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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

New Band To Burn One To-Centrifuge

Formed in '95 by Servenack, Fabian, and a drum machine due to a shared love of heavy music, and a lack of it in their surrounding area. The band subsequently released two self-produced demos in '96 & '97 before disbanding in '98 due to personal issues. The band was reformed in the summer of '01 with drummer and long time friend Rob Craig. Together they began writing songs and playing shows before releasing their first demo cd-r "Taste of Gray" in '02. Since then the band has released two more demo cd-r's "Visions Old, Feelings Cold" in '03 and "Sadness, Loveless, Hopeless, Endless" in '04 all of which recieved very positive reviews, helping to create a healthy following in the underground music scene. To this day Centrifuge continues to create "their unique brand of hypnotic, progressive-yet-spartan sounding doom".

Check out their latest release "Desolate".


Sometime when you and I weren't paying attention Ohio's Centrifuge recorded and released a new album entitled Desolate on French label Paradise Noise. And well...it is. But we'll get to this later. Centrifuge isn't a foreign band to these parts but I've always somehow found it conspicuous how little they were talked about. Here is a band that is playing three-man, plutonium heavy doom metal with total heart and commitment and...nothing. I'll be the first to admit they approach it in an unorthodox fashion, leaning heavily on the more hypnotic and psychedelic elements of doom that are not often exploited. But the end result is the same, low to mid paced tempo, a strong but understated riff and a focus on the darker side of things and no messing about with anything else. The album is named Desolate for chrissake. This is their third album (first two self-released) and perhaps not coincidentally I received the Centrifuge demo Taste of Grey at around the same time from a generous soul. So not only did I now have some of the oldest recorded Centrifuge material but also I had the newest and everything (that I know to exist) in between. When I first played Desolate, I wasn't sure what to think. It was calm and influencing at one moment and then forceful and unyielding the next, all with intricately woven riffs melting one emotion into the next. Make no mistake, this is an emotional album. But I was having difficulty putting it in context.

So I loaded Winamp with the four releases I have and placed it on random and listened to it for days. Two things struck me instantly: 1) How well defined their vision has been since the beginning, with Taste of Grey; and 2) how much the new songs off Desolate stood out. They were instantly recognizable with a less calculated, more organic feel than the past releases. By contrast, if it weren’t for sheer familiarity it would be difficult for me to distinguish tracks from Sadness, Loveless, Hopeless, Endless, Visions Old, Feelings Cold and a few from the demo.

Just as you would expect from a three piece that has been together since the beginning they are tight as hell. I’m no expert on guitar effects or tone but the best description I can come up with is the album title. Although the sound is exceedingly dense and even stifling at times (in a good way) they give breathers through the tracks that provide a nice reprieve and accent the heaviosity. This was not so apparent in their previous releases. So in spite of all this it leaves an atmosphere of desolation and emptiness that might have a soundtrack from one of those avant-garde “silent musicians.”

This is no doubt due to the top-notch production/engineering job by Jeff Shrilla. Jeff knows exactly the sound Centrifuge is going for and nailed it. I’m especially a fan of the drums; it is nearly perfect to these ears. Rob Craig’s style and talent is crystal clear on this disc. The highs are crisp and sharp and the lows sound of booming war drums, signaling your demise. I really can find no fault with the production at all. It emphasizes the overall mood, emotion and intent as any proper production should.

The distance of the vocals and Todd Fabian’s tone provide another unique aspect that defines Centrifuge. Slightly nasal, more monotone, calm and restrained delivery balanced with harsh gravel-throated bursts of aggression to punctuate the more vitriolic moments (don’t think sludge vocals, these are mostly intelligible). It should be noted that the vocals are more continually varied than in past releases with more range being exploited. I anticipate that statement may draw a few cringes. But relax, this band is elephantine, there are no operatics and Todd knows his range. It's still Centrifuge, and it is used as an integral part of the music, to influence the mood. A perfect example is the chorus of "Through and Through." The muted vocal crescendo highlights the guitars in a way that makes me bang my head furiously.

There are a lot of odd, head tilting, eyebrow furrowing moments on this release. And I mean that in the highest possible regard. The, "Did they really just do that?" reaction. The odd, understated outro to “Overcome”, opening the album with the longest track (the 11:30 long, epic track “Absence”) and the unpredictable tempo changes in “Resolution” are just a few.

Lyrics, as in the past, are selectively discernable. And, as always, there is no on-line or CD liner booklet help. Like I said before, the lyrics are mostly intelligible but I still like to see them when I open up the CD. And again the packaging is pretty spartan, comparable to previous releases.

Quite simply Centrifuge has achieved a new pinnacle. This has been done by NOT changing their sound, by NOT experimenting but by staying focused on their sound and allowing it to mature and develop. The biggest improvement overall is easy. Songwriting. They could easily be pegged as monotonous on previous releases if one doesn’t really listen. This time they are giving their songs more contrast and dynamics. And when the shortest track on the CD is nearly 7 minutes, this is very important. There is no tedium or boredom with any track and I’m often disappointed to see that a 7+ minute track is already over.

My only complaint may be that there are not enough good 'ol guitar solos. I realize that this may distract from the more hypnotic nature of some of the repetitive riffing but I feel the band conveys that well enough when Matt Servenack is in full on solo heaven that a little sacrifice elsewhere may give this colossus even more bite. If we dare unleash such a beast.

This review should have been up weeks ago instead of listening to it over and over. But it sucked me in and I kept finding more things to write about. So excuse my opus here, it is pared down quite a bit from my first draft. I blame Chris Barnes because if the interview with Centrifuge was never done I never would have found out that this is a band that creates high quality, focused metal that only a band that really knows what it wants to sound like is able to. They have stuck to their guns and refined their sound with every release until we have this masterpiece. Do yourself a service and check this out. (Merlot Brougham, HellrideMusic.com)


01. Absence
02. Masked
03. Through and Through
04. Resolution
05. Overcome (Free MP3)

For more information such as gigs, videos, interviews and where to purchase this awesome band's merchandise check out these sites:

Hellride Music Store

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