Slabdragger / Meadows – Split 12” 2012

Slabdragger / Meadows - Split 12” 2012Tired, unshaven, hungover and with my ears a-bleeding, I surveyed the ground at my feet at Roadburn Festival, Tilburg, April 2012. A host of flyers met my gaze: some soggy, some torn, some fresh and crisp, others dishevelled and scrunched by uninterested festival-trawlers. But one stood out above all others, like a gateway to another type of musical future. I stooped to claim the small shard of white paper encrusted with the harrowing, mystical and desolate image of a warped demon woman clutching a hog’s head severed by two mighty swords beneath two grisly band logos. It’s a stunning piece of cover artwork from famed London tattoo merchant Scott Move. The band names were familiar – Slabdragger and Meadows both being newly erected regulars on the metal scene in England’s great South, now together for the first time on one release via Head of Crom Records (the same label responsible for reissuing the monstrous ‘Horseback Battle Hammer’ record that Conan first belched out of their fiery gut in 2010 on shiny white vinyl). This was going to be one black 12-inch worth tracking down I reckoned, although, in the end, it found me…

Slabdragger use their 18-minute A-side to show off two staggeringly vast passages of grimy, gritty and utterly ugly sludge-metal power. The 10-minute ‘Alchemistress’ leads off with a Frankenstein-ed twisting boogie-jazz jig before bassist/vocalist Yusuf Tary and guitarist/vocalist Sam Thredder explode into a grinding mass of slime-coated riffing brutality. The duelling frontmen trade grunts, snarls and downtuned finesse as new drummer Nick Soteri makes his mark with a crushing snare-stomp and some cymbal driven mire. Thredder shows off use of a nether-worldly clean-singing voice for the first time amid a track which carries enough time-signature switches and bass solos to feature on a prog opus from the lava-fields of Mount Doom. Follow-up ‘Burden’ drenches you in feedback and Sunn0))) strength droning E-strings before opening out into a desolate wasteland of thunderous might. Tary and Thredder then step up several gears into a galloping, barking crush to the finish which echoes the mesmerising ‘Iron Vulture’ or the, erm, murky ‘Murky Fen’ from their sublime 2011 debut record ‘Regress’ (out on Holy Roar). Not a band desirable for a wedding disco or Bah-Mitzvah, the chugging trio leave us with jaws a-gape and necks a-bruised haunted by Soteri’s herculaneanisms behind the kit.

Lift needle, flip vinyl, twist disk between palms, replace, place needle, 33rpm…

Meadows are punchier in their contribution with four sprawls into the abyss that are by no means any prettier than the ‘Draggers’ opening salvo. There’s a crusty punkness to their muddied, powerful riffage with ‘Superscammell’ and ‘Baling Twine’ owing as much to Cro-Mags and Dwarves as they do to Acid Bath or Eyehategod. ‘Howell to the Wind’ rocks a Mastodon-meets-Karma to Burn vibe whilst closing cruncher ‘Loaded to the Gunwales’ adds a black-metal shift to some Torchey melodicisms. The band have built up a steady following within London’s crater of heaviness and recently kicked a catamaran-load of ass at DesertFest 2012. Releasing a free-to-download EP via bandcamp which showcases their twin-guitar attack and the Newnham brothers’ formidable rhythm section, these Surrey steel-surfers are not so much on the radar as shitting riffs all over it.

Flyers can be litter-lining pests, distributed by hopeful and often over-persistent band members eager to get an extra head in their crowd, another ‘Like’ on Facebook or one more demo downloaded. But hey, it’s advertising and like it or not, it works and it keeps the world turned onto great new products. Limited to a cheekily short run of 300 copies on jet-black vinyl, this is ear-diseasing filth of the highest order from two very promising new UK acts. So act fast if you want to wade yourself through the meadows and drag this slab of sludgy mess home with you, you’ll be very glad when you do.

Label: Head Of Crom

Scribed by: Pete Green