Some things in life are just inherently ‘right’. Like cold pizza the morning after a booze session, or that blissful moment where a line slots perfectly together in Tetris; some things are unquestionably meant to be. Belfasts’ Slomatics being signed to Black Bow Records (brainchild of Conan main man Jon Paul Davis) makes absolute, certain sense. From their split with the aforementioned fellow doom mongers, it was clear for all to see that Slomatics belonged on Black Bow’s growing roster. In the lead up to the release of their much anticipated new album in the spring of 2016, Black Bow is re-releasing both Slomatics’ fearsome debut Flooding The Weir and their towering sophomore effort Kalceanna digitally. So, we thought it’d be fitting to review the two side by side and map the progression of the mighty trio.
Originally self-released back in 2005, Flooding The Weir is an understandably rawer, less sure footed effort than the bands’ releases to date. I Mean You No Harm (Part 1) slides in with a hiss of feedback that builds to a buzzing drone, dragging with it a meaty, chugging riff that fades out quickly. Quite odd to set what would traditional be considered an instrumental ‘interlude’ right at the start of a record, but we can roll with it. Running Battle would only live up to its’ title if the battle took place in a tar-swamp where all the combatants had one leg broken. Hard-panned guitars whine and buzz like massive, hovering insects. Drums plod with deliberate menace. Far-off vocals are screams of frustration and anguish. It grows organically, slowly, like a black moss. The Technique is a bit more immediate; a big, ballsy riff dragging itself along, towering chords that drop down into a heavier section dripping with feedback. A tremolo-led guitar line pierces the murk, before sinking back into the familiar, warm dark of massive tone, then exhausting itself and winding down.
Celeste is by far the strongest offering. Sombre, gentle chords swell into drones and then a huge, righteous riff. It is thoroughly triumphant, a solid lock-in between all the instruments that gradually builds in size and extends ever upward, ending on a life-affirming tone. March Of The 1000 Volt Ghost descend ever further, each chord reinforced by huge kick-strokes. An ambling, easy groove and a slightly higher tempo sees the ‘matics looking a little more aggressive. I Mean You No Harm (Part 2) fades in and sees some expressive, busy drum work. It is (obviously) the ‘second half’ of the intro track, and acts as a bookend for the record (perhaps one that the band didn’t really need). Flooding The Weir as a whole offers some great moments and a sure sense of the potential Slomatics had back in ’05, but by today’s standards is (understandably) a little too unpolished and rough around the edges. For a debut, though, immensely sure of itself.
Kalceanna showcases the evolution of the band as songwriters and of their overall sound crafting over two years. From the first salvo of weighty, buzzing chords on Griefhound, it’s clear that there’s more than just a crisper, cleaner production job on offer. The riffs mesh better, but the easy groove is still of the same spirit of their work with Flooding The Weir.
Vocals are a little clearer, used a little less sparingly. Marty Harvey’s drums pound away sub-sonically, like hidden heavy machinery. By Thor comes in with some weird, booming atonal riffing before the main weight of the track floods in like a crushing tide. Even amongst their peers, for audiophiles, Slomatics stand out with their sheer, abrasive, satisfyingly dense tone. Man’s Hands looms in with a thick wall of feedback drenched riff, like the fabric of the universe exhaling, before tribal drums clatter in, mutating into a low, lumbering groove. Layers of vocals cast off into space, and it slides along slickly like a glacial shift, before ending in a multi layered climax of remorseless kick pedals.
Dirt By The Stooges lows and groans its way to life, like the death throes of a beast of burden, towering edifices of ringing chords reaching skywards. Meanwhile is laid back, downbeat, a warm riff sliding in like ink in water. Delicate restrained cymbal taps and splashes add a moody depth, and you can practically hear the rain driving against the windows. The main riff shoulder charges in, accompanied by muffled, frustrated shouts. Things break down into a running section, with a majestic tempo, a brief whine of guitar soloing, then winding itself to a stop. Almost a thematic ‘twin’ to Celeste.
Viking Sea takes us on an epic, 11 plus minute long voyage, through ponderous riffs battering at our craft like sledgehammer waves to the tidal swell of relentless, slowly revolving held chords. It’s deliberate in its pacing and weight, like an evolutionary history of the riff itself, exhausting both itself and the listener to a slower, heavier conclusion. Kalceannais a more focussed, rounded effort than Flooding The Weir, taking all the raw ideas and riff-based fury and marrying them with polish and panache in equal measure. These releases are a timely reminder of where Slomatics came from, which will leave you all the more excited to see where they’ll be going next.
Scribed by: Jay Hampshire