One thing that is striking about Rotherham based three-piece, Swamp Coffin is actually just how really fucking heavy they are. Formed in 2016 by vocalist/guitarist Jon Rhodes and drummer David Winstow as ‘a way of keeping a pair of grownups out of trouble for a few hours’. They became a real concern in 2018 with Shawn Denton joining them on bass and now they bring their hard-hitting full-length debut to the public consciousness via my favourite label of the year APF Records.
Drawing deeply on influences from the molasses thick sludge best executed by the NOLA scene, they mix the classic 90s sound with a hardcore edge and a British sensibility that gives respectful nods to acts like Raging Speedhorn in the intensity stakes.
Drawing on personal setbacks and world events, Noose Almighty is an album that seeks to channel the anger, frustration, and sorrow of the last few years into a pummelling cathartic release. Recorded at Sheffield’s Top Floor Audioworks studio and loving engineered, mixed, and mastered by friend of the band Owen Claxton, who the band refer to as their ‘fifth Beatle’, the finished result sounds absolutely massive.
From the moment Your Problem creeps from your speakers to the relentless hammering of album closer Welcome To Rot, Swamp Coffin rarely let up the sheer brute force stakes, and when they do, it only serves to reinforce their mission statement of creating twisted musical savagery.
After the short intro, complete with backwards voice, the slow and steady chug comes to the fore. The tumbling blues refrains unable to mask the lurching downtuned sludge, but it does give a melodic flavour that just stops short of being truly ugly. Rhode’s vocals are a rasping bark that fits the metronome-like rhythm and grows to multiple layers for the repetitive, stomping chorus. Fittingly the track ends on garbled samples from Fight Club’s narrator.
Second track Jaegerbombsaway picks up the pace and brings with it some thunderous double bass sounding like Armageddon itself. Despite the swaying, almost hypnotic melody, there are times when the rage boils over that not even the moments of levity provided by the lead guitar can mask. Heavy as the proverbial bag of hammers, there’s a rich doom vein that runs throughout this track, despite Winstow seemingly trying to destroy his kit for the duration.
Heavy as the proverbial bag of hammers, there’s a rich doom vein that runs throughout…
Barbarian Windsor (possibly a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the departed staple of British film and television?) is one of the album highlights with rich stoner vibes lurking behind the surface. The band open themselves up and bring a little more variety into the murky grooves recalling post-Will Haven project Cobra Sunrise arm wrestling with Slabdragger.
The title track, Noose Almighty, sees the band change tact and build a smouldering epic showing that not everything needs to be brutality for brutality’s sake. The vocals start over an echoing guitar that recalls moments from fellow Brits Ba’al’s excellent Ellipsism as Swamp Coffin stray almost into blackened post-metal. The track is as close to a ballad that the band will ever invoke, but it’s a heady atmosphere that is built around emotional lead work and simplistic drumming that never once compromises on the bands monstrous sound. It’s hands down the best track they’ve put their name to and raises the bar from just creating an angry sound, to something with far more depth than would first appear on the surface.
Following that, the band don’t rest on their laurels and Knuckledragger may be back to the Crowbar like slamming walls of sludge, but it’s a refined piece of audio violence built around a long ringing, choppy riff. Rhodes’ vocals are once again layered when called upon to emphasise the hooks, before the band finish off with the album’s most catchy track, Welcome To Rot, closing out their six track debut with panache and crushing power.
The vocals, which admittedly, don’t have the most varied delivery, fit the focused dynamic of the band, injecting enough emotion in terms of anger, disgust, and despair, and simply cannot be ignored. Noose Almighty also looks to establish Swamp Coffin as a force in the sludge scene, cementing the reputation they’ve carved out through their live shows, and on the strength of this album, it’s well deserved.
No one is going to proclaim they’re particularly ground-breaking in some respects, although they’ve added flavours and developments in their sound over the course of writing and recording this long-player, moving them up a gear in terms of the palette they’re painting their nightmarish picture in. What they are, however, is exceptionally proficient in the field of music they’re creating and in 2021 it’s hard to argue they aren’t worthy of your time.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden