Thanks to Piers from Sarcophagus Recordings for sending this album over for review. Discarded Self is a solo project for Jarret Beach, who plays bass for the Canadian melodic death metal outfit Ashes of Yggdrasil, whose debut EP I reviewed back in 2019. He plays everything here except the drums, with a quartet of guests, mostly from his other bands, taking turns behind the kit. I say bands, because he's also the vocalist and guitarist for Destroy My Brains, who play doom/sludge metal, and he remains in that vein here for Discarded Self.
This is mostly sludge, occasionally moving into cleaner doom, but with black metal harshness overlaid in abandon, especially with the vocals. Blackened sludge seems like a fair description of much of this, especially the openers, I Smell Pipes and Orbitoclast, and I have to say that I like them a lot more than much of the sludge I've been hearing lately with more shouty hardcore vocals, even if Beach's voice is often so dominant that it threatens to overwhelm the music.
Push the Knife makes the guitar a little less visceral and adds melodies that hint at doom/death, but the vocals remain thoroughly black and so dominant that it's only really blackened doom in the more instrumental sections. Dance Upon the Dead does something similar, clean doom rising up through a cloudbank only to be quickly submerged again.
And, when we get to Cultist of the Pentagram and some neat faster old school churn, the black metal is pushed so far into focus that it can't really be called blackened anything any more, just black metal, even if it doesn't exist for its blastbeats and it slows down a couple of minutes in to remind us that it started out as sludge, even adding a strange duet between Beach's lead vocal and a recurring spoken word sample.
I think that's my favourite track here, though I dig the riffs in Abused (e)Motionless and Orbitoclast a lot too. Oddly, the latter is a short track here, at six and a half minutes, because Beach leans towards epics and is very generous with the running time. Only Cultist of the Pentagram is shorter here and a couple of songs, albeit one that's missing from my copy of the album, stretch past ten minutes. Push the Knife is the one I have and it's surprisingly vocal for a song of that length. I'd have expected more instrumental sections but Beach's voice is never too far away.
If On the Unlevel was restored, this album would last over an hour, which certainly means good value for money but also a heck of a lot of blackened sludge in one go. I never got bored at all, even after a few times through, but it's fair to say that blackened sludge is a genre that brings its own mood along with it and I tend to prefer mine in more bite sized chunks. From that standpoint, I think this is a "your mileage may vary" album. If this is absolutely your genre, it's good stuff. If it's not, then it's still good stuff but it may feel a little overwhelming.