Written by: Continuous Thunder
If you told me at the beginning of the year that one of the best sludge metal albums I’d hear in 2020 would come from two Japanese girls… I’d lean in closer and ask you to tell me more. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, when women are involved in making hard rock and metal on the doomy side of things, it tends to be pretty damn good more often than not. Some of my favorite albums from the past couple of years have been from bands like Windhand, Castle, and Electric Citizen. And this year we’ve already had great albums from Konvent and Lucifer. Well, get ready to add BlackLab to the pile.
As mentioned, BlackLab is a doom and sludge duo from Japan, made up of guitarist and vocalist Yuko Morino and drummer Chia Shiraishi. Abyss is their second album. Being a duo in the doom metal world requires some sonic creativity to get your sound sufficiently heavy and thick. I’m not sure what witchcraft Morino has employed, but her guitar tone is freakin’ huge! And these riffs aren’t just fuzzy, they’re downright filthy. We’re talking trve slvdge, Houdini-era Melvins levels of nasty. Along with down-tuning, a sub-octave can be heard filling out the bottom end. I don’t know if Morino dubbed in a bass guitar or if she split her signal into an octave pedal, but there is certainly no lack of low end here. She’s also the kind of guitarist who uses feedback to her advantage.
Says guitarist and vocalist Chris Roo: “This world is fucked and I really just need to get shit out with my friends by my side." And in one fell swoop, Roo thusly describes the sound and the impact of the debut EP from Chicago’s own These Beast far more succinctly than I ever will. Forthcoming glowing recommendation aside, you just gotta appreciate a band that nails it in the artistic statement department. And there's no question: everyone can benefit from a good vent. The trouble, more often than not, is finding an audience willing to subject themselves to your grievances. In the case of These Beasts, it’s looking like this particular Villager shall henceforth lend an ear.
These Beasts don’t defy classification per se--but, as with most artists, describing them in terms of who they sound like versus what they sound like feels reductive. In any case, bear with me here. By kicking in the door with a certain mustardy ferocity, These Beasts take the forthright no-fucks-given experimentality of Botch or “Red Medicine”-era Fugazi, and batter, fairly mercilessly, against the distortion-ridden and axe-bashing aggression of Unsane or Whores. While the sonic differences are obvious, a general Torche-esque weirdness broods beneath, lending the entire affair a comfortable air of genre-melding nostalgia.
It’s clearly noisey, but “noise rock” doesn’t quite do These Beasts any sort of justice, as punk-driven vivacity and doomy undercurrents pervade. For the former, look to the celebratory shouts of “Shirilla In a Tub.” In terms of the latter, melancholic standout “Shovel and Pick,” and the back half of “Impugn” come highly recommended. Churning and angular riffs billow and slice with serrated finesse, leaving ragged wounds with paradoxical precision. All the while the twin vocals are expulsive yet melodic, communing effectively with the guitar to maintain a consistently pugilistic front. Needless to say, the sheer intensity feels genuine throughout. Bludgeoning drums--with particularly excellence cymbal work, I might add--keep the affair appropriately grounded. The entire 6 track packages bristles with an untamed energy, but yet, it never feels overlong or undercooked. In other words, it’s clear to this attentive listener that these boys have a knack for revision.
And throughout, most importantly, this EP demonstrates a cathartic raw anger, a general recognizable fury. For those of you looking to sample, intro track “End of the Whip” (listen below) remains the prime example of this actualized intent. Do These Beasts incite anger, shouldering the burden of rabble-rousers? Not so much. Do they reflect our collective need and appreciation for catharsis? Absolutely. This ferocious EP comes highly recommended.
These Beasts - These Beasts will be released 3/29 from Magnetic Eye Records
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!