Recommended for fans of: Primitive Man, Planks, Phantom Winter
Selecting what band to feature for each monthly edition of The Synn Report is more of an art than a science.
Sometimes I like to provide a primer on a seminal band for those looking for a good place to get started with their discography, other times I prefer to highlight the work of an underrated or relatively unknown act who I think deserves more respect.
Sometimes it’s good to focus on a band who are currently active (and this is the case more often than not), at others it’s fun to provide a retrospective on an artist who may no longer be with us but whose work has stood the test of time (and which, unbeknownst to a lot of us, have influenced many of the bands we know and love).
Really, it all just comes down to what I’m feeling at the time, and I’ll often change my mind at the last minute. But today’s entry – covering all three albums, including their recently released new record, by London-based Sludge/Doom/Noise-mongers Remote Viewing – has been set in stone for weeks.
And you’re about to learn why.
2018 – BLOOD LOSS
“Suitcase Full of Exposure”, the opening track from the band’s debut album, immediately lets you know three things: 1. Remote Viewing are not a nice band, 2. they don’t give a fuck what anyone else thinks about them, and 3. they are fucking heavy.
And I don’t just mean musically/sonically (although the monstrous, mountainous chords which hammer down upon you over the course of the track make that pretty clear all on their own) – they’re also a band well acquainted with the heaviest, ugliest side of life too (hell, the song’s opening lyrics are “To end your life is pure bravery / To fail at life is life’s serenity“).
The succinctly-named “Fuck a Church” only brings this home even further, transitioning from the sort of wild, barely-controlled chaos more commonly associated with the Blackened Hardcore scene to a humongously dense and doom-laden mid-section that tastes strongly of Primitive Man, before climaxing in a surprisingly melodic fashion as it switches smoothly into an equally dark ‘n’ doomy Post Metal finale.
“Sonic Euthanasia” picks up this gloomy post-metallic motif and adds a hefty dose of gnarly Noise-core atmospherics, beneath which – if you listen carefully enough – you might just be able to pick out a surprising number of ragged, rusty hooks, after which “Pelican’t” marries, appropriately enough, a touch of cinematic, Pelican-esque Post-Metal dynamics to some seriously grim and grisly Sludge/Doom riffs (as well as some increasingly harsh and harrowing vocals which should help make that opening comparison to Phantom Winter make even more sense).
The lurching, frankenstein’d monster that is “Limbs to Fold” – a hideous amalgam of Sludge, Doom, Hardcore, and more – then stomps its way across your unsuspecting cerebellum with its filthy, iron-clad feet for just under seven-and-a-half skull-crushing minutes, before the unexpectedly moody, and unforgivingly doomy, strains of “Whitney Houston, We Have A Problem” drag you down even further into the depths.
Last, but by no means least, the auditory assault of “Tastes of Nothing” is guaranteed to get your head moving (and your stomach churning, with lyrics like “Applying the logic / Of eating shit off the carpet“) as it swiftly and savagely build in intensity, only to collapse, right at its apex, into a roiling cauldron of sound and fury which signifies… the end.
2019 – IT’S BETTER THIS WAY
Just over a year after their debut the band were back with their second album which, in defiance of common convention, finds them having gotten (arguably) even harsher and more abrasive, with the jagged distortion and bone-jarring percussive patterns of opener “They Never Made It Home” edging them even further towards the nastier end of the Sludge spectrum – think Primitive Man and Phantom Winter, again, as well as equally ugly acts like The Body and Inter Arma – while the grinding grooves of “The Tissue Issue” wouldn’t sound out of place on an Eyehategod or Iron Monkey album (although, it must be said, Remote Viewing conjure up a more atmospheric interpretation all their own).
