Wed 30th August 2017
Sludge is a strange beast. It is extremely narrow, bordering doom so tightly it is by definition specific in sound, and bound to the influence of a handful of bands. It is amazing it continues so strong - you'd be forgiven to wonder if it will wither and fade away one day. But then you hear a new band, a new album, the first riff, that slow, turgid, utterly glorious riff that sludge does so well, and you know it will never die.
As it is here with Hell, the opening of the opening Helmzmen is nothing particularly new, but it instantly has me smiling. This is on the bleaker end, really dark vocal screeches scar the darkness, but the riff is pure sludge goodness. More than nine minutes pass with little variation but it matters not, this is glorious tar-dredged, ugly bliss. SubOdin is slower, dirtier; the riff repeated and repeated, a steamroller back and forth, back and forth. Effect laden shrieks in the wilderness again act as vocals, again adding to a welcome disturbing atmosphere. It's another awesome track.
So far so good, but from then on Hell actually improve, varying from the sludge standards, albeit into familiar doom and surrounding depressive areas. The fantastic Machitikos ends in a shroud of black metal, neatly segued from a doom as fuck opening that is pure Matt Pike worship, something carried over into the Sleep obsessed Wandering Soul. The grand Victus is an epic evolving and unholy journey, while they throw everything up in the air with the ending Seelenos, a gentle, sample laden, gothic edged operatic air.
As happy as I was with my first impressions, it was a bit unfair to suggest Hell as anything close to generic - this sprawls, diseases and decays so as to become a blackened cesspit by its end. Sludged doom at its best, this is one hell of a ride.