The story of my blogging life: As I neared completion of this review, which I’ve been meaning to write since early summer, a friend of mine tossed off the following words on Facebook that put all my tediously crafted prose to shame: “Intergalactic riffing slugs! For the curious, imagine Akercocke, Carcass, and Morbid Angel having a love baby. And it’s a slug. From outer space. And it wants you dead.”
Slugdge is a two-man outfit from Preston, England, consisting of Matt Moss and Kev Pearson. What might first appear to be a typo in the band’s name is simply one of many manifestations of the band’s fixation with slugs: Their 2013 debut album was named Born of Slime, and their 2014 follow-up, Gastronomicon, includes song titles such as “Lettuce Prey”, “The Sound of Mucus”, “Invertehate”, and “Salters of Madness”. The band’s name is pronounced “Slug-j”. They seem to worship an entity named Mollusca.
Wait! Don’t leave! I can’t stand slugs either (they grow to the size of bananas around Puget Sound), and I tend to have a predisposed skepticism about the music of bands who prefer pun-filled song titles and generate a surface aura of goofiness. But trust me, you need this album in your life. It’s one of the year’s biggest and best surprises.
Slugdge have a remarkable talent for harnessing different genre tropes and making them gallop as if they were all born to make the race together — slithering tremolo-picked leads that wouldn’t be out of place in a black metal band; hammering chug-fests and freight-train riff-romps that lots of death metal bands would pay dearly for, arpeggios that dart and swirl with electrifying effect (in contrast to a massively heavy low-end sound), a rhythm section that’s often reminiscent of Gojira’s, and progressive metal excursions that inspire comparisons to Devin Townsend’s heaviest solo work. And there’s more — a lot more (e.g., sludge, of course). Did I mention the melodic hooks? Tons of ’em.
All the way through the album, the instrumental performances reach jaw-dropping levels of proficiency — with blazing fretwork, eye-popping guitar solos, and the kind of highly varied, acrobatic drum work that just makes you shake your head in wonder.
And the vocals are just as varied and just as effectively employed as all the instrumental extravagance and the impressive song-writing prowess. In addition to deep, malignant growls and chord-scraping howls, the music also features clean vocals that create the kind of surprise that comes when Dave Hunt does them in the midst of an Anaal Nathrakh tornado or when Travis Ryan broke them out on Cattle Decap’s Monolith of Inhumanity.
I guess when you’re this good, you can afford to have some fun with your song titles and your lyrics, too. Hell, I’ll be the first to stand up and yell HAIL MOLLUSCA! if it will bring forth more Slugdge goodness on the scale of Gastronomicon.
Gastronomicon is a name-your-price download on Bandcamp, which just proves the adage that the best things in life are without charge — unless your own conscience makes the payment. Get slimed below.