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Friday, September 15, 2017

LP Review: Shepherd / Death By Fungi Split

At the beginning of 2015, we were introduced to a sludge/doom band from Bengaluru, India, with their debut full-length record Stereolithic Riffalocalypse, and it blew us away (review here), so it was sad that we recently heard that Shepherd have decided to call it a day. However, before they leave us for good, they've have released a split record with fellow Indian band Death By Fungi, who onslaught us with a hardcore edge, and it's a nice stamp in the face to remember the band by.

Perhaps it's because they're sharing a record with a hardcore band, or it was a direction that the band were heading down before they called it a day, but Shepherd have lost some of their doomier aspects (just some though) and gone for full on sludge meets hardcore, with elements of fuzzy djent in there too (you remember djent? That musical genre that lasted the summer of 2009?), and it's a sound that's exciting to behold. The record opens with five tracks from Shepherd, with 'Agents of Nihil' setting the tone with a bleak and frightening monologue from the climax of the film The Exorcist 3, before the chaotic sludge explosion assaults you, while their almost trademark chugging bass heavy riffs drive the spine of the song forward, a sound which all us doom/sludge heads will cling to. The vocals mix with light and darker growls, while they even find time to shred while the drums go off like a pneumatic drill. Shepherd, haven't lost their sound, so much as shoved a firecracker up its arse and honed the results. Our highlight of the entire record is 'Hope Comes Gnawing' with an almost funky sludge bassline continues throughout, both exciting and frightening in the same breath. 'Fungalord' and 'Weed Dealer' (Shepherd have always been a band who like to have fun with their song titles, just see 'Turdspeak' or 'Black Cock of Armageddon') are tracks which are both excellent break-neck speed sludge tracks with elements of stoner added in for, well, why the hell not? You can never really relax with these guys as they can change time signatures and pull out devilish riffs from out of nowhere. We're going to miss this band.

While the hardcore genre may not be something with which you guys out there are necessarily drawn to straight away (this being a site for the best stoner/doom/sludge/psych etc), Death By Fungi are not a band that you should ignore. While many of the trademark hardcore elements are there with constant snare beats, breakneck speed playing, high velocity shouting vocals, there are definite elements of something just that bit heavier with this band, just take the riffs with 'Edgelord Breakdown' melting your face with it's furious assault throughout and the anger of the vocals screaming "You've failed me so many times!", they take the elements of sludge which Shepherd bring to the table and put their own spin on it, and it becomes an invigorating and refreshing listen. 'Dead Soil' morphs into a sound which is like doom on acid, with a fluctuating heart rate that'll kill you with a smile on your face.

Even though Shepherd have sped up their sonic game, they're still the slower, sludgier of the two bands here, and the compliment each other well. If this indeed does prove to be Shepherd's final opus (bands do get back together after all) then it's a mighty fine closing on a short, but heavy-as-fuck career, one which you're a fool to have missed so far (but thanks for introducing us to Death By Fungi on your way out). Get this record now and give your ears a good kicking!

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