SEUM – Winterized (2021)REVIEW

Though it’d been co-opted by the sedate and the too-serene alt-metal and performance art scenery over the course of the last two decades the true spiritus of sludge metal will always bore through the ear canvas as seditious punk extremity and blue collar existential dread — ham-fisted punk blues set to dirge and tailor made for heavy, real emotional (or drug-addled) outbursts. The anxietous, body-hurling, and right-on-the-edge stuff vomits guts worth picking through, the right bands have a crying-ass soul ready to go with guitar riffs before they know what they’re doing, and the listener knows they’ve hit a rare vein of the godhead mush when the emotion runs high on the receiving end. You don’t see me fawning over sludge metal more than a few times a year anymore for no other reason than I’m not buying it, not literally in terms of purchases but, in the sense that I don’t feel the pain and the affected horror of life translating into cool as shit music, at all anymore. All the more reason to pay attention to the burn behind the eyes that Montréal, Quebec-based sludge/stoner metal trio Seum brought to my skull throughout the uncertain captivity of MMXX and now with their debut full-length ‘Winterized‘, and album that ain’t all that serious or miserable when coping but they’re sure as Hell letting it out. The whole thing is a jam, a half hour’s worth of minimal and kicking stomp tracks with a hissing maniac driving a rhythm section to their underfoot thundering limit, no guitars allowed.

Dunno if they were winging it or just had the balls to be this unknown band with a plan from the start but, Seum introduced themselves by committing to a Summer of Seum online promotional schedule that saw them releasing a song per week from their debut EP of the same name (‘Summer of Seum‘) wherein each song featured a unique illustration (each from a different notable artist) and might’ve featured a live performance or music video online. Though this is common promotional strategy amongst other sub-genres, the sludge and stoner spectrum rarely makes every song count to such a degree. They’d taken their next release, a split 7″ with Parisian stoner/doom rockers Fátima, who are old friends via Seum vocalist Gaspard Carrey being originally from France (and may be recognizable as the former frontman for Lord Humungus), covering each others songs for a unique run of pop-up book style packaging with art from Gorka Uztarroz on the 7″. Beyond the power of their distorted bass-forward sound and simple, screaming blues rock heaviness these guys were making it count in a year where a lot of bands sat back and asked for handouts or succumbing to despair; I appreciated anyone who kept trying and kept going during those months and especially that these guys were swinging back at the oppressive feeling of the times, using every bummer that hit ’em as their own striking point and managing to show some personality while doing it.

‘Winterized’ comes with less fanfare, more or less on the hype wave of previous exploits and hitting a bigger, nastier and more doomed statement overall. The tightly wound “southern rock” slide of classic NOLA movements cut of their long-winded bumble and given a warm ‘Saint Vitus’ by way of early Sleep doom metal crunch via distorted guitar bass hauls and stoner rock pick me ups. They’re not as surrealistic slo-mo post-punk as early Melvins or as hardcore n’ feedback harassed as Eyehategod but that most classic feral spirit of sludge metal bleeds through even when the too-clever stoner rock side of their taste becomes the major attraction and to be fair it does at least half the time. Always snarling, well, sometimes coughing but always snarling Seum often features Carrey‘s vocals as if they were the harmonization a blanket of distorted guitar might’ve otherwise been. From the bounding early Clutch-isms of “Broken Bones” to the post-millennium doom n’ fuzz ride (and ‘Southern Discomfort’ ride-out) of debut single “Life Grinder” the intensity of the fellow’s performances should be enough to sustain most sludge heads for countless listens; Though it is a performance there is an unchained conveyance therein that communicates a violent reaction, or, disgust on an existential level. At the very least there is charisma here that we just don’t get from the sludge metal world anymore since medical grade weed became readily available in the first world.

The big draw here, and I’ll be fairly brief beyond this point, is not only the more ferocious vocal performance but how it all aligns with the most varietal tone(s) and tuneage from the stealth unit of drummer Frédéric Lepoutre and impressive bassist Piotr Ignatowicz who does fine work every second of this album to justify the guitarless presence within, landing a huge sound that will appeal broadly to stoner/doom metal, sludge/noise rock, and classic sludge-minded fandom alike. The self-applied tag of “doom n’ bass” holds up in this sense, everything rides on the sensation the rhythm section creates and the vocals take it to a hard, hellish place that reeks of the right stuff. If you’re not convinced by the single thus far the two to really land all of my fuss will be “Black Snail Volcano” and “Winter of Seum”, these are the big dirges of the record where each uses the gigantic push of Ignatowicz‘ playing to create maximal space (in the former) and negative space (in the latter) showcasing a real talent for oppressive and senses-crushing sounds without becoming a smarmy static mess like your average sludgecore record might these days. The only piece where I’d been keen to skip on after the first few listens was “Red Sematary” a play on The Ramones‘ “Pet Sematary” but done up ‘Dopethrone’ heavy; I liked the dual vocal approach with that perfect scream at ~3:05 minutes in and I appreciate that the news samples that kick in are COVID-19/protester death related but the song had been a bit ‘extra’ for the end of the album, one extra touch too many, still effective nonetheless.

By no means minimal but rather simple and effective as a power trio without a guitarist Seum manage to sound huge while cranking out wrathful and kinda fun stoner sludge music at their own pace, in their own voice. Being a relatively new project it does seem quick for a debut full-length but they’re already building upon a solid skeleton in interesting ways, and refining the fidelity and variety of their sound and attack here first and foremost. I’d found the album a solid half hour to jump into, get hit by and duck out without any of it drying out. A fantastic place to start and one of few sludge records to hit the spot so far this year.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
RELEASE DATE:June 11th, 2021
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp
GENRE(S):Sludge Metal,
Sludge/Stoner Doom Metal

Help Support Grizzly Butts’ goals with a donation:

Please consider donating directly to site costs and project funding using PayPal.