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Sunday, September 18, 2011

Sunday Sludge: Concrete Sun - "Sky Is High"

Summer's quickly coming to a close, and you'll need one last good push to break those clouds and carry through the next seven months. Concrete Sun seem dedicated to the cause, releasing Sky Is High, a southern stoner sludge record that proves absolutism simply won't work when it comes to our Sunday column. These Serbs appealed to my *ahem* discernible tastes with a 99-proof blend of blues-based riffs, dusty rhythms, and up-tempo grime that won't quite fit into any narrow-minded label you could impose.

Song titles like Just A Beginning will prove misleading, as the album's opener contains enough oozy goodness to grab your balls and demand attention. Crunchy southern riffs dominate, vocals scratch like Sebastian Bach, and Dimebag's Washburn pull-back is resurrected. Topic Milos's steady drum punch is sure to get your head banging, while Mijatovic Bojan and Zivkovic Budimir trade guitar licks fit for a dehydrated bake in desert sun.

Riffs remain relentless on Euphoria, though drums get more complex. You may think Cerovina Strahinja's vocals echo off mountains until his lingering laughter has you looking over your shoulder. This up-tempo gravel-toss balances fiery guitars and rolling rhythms, perfectly wearing you out before you meet Last Man Under the Sun. Southern sludge likes to mellow out once in a while, and I don't believe a comparison to Down's Stone the Crow is unwarranted. Cerovina must've written these lyrics at a bog's edge, waiting for the dirty riffs to return. The track is slower, more restrained, and surprisingly powerful. Solos break their backs over Petrovic Strahinja's rolling bass, leaving you to wonder if this rattlesnake is gonna strike or retreat.

Guitars shine on tracks like D.A.N.U.B.E. and God Forsaken Prostitute. The Dimebag influence is undeniable, though it's not exploited. Soiled riffs counter low, loose bass on D.A.N.U.B.E., which will get your brain rattling with its choppy, jagged southern licks. God Forsaken Prostitute immediately drops heavy, with rhythms slowly plodding and grinding. Vocals hover, guitars grow heavenly and atmospheric, and we're taken for a ride. The track boils down like Kyuss's Space Cadet, fuzzy guitar drops to a warble, and the drums remain bone-hollow until a violation of guitar necks erupts.

Junkyard Dog likely contains the album's sludgiest moments, shifting through thunderstorms (I'm a sucker for organic atmospheres) and sirens before slowed tempo welcomes absolutely filthy licks. A Helmet-esque stop-start dynamic fails to detract from the bass highlights here, as do any comparisons to Pantera's Cowboys From Hell (you'll know it when you hear it). Bouncy and dirtier than your high school P.E. teacher, this song moves from barking sludge to blistering guitar stutters. You'll wanna keep this song nearby when you try to impress those kids who think they're cooler than you.

I had to take pause with Sky Is High, a disheveled blues-bar romp with Vincent Price (or maybe that "Bucho" fella from Desperado) contributing vocals. The track moves from southern creepiness to saloon sing-along and will actually make you wish you hadn't spent last night polishing off the tequila. The guitars duel one another and end up creating a pretty fucking enjoyable song, though it'll take a second spin.

I'm done being surprised with how far Pepper Keenan's and Mike Dean's influence extends. Listening to Ruff Song is like going home; you appreciate the steadiness, the timing, the delicious THICKNESS. Strahinja's bass holds down rhythm here, despite the track wanting to take off to wherever the fuck it wants. This song grinds a bit more than the rest of the album, which can't be held against it.

Sky Is High manages to meld every element and influence of its first eight tracks to create its coup de grĂ¢ce on track nine. Hide Behind socks you with a wet-fist rhythm, while guitars sail all over hell. Dirty southern riffs roll, vocals chew and spit out gravel, and a black metal toilet-gurgle surprise just might make neighbors declare you a satanist (GASP!). Take this song with you on a bumpy road and drive yourself into the ditch. This is a perfect roller-coaster conclusion to an album that spans several genres and influences, complete with pounding, pausing, fading, and a few sweaty towels. Fuck yeah.

I had so much fun with this album, there was no way it WASN'T getting featured as today's Sunday Sludge. It's great when sludge pairs with stoner metal and southern rock to create a sound that balances the past with the future. If I ever worry about the good ol' days being gone forever, I'll reach for Concrete Sun. If I ever complain of having no decent music to anticipate, I'll reach for Concrete Sun. Just keep livin', ya'll.

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