“All levels of brainwaves exist in everyone, at all times.“
Hitting puberty and eventually teenage self-obsessed angst in the 90’s lent itself beautifully towards my own personal discovery of sludge metal, namely the NOLA circus of bands pimped by Pantera’s frontman. There were two big bands everyone recommended in Happy Trails, a small record store in a small town in Oregon: The Melvins and Crowbar. Hell, the guy who always pushed them not only worked part-time as a subsitute teacher, he also served on city council and frickin’ worked in a record store for fun. His preference was for the Melvins but once I heard Crowbar my inner depressed child could never recover. The heaviness of the guitars, the croaky angst of the chubbers vocalist… ah, the gloom of it all changed me. From there I hit upon two key releases that primed me as the ideal chimp to soak up sludgery: Neurosis‘ ‘Through Silver in Blood’ and Eyehategod‘s classic “Dopesick”. My love for those records made me an unshakable fan of all things sludge metal. It surprised the hell out of me earlier this year when a friend recommended Unearthly Trance and I’d never heard of them. Hot dog, I was blown away! Listening through clips of their past records, this is perhaps their most polished production and least raw, without the drone/doom style a chance to gasp.
Unearthly Trance found a middle ground between Godflesh’s “Selfless” and it’s sinister moodiness and Eyehategod’s hateful hardcore groove. I only make that approximation out of respect for Unearthly Trance’s unique sound and hugely successful mid-paced doom/sludge trudgery. ‘Stalking the Ghost’ delivers itself into a heralded personal pantheon of lesser known beasts that sedate and excite me at the same time alongside Heavydeath and closer peers the 90’s worshiping Thou. The experience is suffocating in the most perfect way.
Slightly distorted bass guitar slo-motion steers the ship amidst said mid-pace behind Selfless-worthy riffs (“Dream State Arsenal”) and Cathedral meets ‘Times of Grace’ journeys (“Lion Strength”) that are not only dark and frenzy-inducingly edgy but also catchy. The mix of late 90’s sludge riffing and modern doom metal is perfect on this record. Nothing funky, experimental, or unexpected comes along, though a few tracks veer expertly on the edge of doom/death territory (“Invisible Butchery”). What keeps this from being a perfect record in my ears is simply that it doesn’t surprise me as much as it impresses me. While I’m thankful there aren’t any irritating experiments or 15 minute drone tracks that sheep-fart up the mix I’ve found it less compelling after twenty or thirty listens. Sure, that sounds stupid as I clearly got my thrills spinning it that much but I think it is only near perfect despite how powerfully delivered it is. It’ll take an some damn incredible records to kick this out of the top ten spot on my favorites of this year.