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Sunday, September 4, 2011

Sunday Sludge: Tank 86 - "Rise"

I love an album that wastes no time in sounding like a rainy day. Not only did Tank86's Rise roll like 5:00am fog, but it sounded like something the Trojans and Spartans would've had buzzing in their rusty cages on their way to a morning ambush. From the album's cover-art to the tail-end of the last track, this is a misty, sludgy rumble through an unsuspecting village that never lets up. This is merciless. This... is your Sunday Sludge.

Previously, all I knew of the Dutch was what I'd heard on CNN about Joran Van der Sloot (yeah, he's basically Aruban). Maybe it's a Dutch thing, but these guys talk even less than cold-blooded sociopaths. Rise is one of those rare collections of tracks that succeeds and speaks volumes without actually using any vocals. Tank86 may have cut their losses early; there's so much to hear on this album, adding any vocals would actually detract from the band's sound. The musicianship is impressive, the production is impeccable, and the overall sound is thick and unrelenting. Rise makes a statement without soiling itself with words and wit.

Slow doom opens Barrosphere, a medieval plod with choppy rhythm and an oozing, gurgling vibe that gives listeners fits as they try to pin the sound. Drums crush rocks against skulls, with Rogier Berben's bash complementing the hot, blacksmith guitars of Joost Kruiswijk and Harold Aling. Throw in Jochum Van Weert's driving bassline and you've got yourself an opening track, brother! The absence of vocals and lyrics places increased emphasis on the importance of profiency, which is undeniable. The track seethes, waking a sleeping village with a soaring hail-storm of flaming arrows.

Guest appearances can be dangerous for mid-level bands trying to get their sound to the masses. Axe welcomes Peter Van Elderen and, after a slow sludge grind marks its territory, allows his guitar to burn and blister like Courtney Love's undercarriage. The showcase highlights a song Mastodon fans should immediately fall in love with. Dozer's Tommi Holappa appears on Gottes Krieger, Santa's own sleigh-bell nod to wet, fuzzy sludge that's further south than he ever wants to be. Holappa's marquee licks are book-ended by a drum assault that can't be paced, regardless of who you are.

A waving mace titled Apparat demonstrates Tank86's ruthless chops, carousing through stoner grooves with brazen, south-Texas fretwork. Again, the Mastodon parallel remains evident, though a hollow slap of marshy puddles sprays shit everywhere and finds a string-tickle that sounds good enough to make you forget every other band you ever loved. Black Lake is spooky, slow as Pantera's Hollow, and despondent as a night in a homeless shelter. Doom wails through a rigorous tedium of daytime factory work before giving way to hope and revolution, the kind that bubbles and festers and ultimately gives the proletariat something to smile about. The track serves as a nod to Mastodon and a successful union of sludge and robot metal.

Leathery drums, choppy licks, and a collection of sonic tributaries form the awesome Saint Piran, the album's best song. A slow spank of sludge/doom hybrid, the song carries listeners across a moat to a sworn enemy. Forget the "Yo-Ee-Oh-EeOhh-Oh" of The Wizard of Oz's flying monkeys, THIS is the song they should've been humming. The pummeling rhythm of mustangs swiftly carrying home a wounded soldier is the only thing I heard in the track's last ninety seconds.

Ominous drums complement argumentative, swampy riffs on the teeth-grind of Infidel. The romp is steady and the guitars descend summits in a sludge blaze that should be required listening for any bushman on the defensive. Dying Mountain is full stoner roll, with guitars pulling back and slicing in every direction. Double kick-drums provide balance, rhythms creep to a crawl, and guitar lava begins to bubble as village drones do what they're told. But hey, this is stoner sludge, eh? Breakneck rhythm slides in, cuts down a few sequoias, and makes no apologies. Rise's nightcap snakes in every direction, warbles, slows, and ultimately allows its victim to succumb to a peaceful, rain-soaked demise.

Tank86 paint bleak landscapes by expanding musicianship in lieu of stretching vocals. Rise has plenty to say without listeners hiding their eye-roll and pretending the lyrics are "deep." Hot riffs, unique structures, clean sound, and more than a fair share of Southern Metal make this album worth full price. If these four Dutch dudes don't wanna supplement their sludge with an explanation, I'm cool with that. Grinding rhythms, heavy plod, and an abundance of talent shine through enough of these tracks to transcend any pre-conceived shortcoming. C'mon... Don't be that guy who sounds ignorant when he says "What? No words?"

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