The Ditch And The Delta is the self-titled third release from the Utah-based trio of Elliot Secrist (Guitar/Vocals), Kory Quist (Bass/Vocals), and, new on this recording, Brian Fell (drums). The band’s blueprint hasn’t changed much through 2015’s We Rust, or 2017’s Hives In Decline. It’s harsh, noisy and sludgy, but with each release, the song writing is progressively more intricate, and the emotional content given more clout with better production.
This album kicks off at a furious pace, with the appropriately named Maimed; appropriate because listening to it feels like going toe-to-toe with a heavyweight champ. Not just because it’s an assault. Yes, the tones are oppressively sludgy. Yes, the vocals are a relentless duo of hoarse shouts. But it’s much more than that.
The band are toying with you, landing blows at will, moving unexpectedly, and always in control. The rhythms are often unnervingly off-kilter, and the dynamics are genuinely dizzying. The Ditch And The Delta have occasionally attracted the label doom, but there’s no chance of being hypnotised by trudging tempos or drones here.
They do occasionally ease the pressure, but it’s not much of a reprieve. A churning waltz launches unexpectedly into a lurching, bludgeoning assault in Exile. A more spacious guitar motif meets bass and drums obliquely, forming weird dissonances in Aesthetics Of Pain, before a long sparse section and yet another thumping riff.
This album is not for the faint-hearted; it’s compelling, beautiful, and bleak – my favourite for 2020 so far…
And on it goes – little bits of arpeggio floating on the fury here, swaggering riffs that melt into pure noise. The aural beating doesn’t relent – it just takes a new form for a while. It tests your defences, finds a weak spot, and launches a blistering new attack.
All of this might be compelling enough, but the bleak poetry of the lyrics adds another layer to the savage beauty. You’ll find them in the stylish cassette packaging, and presumably with the forthcoming vinyl, and they’re relentlessly dark and full of rage. I’d almost say despairing, but, read as a whole, there seems to be a progression from beginning to end of the album.
There’s a story being told, and it ends with a glimmer of hope, and a kind of redemption. There’s a trajectory from ‘I felt old far too young’ to ‘How should I engage your death?’ and finally ‘Push us up anew’. I’ll spare you my half-arsed psychoanalysis, and just say that this is a work of gut-wrenchingly raw emotion.
This album is not for the faint-hearted; it’s compelling, beautiful, and bleak – my favourite for 2020 so far.
Scribed by: Rob Bryant