Sunday, February 10, 2013
Sunday Sludge: Witchden - "Consulting The Bones"
Growing up, I knew a boy named Abel who'd lived more in eight years than I've now lived in my thirty-two. He was the only Hispanic child in a second-grade class of ignorant white assholes, and when he finally got a chance to speak, he had quite a bit to tell. He'd been teased (not relentlessly, but too much) about a scar on his lip that many would assume resulted from a cleft palate. He never talked about it, but his younger brother later told us the scar resulted from Abel's infancy when he had somehow kissed a barbed-wire fence. Add to this the electric current running through the spikes and you begin to feel like a fucking shithead for ever making this kid's life more difficult with taunts.
It's a crude and unfair analogy, but Minneapolis, Minnesota's Witchden have done to listeners what that fence did to Abel. Employing a sound teeming with electric "sludge-'n-roll," this quintet brings us in with the allure of a fluorescent bug light and beats us with the restraint of a Los Angeles cop. On Consulting The Bones, Witchden roll that beautiful riff footage and swing a pendulum that's far-catchier than many of their contemporaries. By the end of these 9 tracks, you won't know if you're being led to a gallows or privy to a barfight. What's important, though, is that Witchden make sure you don't really care either way.
By the time the seared, crusted groove of Time to Burn hits its guitar stride, Witchden's rhythm section drags the song back to its death. The track remains low and steady, employing a tormented vocal from Jason Micah, but the death-rattle pacing and choppy fire at the closing establish a sort of duality. Slowing with screech and doom-cadence, Captive Man and Ossuary round out the album's opening triptych. The glum gloom and sticky sludge are wholly bleak, while a stomp-a-billy bar jam is the soundtrack to your finger-lickin' push through dense brush and broken vows. Go on... immerse yourself in the muddy stink of discontent.
The rock-rooted All Just A Lie takes metal in a new direction. The rattle and flicker sit atop an awesome low-end drag. Your head gets wrapped with creamed spinach and attacked by locusts, but the southern-fried influence of Words Of Man is eases with a subdued vocal. Melding Weedeater with Alabama Thunderpussy, licks manage to surpass riffs and benefit from a reprieve of the doom/sludge clubbing. And the narrative there is worth following.
The disc's back-end is stoner-heavy, though there's no taking away from the girth. If Hell Awaits is nearly a challenge, swaying back and forth and buzzing with a fright that, incredibly, requires no alarm. The repetition of System Link rises and falls, breaking into a buzz-crawl that pisses on flagpoles and snags on promise. The rainy pluck at the end is all at once the album's bleakest and brightest moment. The caustic Kill At Will follows with a cymbal lead-in, caustic and choppy with corrosive violence. The mid-point slap chop creeps slower and slower, heavy-handed and relentless with a return to ubër-doom promise.
Employing sharp sustain and cool-riffing hillbilly influence, Witchden add scorn and spite to rolling grooves, spitting a winning formula that slings shit and shakes floors. Sure, this is sludge... but the sludge swirls, spins, and throws punches bearing chains and bruises that are gonna be around longer than the bar-whore you booted this morning. Blending filth and flow is no easy task, so the stumble is sometimes the intent. When something this dangerous turns to face you, perhaps you shouldn't run or hide. It may be the best thing you hear today.