(Here’s Andy Synn’s very enthusiastic review of the new fourth album by the distinctive UK-based duo who call themselves Slugdge.)
The luck of the draw means it falls to me to review the new album by the UK’s mucosal maestros Slugdge. Which also means that I have to be the one to tell you all that…
…it’s fantastic. Really. We’re talking potential Album of the Year contender here.
And while it’s marginally less heavy than its predecessor (though don’t worry, it’s still more than capable of kicking your ass six ways from Sunday) this is clearly a conscious, not to mention clever, decision on the band’s part, as not only is Esoteric Malacology their proggiest album yet, it’s also quite possibly their best.
While previous albums have seen the duo compared to (among others) Akercocke, Mastodon, Edge of Sanity, Anaal Nathrakh, Hypocrisy, Dethklok – some of which are still valid, while others are less so – album #4 has an overall more focussed sound and approach, landing somewhere between The Faceless and Cattle Decapitation, with perhaps a touch of The Monolith Deathcult’s Supreme Avant-Garde strangeness thrown in for good measure (most notably on intensely atmospheric, synth-infested closer “Limo Vincit Omnia”).
But despite all these references there remains something about Slugdge, particularly on this album, which is both instantly recognisable and defiantly distinctive.
Whether it’s the churning chuggery and convulsing rhythms of epic opener “War Squids”, the back-to-back barnburners of “Slave Goo World” and “Transilvanian Fungus”, or the riffmonger’s delight that is “Putrid Fairytale” (complete with its cheeky wink towards the X-Files), the songs on Esoteric Malacology bring both the heaviness and the hooks in equal measure… and make it look almost effortless in the process… meaning the task of identifying a particular stand-out or personal favourite is basically an exercise in frustration and futility. There’s just no weak points or wasted space on the entire album.
Just as impressively, the band’s technical talents and progressive ambitions – encapsulated perfectly by the frantic fretwork of “Crop Killer” and the Autotheism-on-steroids assault of “The Spectral Burrows”, and finding their pinnacle in the utterly unforgettable “Salt Thrower” – are seamlessly integrated into the greater whole, and at no point in the album’s fifty-nine phenomenal minutes does it ever feel like the putrid pair are struggling to handle things or have bitten off more than they can chew – despite the constant pressure of having to juggle multiple elements and musical ingredients all at the same time.
Tying it all together of course are the always-impressive, multimodal vocals of Matt Moss, whose guttural growl captures the same mix of brutal bile and caustic clarity as Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan and Misery Index’s Jason Netherton, while his cleans echo both the epic extravagance of Dave Hunt (Anaal Nathrakh) and the deliciously deviant delivery of Peter Tägtren (Hypocrisy), and yet never seem solely derivative or unnecessarily imitative of either.
In many ways that perhaps sums up the band’s fourth (and, arguably, finest) album as a whole. For while Moss and Pearson are clearly consummate students of the game, to the extent that some of their previous work could have been accused of wearing their influences a little too prominently on their sleeve, Esoteric Malacology feels like the culmination of years of rigorous study and practice, the duo having carefully cultivated and harvested the very best parts of multiple metallic styles to produce a nigh-on perfect synthesis of form and function that is as distinctive as it is devastating.
So make no mistake about it, this is one album which truly does deserve all the praise and plaudits it’s been receiving, and if it doesn’t feature prominently in a bunch of EOTY lists come December… well, then there’s just no justice in the world.
You can listen to one song below… and a full stream HERE.