SEUM – Double Double (2023)REVIEW

Bug-eyed off left-handed cigarettes and chugging lukewarm Tim Horton’s at a gas station... — The unsullied bones of their dread-relieving artform delivered with the psycho-active blitz of a proper hippie speedball Montréal, Québec-based sludge/stoner metal trio Seum return energized in delivery of this second full-length album. Though they’re still leading with their own brand of doom n’ bass with a jackal’s snarl up front ‘Double Double‘ finds these Franco-Canadian transplants tweaking production values toward a sleekened pipeline, heating up their prominent bass guitar fuzztones into hypnotic layers and tightening up their songcraft on all counts. This time around they’re all about cutting right to the goods, aiming to get clever in the moment more often and hit a few more riffs along the way.

Seum knew what they were doing from the start, a naked-ass form of bluesy sludge metal delivered without a bit of guitar in their gig as they popped up outta nowhere circa plague year one. They’d had an interesting enough jam in hand to get people talking throughout the year as the trio worked up to their debut full-length, ‘Winterized‘, in 2021 by way of a few excellent small releases. These established a knack for bespoke short-run releases, unique art design, and uncomplicated sludge metal pieces which translate well to live performances. You rarely see bands so completely prepared to represent themselves and present a clean and clear point of view, it was impressive up front and hey, the debut album resultant came with plenty of personality. When I’d reviewed that first album it’d end up being one of my favorite sludge metal related releases that year hence a bit of hype heading into this follow up.

We’re not far from the rehearsal space when considering Seum‘s process but we are at least out on the trash strewn street, loaded up on daily vices and pulling inspiration from the trek to their practice space. As their NOLA-sludge swingin’, stoner doom boosted and occasionally punkish action works up in mind the listener should very well feel the sidewalk under foot, sacks of trash blown by the wind and probably some kind of goddamned ice crunching about. They keep their heads down getting there but the gears are still turning in clever ways as ‘Double Double‘ puts tighter grooves and clearer render first without losing sight of their surroundings. At some point opener “Torpedo” steps off its noose of an opening doom metal riff and starts to strut, walking its crooked line back in a way that instantly reads as Seum but they’re turning on a dime rather than a quarter, thinking faster on their feet and leaning into lessons learned about cutting to the meat of it all via live performances. The whole of it might be a bit less immersive, they’ve lost a bit of the meandering scuzz that’d backed the previous album but the major gain is that each piece -counts- toward the whole of the experience in equal importance this time around.

Snow Bird” feels especially related to the hustle of ‘Winterized‘ and the signature minimal yet effective bump Seum have always brought, further reassurance that their established continuity hasn’t been disrupted here. We do however find at least a few surprising, or, at least memorable pieces which feel like something new. “Razorblade Rainbow” is a standout either way and initially because it seems to be presenting a scenario where the narrator experiences a “bath salts” trip and… regrets it at some point. The wordplay of the lyrics is probably more interesting than the freakout itself but the piece emphasizes the early Melvins-esque extreme buzz and the funking aggro strange of Clutch by way of Eyehategod grooves which kinda gives us the Seum sound in approximated waves. “Dollarama” reinforces this feeling by inciting a more direct hardcore punk buzz as the tension is walked-out through slow burning sludge riffs. This is where these guys are at their best from my point of view, covering many bases by nature rather than forcing up a checklist of sub-genre nodes to hit. ‘Double Double‘ maintains a consistent mood, holds a relevant conversation with a punchline or two along the way and doesn’t force the wry humor that lies beneath the snarl and dread it flashes at face value.

Shit’s catchy and heavy, too. — At a quick and not too demanding half hour+ ‘Double Double‘ gets in, gets its rise and clears out at the exact right clip. A few of the songs get into it a bit more than others (“Seum Noir”, “Dog Days”) in terms of developing their rhythms but the most memorable pieces make themselves obvious as the long term focus of repeat listens. I’d never fully known what Seum were exactly on about in terms of the lyrics but the presentation and easily read jam of it all consistently delivered a good time whenever I’d picked the record up. If your expectations of sludge metal call for a conglomerate of doom metal’s dread riffs and some manner of punk affect in delivering existentially fraught expression these guys still have you covered and then some. This record goes a step beyond the usual bullshit in that it delivers songs meant to stick in mind and appreciate in value upon reapproach. There are more hits than misses in this sense but the major success of ‘Double Double‘ is in Seum‘s ability to refine their repertoire and render above all else. A moderately high recommendation.

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