The opening bars of Anxiety Veteran do very little to prepare you for the brutal, unrelenting assault that is about to be perpetrated on your ears for the next forty minutes. The latest release from Salford noise dealers APF Records is a savage, churning journey into the heart of darkness that seeks to explore ‘themes of existential dread, inner turmoil, and the relentless search for meaning in an apathetic world’.
Hailing from the depths of Wales, Tides Of Sulfur have been ploughing a blackened furlough since their formation in 2011. Over the course of several demos, splits and their own well-received Extinction Curse debut in 2016 and follow-up EP Paralysis Of Reason three years later, they have established themselves as an uncompromising force.
Back now with their fetid blast of sludge, grind and black and death metal, Apathy Chasm is a violent and disgusted reaction to the state of the world that has come to pass in the intervening time.
Comprising of the trio of Anthony ‘Snake’ O’Shea on guitar and vocals, Chris Bull on bass, noise and vocals, and completed by Tom Lee on drums and backing vocals, the band make a deceptively massive racket that is as pummelling and sonically dense as anything you will hear this year.
As the album barrels into life, you are immediately struck by the ability to balance good production that makes all the instruments sound crystal clear and yet somehow murky and grimy in their fuzz-tinged, sawing style. Apathy Chasm quickly becomes a churning blast with frantic tremolo picking and grindcore drum shuffles that opens up into a jangling discordant passage of low-end guitar and non-stop tom patterns.
It does not all pass by in a blur however, and when the band pauses for exhalation of breath, they chuck in several deceptively groovy chugs that do not detract from how monstrously heavy they sound allowing you to bang your head, instead of feeling like they are constantly screaming in your face, like the thin man from Apex Twin’s Come To Daddy video.
Ruined picks up the bloodied baton and runs with it. Choppy and angular, the riffs bounce off each other and the track slams back and forth spitting out more ideas in each section than my kids drop food at the dinner table. Slowing the pace, the middle of the track shows the trio’s ability to create light and shade, adding taught atmospherics to the procedure, even if the vocals snap and snarl at you like a rabid dog.
Track three, Downhill, is a tender, delicate ballad… who the fuck am I kidding? It sets off with a gleefully vicious punk-infused vibe and slamming drumming once again. This time, they ease back on the black metal sound and opt for a more thrashier, deathly style that is tighter than the lid on the jar of green lentils hiding in the back of the cupboard that I bought during the first lockdown of 2020.
Disgruntled and Summer Of Snakes are in fact slower, but both writhe with a sickness of discontent that practically boils with frustration.
It stomps like an unstoppable beast across the landscape before exploding into twisted fury…
The former is based around a hammering chord structure that trades feral shrieks with guttural roars awash with samples and heavy pounding. It stomps like an unstoppable beast across the landscape before exploding into twisted fury at the climax. The latter starts with Bull’s greasy-sounding bass and evolves into another slamming groove which shows flashes of classic guitar flourishes and string bends in a brooding and menacing fashion.
After this interlude, the schizophrenic mayhem of the band in hyperdrive returns as Blame Thrower blurs by at a blistering pace for the first half of its run time, before collapsing into a tumultuous middle section that broods and seethes. After gathering their breath, the band blend the two styles once more in the final stretch of the track giving it a chaotic and ugly feel that is exactly what Tides Of Sulfur want to achieve.
Open The Vain sees the return of the black metal buzz-sawing guitar with malicious intent in a deliciously sludgy style. The bullish roars of the vocals spit their tales of discontent and anger at the ugliness of the human psyche that the music itself is a reflection of. The tension is generated by the unhinged oscillation between the clinically executed blackened chord progressions and the more organic, barely contained bug-eyed, feral sense of unpredictable danger the band generate.
Concluding the album, Nazinsky opens with dark atmospherics that are grandiose and commanding, reminding me of the closing track Disambiguation from Indian’s final album For All Purity, as they manage to channel something that sounds so beautiful and yet so utterly evil all in the same moment.
The pattering of the double bass and clean guitars eventually gives way to a violent, creeping entropy that batters the senses while twisting a knife until it slices between your rib cage, which, if you like that sort of thing, makes Apathy Chasm well worth playing all the way until the end as personally, it is my hands down favourite track.
Having spent the past few months indulging in instrumental chilled-out ambience, Tides Of Sulfur was just the ticket to return to the type of music that my friend Jim says makes you involuntarily stick your bottom lip out and shows once again that APF Records ability to uncover some of the nastiest and most belligerent music around on these isles takes some rivalling.
This is the soundtrack to a gleeful celebration of the end times.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden