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Sunday, October 12, 2014

Sunday Sludge: Lotus Ash - "The Word of God"

I remember when Audioslave formed. I fucking loved Soundgarden as a teen, and Rage Against The Machine was extreme for the mainstream, so I was hooked. But you take Chris Cornell minus Kim Thayil's licks (and Matt's drums, let's be serious) and RATM minus Zach's spits, and who gives a shit? Audioslave was so bland I could barely stomach the term "supergroup," just a couple o' radio-friendly singles and foam filler for the uninitiated.

Heavy Planet alums Maidens and Northless may not boast such an inflated pedigree, but their members aren't foreign to sculpting dynamic post-sludge sounds leaning toward the year's best. Rarely does the sum outperform the parts, but today's feature is an exercise highlighting growth, and egos won't stiffen the sound this time. Lotus Ash's The Word of God is five walled progressions of post-sludge perfection saturated in a groove that's both infectious and proficient.

Redemption's epic rush of sound is immediate, revealing waves and layers that immerse the listener and nail down the mood. The isolation is countered by a strange sense of belonging (compliments of vocal drapery) and elements steadily meld and forge a staggering post-sludge statement. Heavy as this opener is, though, we also catch glimpses of vulnerability. The pensive progressions give way to hopeful elevation, challenging any of contemporary sludge's pedestrian, downtrodden stomp.

The buzzing transition into Soul of Man is near-apocalyptic, forcing us into a corner with the juxtaposition of cascading drumwork, murky rhythms, and majestic vocals. The ambition on display could kill lesser acts, but Lotus Ash's stone wall is cold, desolate, painful, and ultimately extraordinary. The buzz grows abrasive on the slow-rolling collapse and rise of the title track. The song expands upon itself and never relents as incredible post-metal beacons emerge to snatch marquee billing. Evolving, churning, swelling... But never willing to abandon a core of slow-simmered sludge. Awesome.

And about that sludge, Open Arms is the album's best example of caked aggression. Violent and antagonistic with a groove that won't be neglected, the grind is peppered with doubt. Drums get primitive, guitars screech, and the slugs find no pause. It's almost a harbinger for Scourge's devastation, aiming to dominate without prejudice. Metered and measured perfectly, this closer aims and stings with heavy swells, ignoring convention and painting a faint haunt with strange and calculated evolution.

Singing praises for The Word of God should hardly detract from what Maidens and Northless have given us, so perhaps I shouldn't make the comparisons. But Lotus Ash have abruptly thrust themselves into the discussions of 2014's best sounds. These five tracks are fluid and bulky, despondent yet at times glazed with hope. Throughout though, this record is very, very smart. It's not so easy to remain ignorant, and this release assures that ignorance won't be comfortable, if it's even permitted at all. You might believe you're losing yourself for thirty-two minutes. What you're really losing is an interest in shitty music. This is how it's done.

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