Here's a submission from Belgium that satisfies a wish of mine that's often manifested this year. I really like the heaviness generated by sludge metal bands but I tend to dislike the raucous shouty vocal style that such bands often employ. The obvious solution is Modder, an instrumental sludge metal outfit who play long, heavy songs without a single attempt to vocalise anything. Everything revolves around the riffs, which have always been my favourite aspect of sludge.
I was hooked by a the opener, the nine and a half minute Mount Frequency, and the band kept me paying attention throughout. This one is built off a riff that's simple in nature and told simply, but it's a good one and it's the bedrock under what I would call atmosphere if that word didn't have a different meaning in genre names. Modder have a knack of setting a scene with their songs and it doesn't come from the riff at all, though that's slow and heavy and hypnotic. It comes in part from a melodic line that's doomy but often ethnic, almost middle eastern, and in part from electronic overlays that are like ambient industrial.
The latter is there even more on Wax Rituals, which is slowed and downtuned further anyway but benefits immensely from these overlays. Both these songs could fairly be read as improvisations on themes by latter day Celtic Frost, whether it's dark rhythmic chords or upbeats on the drums. However, this one adds even more of a gothic industrial ambience that's drenched in horror. I can easily imagine people using Wax Rituals as haunt music, even taking the slowing and downtuning even further to include subsonics to affect mood.
That industrial edge is omnipresent, adding those layers of texture, but industrial is inherently an artificial sound, whether it's the heartbeat of pulsing machinery or their by products like hails of sparks or escaping steam. Spasm has that industrial edge too, but there's something fundamentally organic in it too, as if its earliest overlays are the tortured catgut strings of cellos rather than steelcutters in a factory, and its punctuating sounds like giant ocean bubbles.
Spasm also differs from the others by dropping the riffs away completely just before the halfway mark. Sure, it allows a shift in mood for the second half of the song but it's like an entire complex shut down for the night and we suddenly see animal life emerging from the quietened shadows. I love this, even though it's brief, because it really helps to make this visual. You're probably going to see something else entirely to what I saw, but you're going to see something. There's post-rock here, or post-metal. Is post-sludge metal a thing? Maybe it is now.
My least favourite song here is the last one, When Your Bones Weren't Meant to Be, for no better reason than everything before it feels unusual and this one merely feels like a jam around a set of riffs that the band happen to like. Sure, those are decent riffs and I didn't dislike the piece at all, but it feels somehow less substantial and more unoriginal after three more evocative tracks.
It's great to hear something this unusual and especially when it's submitted for review. It's been a very interesting week, listening to subgenre that I hadn't heard before, like Mothflesh's technical groove and now Modder's ambient industrial and post-sludge. Now, what's slated for tomorrow's playlist? Thanks, folks!