Release DetailsLABEL Deepsend
RELEASED ON 3/26/2005
Half Speed Ahead
posted on 4/2005 By:
Of all the hotly-debated topics that have stumped metal literati since the dawn of time, none have surfaced more often than this eternal conundrum- just what does "heavy" mean? What context should it be applied in? If I make extensive use of a word that nobody truly understands, that has such a subjective and tenuous significance to the individual, am I defeating the purpose of writing altogether? It's so goddamn hard trying to cohere on paper how music makes you feel from an instinctive perspective, and even harder when you perpetually have to come up with something more concrete than the dubious ambiguity of ''heavy''. So allow me to offer an opinion- ''heavy'' is, quite simply, how hard a record makes me bang my head. There is the casual, reasonably enthused nod, often accompanied by the requisite toe-tapping motion. There is the more dramatic, pronounced thrusting, often performed as a prelude to a KILLER riff that you know is about to erupt. Then, there is the full-blooded, unapologetic, horns in air, animalistic BANG, the bestial celebration of everything that ROCKS about aggressive music. To qualify as "heavy", you must overwhelm all my reasonable faculties and leave me no fathomable alternative BUT to bang my head in as bestial a fashion as humanly possible, regardless of the often embarassing consequences.
If I could provide a textbook audial example of "heavy", Rebreather would certainly qualify as one of the prime candidates. I'd like to issue a warning before you read further, though, I've been a HUGE fan of this band for a number of years now, and as such this review may not be quite as objective as I would like. Still, give Half Speed Ahead and I'm sure you'll see what I mean- it's hard NOT to gush when writing about a band as accomplished, as fervently dedicated to being as HEAVY as humanly possible, as obscenely extreme as Rebreather. This is a compilation of sorts, containing two ridiculously EVIL EPs in one caustic package.
The name of the game here is sludgecore- thick, viscous torrents of hideously distorted guitars, lurching, somnambulistic bass, crouching and ugly rhythms that wrap themselves around your skull, all coalescing into an absurdly nasty mass of hatred. Obviously, this is a bit of an anomaly coming from the same label that gave us Cinerary, Cock & Ball Torture, Scattered Remnants et cetera, but believe me, this outdoes ALL of said bands in pure sonic heft and cruelty. From the outset, Rebreather make it painfully obvious that they aren't here to make any friends- "Southdown" is an explosive BEHEMOTH of a track that snarls and grunts with primal bitterness, its tar-thick grooves trickling out your speakers, suffocating you with sheer malicious force. And the urgency in the vocals! While he doesn't offer the same dynamic range as, say, a Dax Riggs, Barley's vocals bear the same demonic, utterly disturbed quality, drenched in equal parts bile and Southern Comfort.
It will also become glaringly clear to you throughout the record that you haven't heard sludge this infectious since Eyehategod and Acid Bath. It will confound you how music this wrathful and corrosive could at the same time be so exquisitely catchy. Moments after the first hook of "Southdown" you'll find yourself thrashing around your room, dripping with sweat as you echo Barley's refrain of "GODDAMN!". Once you summon the nerve to move on to the next track , you realize that an hour has elapsed, and that you have in fact been engaged in a personal exorcism, "Southdown" serving as the anguished soundtrack to your own cathartic outbursts. You'd better believe that the rest of the album is just as wickedly hypnotic, toeing the line between haunting melody and vile misanthropy. Each deliberate, plodding note bleeds with genuine misery, each scream a lucid portrait of anger in all its nude, seething glory.
Yet, while so many of their ilk can be more easily described as Saint Vitus and Black Sabbath played at a slug's crawl, Rebreather's formula is evidently far more musical and diverse. This record runs the gamut from crusty Dystopia/Hawg Jaw/Fistula/Rue tendencies to more melodically-inclined Goatsnake and Sourvein sensibilities, injecting the despondent pop of Acid Bath, the utterly damaged delirium of Iron Monkey and a dark rhythmic edge that one could relate to Helmet, Unsane and Cable into a bowel-loosening mold. If you're a hardcore kid and enjoy Baroness, Kylesa and Cursed, I'm almost certain you'll find something to adore in this band, who ply a sound that is equally frightening, sulphuric and flat-out different.
I know it might seem like I'm handing out 666's a lot in my first week here, but I can with vehement honesty say that Half Speed Ahead was near the top of my Best Of list last year, and I thought it was my obligation, nay, DUTY, to spread the news as far as I possibly could, so these guys can make enough money to play up here in Toronto. Everything about this record is flawless- they manage to extract so much goddamn emotion out of stark rhythms and chords, to excavate so much fucking agony out of the gaping chasms that exist between each pounding riff.
I guarantee you, even if you hate the whole doom/sludge/stoner thing, if you have any interest in angry music, and fuck, if you're into metal you really should, you will ADORE this record, because it affirms HEAVY music's capacity to cohere and expel the rage that curdles within us all. This record is cavernous, perverse, ugly, just the way heavy music SHOULD be. If recent reports are to be believed, we can expect an even BETTER, Godflesh-tinged follow-up later this year. I thank the dark lord for the day I discovered this band.
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