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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sunday Sludge: Dead Ranch - "Antler Royal"

How's your day, Midwesterner? Did ya spend the balance of two hours skitchin' on black ice like I did? Step in and drop a little angst in your eggs this morning. And a pinch o' bourbon'll take away that sprawling, metallic taste o' arctic douche left behind after some Kia -driving divorcee hotlined sideways into a snowbank. Nothing went right for anyone this weekend, so let's just use this Sunday morning forum to crack early oat sodas and spin some Southern-spat sludge straight outta hell via... Canada?

Winnipeg isn't exactly the first city springing to mind when your head rattles with down-tuned aggression. And complaining about Illinois weather would probably make Johnny Canuck shake his head. But Canadians Dead Ranch are pissed about something. Maybe everything. Their debut full-length, Antler Royal, pokes and jabs with an energy and a snarl you just can't drown. Eight tracks, thirty-some minutes, and a flurry of hot gravel... Buckle up.

The cold, patient lead of Ice Desert may be a hoodwink, as Dead Ranch spring the stairs toward grinding sludge. Pacing echoes Black Tusk, led by pummeling brutality and a vocal throated in coarse sand. Relentlessly slugging under fret explorations, tributaries gradually funnel in and destruction rolls ten-fold. This opener pauses to tend wounds, only to snap back with sonic poison. Attack of the Sky Creatures follows with sludge groove pulled straight from a Southern mudpit. The quick-driven piss 'n vinegar amps the swampy stomp, smoothing over corners to counter the sharp tastes. Crunching throughout, there's no mistaking where this album's leading us.

Mudwalker / River Drinker shifts up and down, lacing your back with steel tacks. Progressions build on stoner structures, barbed and steel-toed as vocal executions go public. The disc's midsection begins to sweat and swell, framing a tightly-wound spiral of dominance and breathlessness. Unipolar is gorgeously loaded with guitar buzz and coated in matted fur, while Water Park Shark smooths and sways by comparison. The incessant and confident lunges of quick sludge keep this motor revved. Dead Ranch utilize cymbal crashes, riff mangles, and tempo shifts to delirious, delicious effect, throwing in stoner repetition before resorting to chewing off an arm.

Antler Royal bruises up on Lenry Beastman, quite simply a brutal sludge skullfuck. Beastly, ungodly paces drive hatred with purity amid collective vocals and guitar-swirl highlights. Abrupt as the track is, the mark's been made. And perhaps brevity was more appropriate considering the total sludge effort of the six-minute closer, La Petite Mort. Sticky, burning patches are simply gorgeous, slowed and bothered in its drawn and quartered reflections. Here Dead Ranch roll and expand on their own ticket, locking in their smarts and coolly discovering new avenues. Lucky for us, we're dragged down every one of them. Sputtering with no risk of stalling, Antler Ranch finally finds its weathered majesty.

Layers of intimidation effectively envelop listeners on each of Antler Ranch's stoner-sludge wedges. The steady beating is repetitive and merciless, and these embers are gonna glow behind your ears all night. Licking and sticking is Sunday Sludge 101, but Dead Ranch uncoil their hostility and damn the doubters. If you're prone to rages, perhaps enjoy this one at home. Alone. If you need a spark, Antler Ranch has eight of 'em. If your sauce is already jazzed, just toss your keys in the snow. The National Institute of Mental Health thanks you. Fuck, nevermind... You're Canadian.

For fans of: High On Fire, Black Tusk, (early) Mastodon
Pair with: Chimay Première, Bières de Chimay S.A.

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