There’s an obvious Isis/Planks influence in the moody, ringing melodies and brooding, surging rhythms of “Suspicious Embraces at the Museum of Dental Malpractice”, a song which demonstrates that the band can still deliver a bruising emotional gut-punch without letting the monster off the leash (as it were), and this more measured (but still monstrously heavy) approach carries over into “Like Forest Fire”, which finds the group really embracing their more melodic and atmospheric inclinations, and acts like a fire-break in the middle of the album where you can – at least for a moment – catch your breath and take some rest.
Of course, inevitably, as the sluggish, sledgehammer-heavy riffs of “A Dog in the Oven” soon shatter any sense of calm or safety you may have had, with vocalist Nikolai von Stieglitz seemingly trying to rip out his own vocals chords and hand them to you, even as his bandmates do their best to torture the most sickening, yet luridly compelling, noises out of their instruments over the course of just under seven minutes of pure sonic sadism.
The subsequent pairing of the album’s two shortest tracks – “High Level Gutter Clearance” and “Blue Gardens” – offers no rest or respite either, with the former laying down a series of hefty grooves and neck-wrecking riffs, only to spring a morbidly melodic surprise on you right at the end, before the latter delivers what is essentially a five minute long breakdown of musical, physical, and emotional proportions.
It all ends with the extravagant eight minute finale that is “Let the Oil Soak Out”, where the band’s more “blackened” side really comes to the fore in the song’s first half, adding an even more visceral edge to the track’s titanically doomy riffs, before the second half unclenches and opens up to finally allow you that cathartic release which the album has been promising, but purposefully denying you, all along (honestly, don’t be ashamed if you find yourself in tears at this point – it’s a natural reaction).
2023 – MODERN ADDICTIONS
Though it may have taken them a little over three years to produce the follow-up to It’s Better This Way, it quickly becomes obvious that time hasn’t tamed the band’s inner fire at all – if anything they sound even angrier than ever on Modern Addictions, an album which takes the scorched-earth Sludge/Doom of their previous works and adds an even greater sense of depth and dynamic to the group’s sound.
This is patently clear to hear even on opener “Short Distance Runner” – the bass has never been this prominent or powerful, growling and purring and prowling like a living, breathing animal, the melodies, when they break through all the nihilistic noise, have never felt so pure, or so fragile, and the songwriting has never before seemed as organic and fluid as it does here – which swiftly lets you know that while Modern Addictions may not be quite as overtly “heavy” as its predecessor, it’s most certainly a more complex and multifaceted monster in its own right.
Of course, heaviness is always in the eye (or ear) of the beholder, and in my opinion the churning squall of “Wasted On Purpose” hits just as hard as anything they’ve done before… it’s just that it’s now incorporated as part of a greater dynamic whole (reminiscent, in parts, of classic Will Haven) which allows them to marry one of the moodiest and most melodic mid-sections they’ve ever written to an absolutely doomongous (that’s a portmanteau of “doomy” and “humongous”) finale in a way that, if anything, only makes the latter seem even heavier by way of contrast.
I might even go so far as to say that Modern Addictions is a prime example of just how many different ways there are to be “heavy”, with the swaggering Sludge-Rock of “Cleveland Balloonfest ’86” showing off a thick and meaty backbone of unflinching, unwavering groove that wraps itself around you and refuses to let you go for six solid minutes, while the vile and venomous “Your Opinion Is Wrong” achieves the same sort of savage apotheosis which bands like Dragged Into Sunlight and Lord Mantis once claimed as their own.
“Watch Me For The Changes” then acts as a welcome reminder that Remote Viewing haven’t really strayed all that far from their roots (they’ve just spread their branches out a little further) with six minutes of morbidly heavy, sludge-drenched and doom-laden guitar work, undercut by some seriously bowel-quaking bass and topped off with a veritable cacophony of visceral, throat-rending vocals, before the climactic chimera of Drone, Doom, Sludge, Black Metal, and Hardcore that is “A.B.B.A. / ABBA” brings the whole album to its soul-crushing conclusion.
Unforgiving, uncompromising, and unpredictable, it’s another tortured triumph from a band who deserve far more attention and acclaim than they get, in my humble opinion.