Saturday, 16 November 2013

Noothgrush / Coffins split LP

This review originally appeared on Echoes And Dust.

When I caught both Noothgrush and Coffins at the inaugural Heavy Days In Doom Town fest in Copenhagen last year, I almost couldn't believe what I was witnessing. Given that Oakland's Noothgrush had been split up for more than a decade, and that Tokyo's Coffins were from, well, Tokyo, I felt especially lucky just to have gotten the chance to see each of them. I never thought it would happen. That both bands completely decimated the crowd with their respective sets was tantamount to their sheer crushing weight; the power of the riff is constrained by neither time nor distance.

When I got talking to Noothgrush guitarist Russ Kent a few days later before their show in Hamburg, he mentioned that Uchino from Coffins had suggested the idea of both bands embarking on a Japanese tour together.
That was 18 months ago, and only now are both that tour and the resultant split record happening. I guess taking things agonisingly slow isn't something that only applies to their music.

Noothgrush don't fuck around on their side, their first track 'Humandemic' immediately capturing the sound of Sabbath's Paranoid record, with Russ' SG-through-a-Laney tone complimenting Chiyo Nukaga's trademark gigantic cymbal crashes perfectly. So well do they emulate the doomed vibe of their musical forefathers, that when Dino Sommese (you know, of Dystopia, Asunder, Ghoul, every other fucking band) spews his bile-scorched vocals over everything, it almost seems like a shame to pollute the pure '70s atmosphere. That is until you remember that this is the return of Noothgrush, one of the most disgusting, and disgusted, sludge bands to have been dragged into existence in the '90s. They were just as angry about the era they were living in then, and Dino's hateful howl reminds you that rage has not dimmed one iota; this is miserable music for miserable times.

Their second contribution to the record is a re-recording of their classic track 'Jundland Wastes', which has been floating around in various recorded forms ever since their 1995 Kashyyyk demo. The quality of this recording, even the clarity of the sample playing throughout the intro, is sure to cement this as the definitive version. The mid-track lull allows Gary Niederhoff's malevolently crawling bass to detach from the main riff for a couple of bars, before everything coalesces again and the band drag themselves through the eponymous wastes towards the end of the track. Never mind Tusken Raiders; Noothgrush are the scariest thing to ever inhabit the deserts of Tattooine.

They close out their side with the 9-minute 'Thoth', a tribute to beloved Bay Area DJ Cy Thoth, who passed away this year. Beginning with looped samples of Thoth himself before Chiyo's drums herald the arrival of a monstrous riff, it's classic Noothgrush, even down to Russ' full-fretboard pickscrapes.
The track meanders madly, with further samples of Cy Thoth thrown in throughout, Dino's absolutely ferocious vocals providing sharp contrast to his spoken word psychedelic ramblings.

When the track, and Noothgrush's side, ends with a recording of a laughing Thoth warning everyone to "watch out for cannibal attacks! Everyone is suspect!", it's clear even to those unaware of his work that he was a true original who will be much missed by his community. Thankfully, the heavy music community can welcome one of it's own true originals back to the fold.

It's good to have you back, Noothgrush.

I'll admit it, compared to new Noothgrush material, anything else was going to pale in comparison, but thankfully they share this split with one of my favourite bands of recent years. Given that Coffins have actually covered Noothgrush in the past, on their excellent tribute EP Sewage Sludgecore Treatment, they know exactly how much grime they need to apply to their already putrid death-doom. The first track of their side, 'Drown In Revelation', is able to match the other side for both filth and fury.

Slowly fading in, the ominous approach of the drums soon joined by prowling bass, while the feedback builds and builds, until with an "UGH!" they launch into one of those deadly riffs that Uchino seems to have an endless supply of in his arsenal. Given that this is something like their eighth release in just the last couple of years, they manage to maintain a ridiculously high quality level with all their recordings, with their recent full-length The Fleshland already being one of my favourite releases this year. Around two-thirds of the way through the track, the band kick things up a gear into full-on death-doom mode, the lurching, stuttering riff backed up with punishing double-kick drums, before slowing everything down to a doomed crawl. When they return to that monstrous main riff again, if you're not in full-on headbanging-and-invisible-oranges mode, there's something wrong with you.

'The Wretched Path' continues in that same vile vein, with the influence of Celtic Frost clearly heard in the faster passages of this track. I never though I'd say this, but this track near enough fucking bounces along at points, it's so uptempo. However, don't mistake that for upbeat, I'm sure that whatever Uchino is growling here, the words themselves are foul enough to offset any remotely 'good time' vibe.

I may be biased as I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this record ever since I learned that it might one day become even a possibility, but the half hour of misanthropic sludge and deadly doom on offer across both sides of this LP confirm that it's one of the heaviest releases to be unleashed this year. Ignore at your peril, and prepare to abandon all hope.

You can stream, and buy both digital and vinyl versions of this split via Southern Lord.

No comments:

Post a Comment