May 012023

Recommended for fans of: Conjurer, Soilent Green, (early) The Ocean

Australia’s Lo! are a difficult act to pin down.

That’s not to say their methods are totally unrecognisable – comparisons to the punchy/proggy Sludge-core of Burst or the harder-hitting side of Amenra are definitely valid (though not definitive by any means), as are any correlations you might observe to The Ocean circa-Fluxion/Aeolian, and there’s even a fair bit of Soilent Green‘s gut-heaving heaviness and venomous intensity (especially in the vocals)  – but tagging them with just one genre, and then expecting them to stay within those boundaries, is a veritable fool’s errand.

Let’s just say that their sound sits somewhere between the darker, proggier end of Sludge, the heavier, more aggressive side of Post-Metal, and the harsher, more metallic form(s) of Hardcore, and let their music – including their fantastic new album, The Gleaners– speak for itself!


There’s an underlying sense of menace to the band’s first album, one which simmers away under introductory track “Hath” and then takes on an even darker hue during the gritty “Deluge (Carnivorous Flux)”, whose stop-start riffage and jittery pseudo-grooves are underpinned by some skittering, proggy percussion, after which the bombastic “Bastion” drops some seriously sludgy riffs and gut-rumbling bass work into your ears.

The eerie ambient interlude of “Seraphim” then reinforces the ominous feeling of dread which pervades the album, which continues on into the gloom-heavy, doom-laden strains of “Hued Tarantula” – the album’s longest, and most The Ocean-esque track – and the intriguing blend of Hardcore-influenced heaviness and mood-enhancing atmosphere that is “Aye, Commodore”.

The Intronaut-ish melodic intro of “Indigo Division” eventually gives way to a series of chugging guitars and churning grooves, which in turn transitions into a series of strafing, Sludge-Thrash riffs that push the tempo and intensity up another level, before the unsettling drone of “Doth” brings things back down to earth, setting the stage for the proggy oddity that is “Moira Kindle” to throw a few unexpected curveballs – with its twisted take on the classic quiet/loud dynamic – at the listener right at the end of the album.

Concluding with the more aggressive and percussively-propelled sounds of “Fire at the Child Actors Guild”, Look and Behold once again proves itself to be a difficult album to categorise. I’d be tempted to call it “Experimental” or “Progressive” Hardcore, at times, but that feels like it would set up the wrong sort of expectations, even though it’s not an entirely inaccurate summation of the album’s hard-hitting, but effortlessly code-switching, style. But, whatever you choose to call it, I hope you enjoy listening to it all the same.


With their second album Lo! went even bigger, and even darker, opting for an even heavier guitar tone and an even thicker bass tone, without losing the rawness of their debut.

If anything, the frenzied gallops, grinding grooves, and edgy, almost punky, melodies of “Bloody Vultures” and “Ghost Promenade” possess even more raw energy and aggression, showcasing a band simultaneously growing into their own skin and testing the boundaries of what they’re capable of.

The Sludge-Punk assault of “Caruncula” only further emphasises this feeling, the band attacking their respective instruments with all the vim and vigour (and venom) of a group still discovering precisely what they can do, weaving together ragged layers of richly textured distortion and melody over a foundation of punchy, agile drums and lithe, pulsing bass work, all topped off with some suitably belligerent, bellowing vocals.

The brooding bass-lines and echoing chords of “Haven, Beneath Weeping Willows” provides a short, but not unwelcome, reprieve from all the sound and fury thus far, before the gnarly Post-Metal powerhouse of “Fallen Leaves” – four-and-a-half minutes of massive grooves, moody atmospherics, and chunky, chugging riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place on Fluxion/Aeolian – ups the ante once more, after which “Crooked Path” and “Lichtenberg Figures” then take you on a thrilling ride from ominous calm to blasting ferocity to expansive Post-Hardcore-inspired melody.

“Bleak Vanity” sits somewhere between the more aggressive side of early Intronaut (combining both heaving riffs and proggily melodic moments in almost equal measure) and the more ambitious works of latter-day Shai Hulud (by leaning into both the harder-hitting, Hardcore-inspired elements of the group’s repertoire and their more expansive Post-Metal influences at the same time), as does “Palisades of Fire”, to an extent (although the latter is more linearly structured, moving from high-energy Metallic Hardcore to sludge-heavy Post-Metal in less than four minutes).

It all culminates in the darkly melodic, harshly hooky strains of “So Below (Before We Disappear)” which slowly builds, over the course of just under seven choppy, storm-tossed minutes, towards a titanic crescendo (featuring a guest appearance by The Ocean‘s Loic Rossetti, just to drive the comparison(s) home a little more) that ends the album in appropriately abrasive, yet infectious fashion.


The addition of a new vocalist (finalising the band’s current line-up of Adrian Shapiro, Adrian Griffin, Carl Whitbread, and new boy Sam Dillon) for The Tongueless helped push the band in an even more abrasive direction, while still retaining their unusually progressive outlook, as evidenced by the unorthodox mix of Amenra-esque tension and Soilent Green-style tumult that makes up opener “No Contrition”.

The latter element is even more prominent during the thunderously heavy “Orca”, especially during some of the track’s more bullishly bluesy grooves, while it’s climactic shift towards a moodier and more atmospheric approach once again recall the former band’s distinct grasp of balance and dynamic, which in turn leads into the brooding bass lines and anxiety-inducing melodies of “Litmus Beings”, whose more Hardcore-influenced take on Sludge/Post-Metal has more than a little bit of Burst about it.

Finishing things off with the appropriately massive “Megafauna” – whose juxtaposition of evocative ambience and humongously heavy riffs serves to make it one of the most intriguing, and impactful, tracks the band have ever written – you can already tell that this is the beginning of a whole new era for Lo!.


It was on Vestigial that the band – in my opinion – really stepped out of the shadow(s) of their peers and predecessors, as while all the previously-mentioned comparisons still hold water to an extent (if you like any of the other artists mentioned so far then you’ll probably find something to like/love here too) the way the quartet have pulled together all their Post-/Sludge/Hardcore influences on this album definitely sets them apart.

“As Fools Ripen”, for example, is just under three minutes of thrashy intensity, sludgy grooves, and visceral fury that also contains a deceptive amount of moody melody and some compellingly catchy hooks, while the rolling thunder and electrifying atmospherics of “Glutton” err more towards the proggier and more introspectively intense end of the Post-Metal spectrum without sacrificing any of the band’s rawness or spontaneity.

Speaking of raw spontaneity… the sub-two-minute assault of “Locust Christ” can only be described as “Sludge-Grind” (or “Grind-Sludge”, if that’s what you prefer), a term that immediately brings to mind the likes of ConjurerTurbid North, and the aforementioned Soilent Green (all of whom are firm favourites here at NCS), while the churn ‘n’ burn attack of “Butcher Birds” is four-and-a-half minutes of pure, molten metal fury and oppressive, doomy heaviness that should come with a health warning (and a back brace).

The haunting instrumental interlude of “Bombardier” then offers a short respite before the ridiculously punishing strains of the LLNN-esque “A Tiger Moth’s Shadow” and the almost blackened intensity of “Judas Steer” drop the hammer once more (although the latter somehow still finds space for the band’s darker and more atmospherics ambitions as well), after which the simmering menace of “Bestial Beginnings” and the progressive, sludgy power of “The Worm’s Lament” (whose melange of gloomy melody and groovy malevolence recalls the best of early Mastodon) tees the listener up for the album’s ferocious finale, the titanic “Gods of Ruin”.

With this final track the band throw everything they have at you – soul-crushing Sludge, relentless Hardcore-infused heaviness, and prodigiously powerful Post-Metal dynamics – in an attempt to achieve the ultimate form of sonic catharsis… and, you know what? They come pretty damn close too!


Let’s not beat around the bush here – The Gleaners is one of the best albums of 2023. And if you take nothing else away from this article, make sure you take that to heart.

Somehow even heavier, even more aggressive, and even more intense than ever before, songs like “Salting the Earth” and “Deafening Bleats of Apathy” burst into your ears in an eruption of thrashy energy, sludgy weight, and bear-Death Metal levels of sonic density, throwing out a killer combo of thickly-muscled riffs, steel-coiled bass-lines and hammering percussive patterns that only seem to grow in aspect and intensity as the music goes on.

Beneath all the in-your-face aggression and go-for-the-eyes extremity, however, there’s a wealth of subtle songwriting trickery at play, which is a big part of what makes this album so great.

“Rat King”, for example, explodes out of the speakers like a sludgier take on Grindcore, tinged with an almost “blackened” aesthetic in places, only to then throw a sudden curveball as it shifts into a proggier, hookier mode of attack, before climaxing in a devastatingly doomy denouement that’s sure to be ringing in your head(s) for hours afterwards, after which the stunning title track takes you on an eight minute odyssey through all the soaring highs and crushing lows of the Post-Metal spectrum as it slowly builds towards a truly terrifying crescendo.

The hypnotic “Pareidolia” offers a perfectly timed resting place amidst what has been, barring a few poignant passages of indulgent introspection, an almost overwhelmingly intense experience thus far, but this only lasts a few minutes before “Kleptoparasite” inflicts its senses-shattering blend of blistering, semi-blackened Post-Metal and brooding, Prog-Metal ambience upon you, with the back-and-forth shifts between these two extremes ensuring that you’re never in danger of getting too comfortable or familiar with the album, even at this stage.

Penultimate pounder “Cannibal Culture” then attempts to sum up the entire album so far in just over four minutes, first deploying some gigantic, sludge-soaked grooves and intimidating Post-Metal atmospherics to set the scene, before detonating some devastating, Death Metal adjacent riffs (as well as some brutal blackened belligerence) right when you least expect them, only to then serve up a final helping of hellish Death/Doom heaviness right at its climax.

All that’s left after that is for the seven minute (and twenty-three seconds) Sludge-Doom monstrosity of “Mannon’s Horn”, which contains some of the grooviest, gnarliest bass/drum work on the album, as well as an unexpected (but not unwelcome) surprise right at the end, to finish things off and… well, what you’re left with is a record that doesn’t seem to have any weak spots or lesser moments and which will likely be making an appearance in any number of “Album(s) of the Year” lists come December. Including mine.

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