This particular Slumbering Villager's talents don't exactly fall in the “songwriting” category, but this I know: unless you're the immortal Bongripper, creating compelling long-form instrumental doom is damn hard. Fuzz-ridden repetition, while a hallmark, is a blessing and a curse, and few outfits command the dynamism required to pull it off. The lack of vocals effectively guillotines a prime focal point. And we haven't even begun to mention the encroaching boredom that lurks sullenly at every turn. While there are always exceptions, doom of this ilk often goes on and on without ever saying anything interesting. Much like...well, much like this introduction. Really painted myself into a corner there.
Sometimes a band has a almost-but-not-quite grand debut, the kind of album that bears the weight of rookie flaws, but speaks of something larger to come. And then, sometimes, said band delivers tenfold on their next outing, absolutely shattering notions of sophomore slump. And sometimes the groggy-eyed scribe who said he'd review the album in question in a timely manner spends two months mulling over how best to put his emamorment into words. And that lands us here, with Wolf Blood’s II spinning for what seems the umpteenth time.
Wolf Blood is one of those bands who revel in throwing a bevy of ideas at the wall and hoping they stick. Unlike most who engage in such reckless activity, these folks are really damn good at making sure it all stays up there. It’s purely original stuff, and in this business, that's a significant and rare quality.
Lest ye readers read the forthcoming praise and subsequently turn upon us scribes in our lofty ivory tower, brandishing pitchforks and torches whilst profusely bleeding through wretched earholes, let me make something clear. Treading Water, the debut LP from Milwaukees’ two-man grind unit LIFES, is not a pleasant listening experience. Both in conventional and unconventional sense.
Treading Water is a brief but pugilistic cacophony, a squealing and burping punk-ridden grindy mess. LIFES carry themselves with the boisterous aggression, powerviolent attitude, and hardcore gravitas of Iron Lung or Dropdead, combined with the wild grinding invention of (my personal scene faves) The Locust. But sonically, the closest comparison I can draw is the vocal delivery of Liberteer's Matthew Widener. That said, both Zak Rudnik and Dave Holochwost handle vocal duties; I'm not sure which is which. Both are pretty damn excellent, it should be worth noting, and no matter who is roaring, the message comes across clear.
Alright, brevity seekers. Here's the rub. Embrace the Void, the debut(ish) album from multi-continental death metallers Gravefields, is a damn fine record. Thus, I'll employ a reversal of sorts: let's get the critical stuff out of the way quickly, and then proceed with the pummeling--err, of the good variety.
Firstly, the vocals could stand to rise a tad higher in the mix. And secondly, the runtime breaks the Sleeping Village Rule o' 44. With a sound so gloriously belligerent on the ears, the final few tracks leave less of an impact after Side A's goliathan entrance. Am I nitpicking? Yes. Am I finished nitpicking? Also yes.
Given the convoluted intros that have become a bit of a calling card ‘round these parts, we wizened scribes find ourselves in a bit of a situation here. Here's the rub: Entrenched is an outfit about which I know astonishingly little. No niceties regarding city of origin, or band members, or associated acts. In this sense, unless you’ve seen the gloriously indicative album artwork for their sophomore effort Endless Occupation, the music really must speak for itself.
And to be honest, it doesn't speak so much as roar vivaciously. Entrenched play, for all intents and purposes, a speed and thrash-oriented brand of death a la Demolition Hammer or Morbid Saint. They wear the visceral war-torn trappings of Sodom--take the track titles, which range from the obvious ("Meatshield"), to the goofy ("Goreamedic"), to the exclamatory ("Terrorize the Insurgency")--but yet conduct themselves with the juggernautian bombast of Malevolent Rapture-era Legion of the Damned. Imagine if Merciless or Invasion lost their more overtly frantic edges, and gained instead a Vader-esque sense of (moderate) composure. But yet, these comparisons are imperfect, and despite existing in a fairly well-occupied space, Entrenched are seemingly their own bloody beast, taking the bits that work, but never feeling derivative to a consequential degree. Needless to say, if you want thrashy riffs and endless bullet-belted aggression, Endless Occupation will scratches that itch with...well, take your pick of rusty implement. Rake. Machete. Lawnmower.
At 29 brief minutes, Entrenched present an idyllic neck-whipping package. Vocals bark and growl at a wondrously energetic pace, throwing themselves into the fray with a stoicism that arises from well-conceived confidence. Percussion operates exactly how you might hope: pounding, ceaseless, skull-crushingly relentless. Drummers all-too-oft get the short end of the stake--and particularly so in the case of a genre that is exceedingly riff reliant--but here, the percussion is just too damn integral to not receive a well-deserved spot in the limelight. Entrenched bring solid performances across the board, and that goes a long way to making sure that the more overtly gun-brandishing, bandana-wearing, and otherwise cigar-chomping moments aren’t without an appropriately solid foundation.
Highlight tracks are difficult to determine, as I believe, seemingly paradoxically, that Entrenched operate on their highest level when they slow things down. “Interrogation Chamber,” “Terrorize the Insurgency,” and “Assisted Suicide Enlistment” all demonstrate their keen ability to switch gears, and in a genre based so frequently in balls-to-the-wall wild abandon, this is a prime differentiator. Otherwise, give the title track a listen to see what they accomplish at their most visceral.
Endless Occupation is indeed, as I stated a long while ago, a “wild fuckin’ ride.” This album has occupied my listening rotation...well, endlessly, since it first came to my attention. In a world with a near-endless supply of gore, good riffs, and a delightfully kinetic atmosphere, that's saying something. Highly recommended!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and heavy enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a certain groggy-eyed and highfalutin' peasantry.