Feast or famine, they say. Sometimes I've gotta dig deep for that "just right" Sunday Sludge band, due either to a small cache of submissions or perhaps even waking up on the wrong side of Jesus. Then there's the flooded inbox, the geeked-out click-fests, and the futile efforts of consuming as much down-tempo goodness as I can squeeze into that smallest of time windows before a three year-old is pelting my forehead with stone raisins.
Having five or six "ideas" to choose from enables a discerning taste, you might say. Turning to Albany, New York's HUSH. was no challenge this morning, but moving on to next week's band may get thorny. On a strong debut of seven painful and distant nugs of sludgy doom, HUSH. plug a churning rhythm and a cacophony of guitar swells that challenge conformity and what some have deemed "progress." That's right, you've gotta pay attention to the lyrics. Sorry for killing your buzz.
Untitled I is teeming, incendiary stomp saddled with dark and unsettling splices. Where the immediate crush of doom puts us in slo-mo, the lifting, ambitious licks and joint-buckling throwdowns flicker in our oft-empty eyes. The occasional stoner hover serves to expand the aura of despair, namely with the sprawling bass web of Old Bones. Throughout the album, pained acceptance is no match for screaming obscenities at a society chewed up, spit out, and sold back to us in a pristine white box. You thought the sound was heavy? Dissect the message, bro.
The heaviness never drowns out all else, though. Slowed with vintage and distant with confinement, Antlerborn freezes and burns all at once. With wet eyes we look toward the sky, embracing our isolation among "a herd of sheep." Pain ebbs and flows, but that flow is brutal. Knee-stagger tempos, you knew, were gonna return. And we haven't even touched on Charles Cure's delivery. The rattling, tapering howl is the only match for hot guitar spears on Squall. Massive sound is pared to veiled licks and lone, echoed crunches. It gets better with each listen, mate.
Keys provide a false spark of hope on Candles, but the encircling thunder and stagnant beliefs collapse under the weight of a ten-ton sludge drop. You'll enjoy the cool calm, but that brief respite got wiped out with Ryan Strainer's gluey porch treatment drum-stampede, slugging at wet earth as the dual vocal is revisited and perfected. HUSH. can pull back the reins, but it's a mindfuck. The message here is one of renewal, and you'll soon discover the shed skin is harder to pick off than you'd expected.
The disc's back end is perfectly patient, holding awesome suspensions on By Tusk and Talon, a knock on technology's disruption of nature. Stamp a barcode on your forehead and get in line for a bone-shaving, shrieking bout with the shakes. Life hits the brakes quick, and this grinder toils away at a man worn thin by the distant jangle of an approaching collapse. And closing with The Distant Roar of Things to Come finds HUSH. at their lowest and most malevolent. The awesome, smeared malaise sludges through the loss of all that made us human, pointing fingers at a culture that "embraced fantasy and greed and dulled our senses." The swirls of anarchy are juxtaposed with intermittent, melodic pauses. It's gorgeous and woeful all at once.
Don't let yourself get too comfortable. On Untitled I, despair clouds every luxury. Every happiness is whittled and boiled. The sludge-doom truths pique our senses, but the vexed lyricism here serves as effective a weapon. The songs are strongly-structured, the shifts are well-placed. Ultimately, the songs are smart and despondent, truly questioning where we're headed. Blame doesn't need to be assigned because you know you're guilty. I suppose the first step is admitting you've got a problem. The second step is listening to HUSH. The third step is listening to HUSH. again. You see where I'm headed?
Charles Cure - Vocals
Jordan Cozza - 8 String
Jeff Andrews - 7 String/Vocals
Ryan Strainer - Drums/Keys