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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Sludge: Koza

Ah, gettin' back to our Sunday Sludge roots... This whole thing began in 2011 and repeatedly seemed to circle South, as if every detour just above Mason-Dixon resulted in a magnetic bitch slap from Georgia, Arkansas, or Louisiana. Labels are broad, misleading, and generally unfair to bands and listeners, but Southern metal has its own hue. The family tree is tight, unwavering, and generally impenetrable from an outsider's perspective. So here I go again, worming my way to the table for loose scraps.

Served hot and violent this morning is Chattanooga's Koza and their 8-track self-titled EP. Their hue is distinctly Southern, but their sludge sets itself apart in being more to the point, never exhausting the listener and always lacing a scornful thread between tracks. It's hard to enjoy sweet tea when you're stuck in a thorny thicket, so take a hard swallow and do your best to endure Koza's spiked, hard-charged blend of heaviness.

Take Up the Serpent introduces a foreign guitar buzzing like flies, dropping a buoyant sludge gait under a dynamic veiled vocal. As this opener bulldozes through its choppy, stuttered thorax, the band's cyclical approach reveals itself and stomps back to brass tacks. Quickly and relentlessly, listeners have their comfort clipped and gnawed away. The quick-footed stoner cruise of Hoof is an abrupt juxtaposition, leaking Buzzov*en malevolence. For as amped as it gets, though, the track is somehow sticky. And now the unease has taken full grip.

The EP's midsection is an exercise in broad vision, never committing to a single rhythm or riff and shifting between doom, shoegaze, groove, and boggy stoner-sludge. Perhaps that sounds messy, but these songs have way too much to chew on for just one listen. You'll need multiple screenings, and Koza's push to grind you into powder is tense, tight, and strangely satisfying. Slow plucks on March of the Snails are merely a harbinger of fuzzy, columned doom. Death Rattle's wet cobblestone tip-toe wrings nerves like shadows in a greasy alley, fully cementing a cold, uneasy mood. At least, until an outward rip of the seams explodes into unhinged brutality. And when The Silent Bleed The Same drags guitar barbs across weathered skin, we realize we're in too deep.

While Tsunami's marriage of swarming hornets and thick sludge grooves stomps with more density, Koza set aside their crowning achievement as the EP's closer. Stench of Desire is immediately horrifying, breathing slow and opaque just behind your neck. Nodding toward Rwake and channeling the pragmatic narratives of Phil Anselmo, the track's quietest moments are its most unsettling. We're worn thin by the repeated slugs to our senses. The stylistic shifts are permeated by matted fur, and the final ceaseless stoner metal push is our last gasp.

Clocking just over twenty minutes, this goat's varied attack weighs like a lifetime of bruising. The jagged guitars, spiked tempos, and misty morning sludge crawls hardly begin to illustrate all this sound delivers. Koza drag us to a steamy swamp on a journey that's part judgment, part ostracism, and wholly taxing on our brittle frames. This EP hits all points to remind us there's still no fuckin' around down South.

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