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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Sunday Sludge: Snailking - "Samsara"

Taking your band's name from an album or song title is walking a thin, dangerous line. If you manage to honor your heroes by not creating complete shit (e.g., Godsmack, Aqualung), you've probably bucked a trend that makes some people cringe. I suppose Mayhem and Bad Brains did it right, but someone surely doubted them along the way. You'd better hone your chops before making a move so bold. And if you pull it off, you just might find yourself sharing a bill with some heavily influential people.

Sweden's Snailking appear fully prepared to snuff any doubt on their 2012 demo Samsara. Among the three patient, crushing tracks can be detected a nod to Ufomammut's 2004 sophomore release, but the band separate themselves from psychedelic sludge-doom trailblazers with dark, forlorn lyrical themes and eerily comforting atmospheres. Moving from heavy to heavier to heaviest in the span of 34 minutes, the strange evolutions and gradual developments only partially mirror the tones and sonic landscapes of Sleep and Rwake.

Consisting of guitarist/vocalist Pontus Ottosson, drummer Karl Jonas Wijk, and bassist Frans Levin, Snailking craft a sound that falls somewhere in between crashing clouds and rising depths. Time seems little more than another stupid human construct; the band effortlessly sways between shifts and movements in an expansive realm riddled with one crushing blow after another. Shelter grinds gorgeously for more than fourteen all-too-quick minutes (fuck, didn't I just say time didn't matter?) as Wijk's bass provides balance, parity, and the basis for today's sludge tag. The peaceful trickle that closes the album's opener is an effective and soothing coup to the song's trippy doom and ever-escalating licks.

The album's spook counters its spatial awareness. And the spook becomes full-grown doom at several corners; lyrics like "...So cut our throats and set us free" leave no margin for ambiguity, while "Stiff, frozen cold / A slowly dying drone" give listeners plenty to chew on. At times equally lethargic and cathartic, In The Wake assures audiences that no matter how high these sounds carry us, we'll undoubtedly end up "down there." Cold and dry, lit by breaks and bounces, these sounds light a forest fire and then squat in the mud. Ottosson's vocals are shrouded here, and the unsettling mood is given its full range of due motion.

And why are we here? Well, if we've adequately reserved Sunday mornings for our sludge fix, Snailking lay it thick on the immediately heavy title track. It's the demo's grimiest, but it also contains the smoothest groove. Low and predominantly bass-driven, the rolls and churns are exactly what you sludge-peddlers will share with your neighborhood's misguided teenage outcast. Ah, but Ottosson's licks again emerge, snapping a muzzle on the rhythm and dragging it into darkness. Buzzing sludge mud-skips between crunchy riffs and marries a slow, chewy fadeout. The entire album's good, but this closer's fucking stellar.

A progressive, continual metamorphosis takes hold of Samsara and returns full-circle. Beyond the music is the mood, and a mindfuck of a mood at that. When you can't nail down exactly WHY a sound is trippy or shake-inducing, it's safe to say you've found a winner. At times strangely soothing, at all points relentlessly thick and heavy with either (and often both) tone or topic, this is no band mimicking their forefathers. This is a promising debut from a trio knee-deep in psychedelic sludge-metal turmoil. Lucky for us, that turmoil translates to some killer, crushing riffs and mind-numbingly misty occupancies. Give these guys a spin, cure what ails you, and thank me on Monday.

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