute mark they have given themselves plenty of room to throw the kitchen sink in.
And there I guess is the rub for me – Negative Black as it stands is a decent album. When it hits the highs B.SON could easily go toe to toe with most bands out there, like the towering closer 400H for it’s entire six minute run time, but does the title track really need all fifteen minutes of ambient, drone, noise etc before they put their heads down and charge for the finish line?
It is great to hear bands flex their creative muscles and step outside the box, but where do you draw the line?
Ultimately this is a good album with some great moments, but you wonder if the studio have charged by the hour would they have shaved 20 minutes off and would they be missed?
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden