I don't know what's going on in New Zealand right now, whether they're all just fucking sick of Hobbits, gap year students, or whatever it is, but between Hamilton's Open Tomb and Wellington's Meth Drinker, the far side of the planet is churning out misanthropic doom with alarming regularity. Keep it comin', Kiwis!
Open Tomb have been given the discography treatment by the excellent Dry Cough Records, who are currently 3-for-3 after a similar release for Massachusetts' Plague Survivors and finally committing Ireland's On Pain Of Death to tape. The label is already building the kind of pedigree that will guarantee I'll pick up whatever they put out, so when Servants Of Slow was put up for pre-order, I forked over that week's food budget to hear it.
Oh, it wasn't expensive, I'm just poor.
Opening this little black plastic tomb is the hefty 'Despair', 15 minutes of dirge-like drudgery that will instantly begin the process of weeding out. Like a 45 played at 33... actually, more like 3.3, the notes stretch out endlessly, producing a warped distortion that'll make you wonder whether your tape is about to snap. The agonisingly downtempo doom may even make you wish for it. Not me, I can't get e-fucking-nough of this type of aural punishment.
The track marches on interminably, at one point the guitar exhibiting a Dave Chandler-esque woozy tremolo.
Actually there's your headline: "Open Tomb sound like the post-nuclear apocalypse zombified corpses of Saint Vitus".
When they eventually get around to second track 'Life Fucker', a somewhat minimalist composition even by doom standards, the narcotic narcoleptic nod of the rhythm varying ever so slightly as the track progresses, until about two-thirds of the way through when an "UGH!" urges the pace to pick up to a puke-inducing sway, as the vocals vomit out the track's title repeatedly. Beautiful.
'Monday Leviathan' is just as miserable as it's title, the insurmountable task of getting through yet another week of underwhelming existence soundtracked perfectly by colossal kickdrum and barely-there riffs. The lethargy of the guitar and bass seems to increase with every repetition of the riff until about halfway through when they summon up the energy to fire out a few more of those patented Chandler trembling tremolos.
When the track comes together into something resembling a structured song, you'll just about piss yourself with surprise. These guys probably think 'Dopesmoker' is too energetic.
After sitting in a sludge-addled stupor after Side A hisses its last, I flip it over only to be confronted with more of the same slowly eroding distortion and 10 bpm drums on 'Damned To Forgive'. Oh great, I'm glad I wasn't planning on feeling anything above abject misery today.
The next couple of tracks are from their split with Meth Drinker, which I have as yet failed to get around to hearing, which is just laziness on my part. Though not as lazy as the hazy fog of feedback that opens 'Off With His Head', before exploring the lower depths of ear-splitting sounds and atonal warblings.
The other track from the split, 'Hostile Womb', is just as great as its title suggests, all interminable fuzz and massive, splashy cymbals. The raw-throated vocal exchanges on this track are barely fucking human. Play this next time you want to convince your neighbours you're holding ten simultaneous exorcisms in your living room.
After the sonic depravity heard on those two tracks, I'm gonna get right on hearing Meth Drinker's side of that slab of filth just as soon as final track 'Blood And Flies' is over. By this point I'm running out of interesting ways to say "sloooooooooow" so just fucking listen for yourself, and don't blame me when you're driven to insanity by the tectonic tempos like the poor woman heard sobbing throughout this track.
Quite a lot of that sounded quite negative, eh? WELL THAT WAS THE FUCKING POINT.
What, you want sludge to soundtrack feelings of joy, kittens and candy floss? Then you're doing it wrong. Sludge is for the deepest depths of despair, for sheer loathing, for walking down the street barely restraining yourself from shoving someone under a bus; it should be fucking hard to listen to.
If you need a soundtrack to these feelings, then go pick up a copy of this tape from Dry Cough:
Then go pester Open Tomb about flying very very far to permanently ruin your hearing in a shitty basement venue somewhere that's not NZ.