Living hand to mouth sours a person slowly, the same way a storm-drowned corpse’d pickle within the anaerobic mud of a swamp if the grave were somehow deep enough. To see opportunity beyond the day-to-day struggle to live month over month is too often an exercise in futility; To wipe the bayou flavored shit from your eyes and squint hard enough to fight the ingrained, enfeebling myopathy of poverty long enough to see a greater world of shit around you, devoid of opportunity, is reason enough to collapse into fantasy and addiction. There the will of a man made unequal festers in his own ammonia, a pile of half-digested meat within the stomach of greater vice. The aching belly of the arm-snapping fool is blameless in the eyes of a mental health professional but within the dry-rotting cystic worldview of the working class the disadvantaged deserve their own suffering. This eroded class of people, those who’d see depression, anxiety and addiction as normalcy is elite in the sense that they’ve written the soundtrack to the most meaningful entrants into the greater innovative pantheon of sludge metal throughout the last three decades. Bitterness, hatred, depression and the razor’s edge is the proverbial ‘blues’ of the sub-genre in hand and anything else is foul appropriation of the people’s music. Vancouver, Canada based sludge metal trio Nightfucker come bearing the gift of that soured and terminally buried soul that defined sludge metal in the 90’s and reinforced its emotional spectra in the 00’s.
To what nigh tuneless extreme can doom metal and hardcore punk (alternately, pure noise) fuse to create enough of a mania that’d feel cathartic enough to please the downtrodden and deeply-stained needs of sludge? It’d be fair that British sludge/drone doom metal band Moss pushed those limits just as Noothgrush did before them and Coltsblood after. Those nearly twenty minute dirges unto Hell were a worthwhile point of inspiration for many sludge enthusiasts within England before the hardcore-curious crowd began to overwhelm the populace. I only mention this because you could feel the dread screaming from the guitar of ex-Moss member Dominic Finbow who brings his own taste for earth shattering gloom to Nightfucker along with members of lesser known Vancouver black metal act Radioactive Vomit. Where then do they aim their mud-caked spears? The whole of the Nightfucker experience lies somewhere between the ‘Dismal’ and ‘Come to Grief’-era of Grief, the hissing rapture of Burning Witch, and a few subtly blackened modernizations felt within Coffinworm‘s heralded debut ‘When All Became None’. I’d say their style is pretty buttoned-up within those general sonic reaches and that isn’t to say that they’re iterating on obvious influences but that this is a traditional sort of experience for folks who are often drawn within this niche.
Four roughly eight to ten minute slow-motion, lets say Winter-paced, songs hiss and gnarl their way forward on this debut that is arguably all about the bass guitar tone in terms of narrative voice. The rasp-and-roar vocal approach from Adam Sorry (Celestial Bloodshed, Deathwinds) couldn’t be more satisfying in terms of believable suffering, though his register is cold and unerring as an extreme metal vocal would be when compared to any of the 90’s classics I’d previously mentioned. Though the songwriting within is not as drone focused or extensive as Moss were, there is a sort of similar ‘tunelessness’ that defines the ‘Nightfucker’ listening experience. A dry as bones march forward is warmed by the downtuned-to-Hell co-mingling of oversaturated bass and guitar distortion where only feedback and vocal cadence allow a break from the slow-paced doom metal riffing that is more or less constant throughout the album’s ~37 minute length. It is oppressive by design, a screaming mass of doom metal with blackened sludge’s hiss up front and probably nothing too far out of the ordinary for most dedicated sludge fandom. Where I’d argue this is well above average is really for the sake of professional quality, quality layout design, veneration of classic sludge metal, and the easily repeatable mood that Nightfucker create. There is misery and satiating heaviness up front but never that ‘too far, too long’ amateurish excess that clogs the message of most modern extreme sludge metal.
Of course I found myself wanting something more varietal, musical, and ambitious after 5-6 full listens but, as a point of planting roots in the soil ‘Nightfucker’ creates a solid platform without promising too much and quickly creates a very focused and dirge-like musical ambition to begin with. I appreciate a sludge record that feels like it gets to the point and rides that wave for the entirety of the full listen without trying for any bells and whistles, this ‘ride the pocket’ simplicity is where I think fans of early Grief will appreciate Nightfucker most. If I’ve painted a generally traditional-leaning picture of sludge metal do not allow me to overstate myself, the single-mindedness of the release is more defining a characteristic than any noticeable nods to the old ways. ‘Nightfucker’ comes with a reasonably high recommendation, more for the experience and the ache of its sound rather than any deeper artistic statement. For preview I’d suggest trying any one of the four tracks here as any one of them will deliver the ‘gist’ of the full experience. My personal favorite track was “Death Beset”, especially in context with the rest of the album building up to it.
A skeleton beneath the roots. 3.75/5.0
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