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Sludgehammer - Antechamber

Sludgehammer
Antechamber
by Jack Harding at 19 April 2019, 3:15 PM

Self-identity is a fascinating concept. When you stand and observe your face in the mirror, what do you see? What features make you individual? What makes your stand out from the masses? Often, our perception of ourselves is fluid; ever changing, but some things remain constant. This constant is what defines us, and without it, aimlessly we wander, never certain of what is true. Never certain, and rarely comfortable. Roles we adopt may, for a brief moment, bring stability, but without solid, incontrovertible facts, these facades are never allowed to linger. They enter our minds, and leave almost immediately. We consume. We process. We forget. “Antechamber” is a clear example of this ever-changing character. Elements are introduced, experimented with, and then forgotten, never lingering long enough to make an impression. The journey may be enjoyable, but the result is quickly forgotten.

Beginning the album is “No Control”, a perfect example of this crisis of self-identity. The song opens with a brutally groovy, chugged riff embodying early DECAPITATED and the spirit of Technical Death Metal’s infancy. However, this is quickly ruined with an awful, and with drums seemingly out of time, transition to a generic verse that feels more akin to Hardcore. The song does redeem itself with a fantastic chorus groove, and an outro that finishes off the song in supreme style, but at various points the song is just let down by simply odd decisions. The guitar solo is completely forced and aimless, and whilst the screamed vocals are strong, the clean vocals feel incredibly out of place.

I am fully aware that there is a tragic cliché of metalheads hating clean vocals, not for being bad, but for simply existing. My distain for the clean vocals throughout this album is not this, however. Clean vocals could definitely work with this music, but the current clean singer SLUDGEHAMMER utilize is quite possibly one of the most cringe worthy vocalists I’ve heard in years. With all the grace and fluency of your drunken step-father warbling along to “Breaking The Law” of a run down karaoke machine, the clean vocalist sounds like a third rate Rob Halford or Dio impressionist. Serious songs like “Climatic Death”, dealing with serious and relevant issues, such as climate change, are left devoid of meaning, due to the caricature the clean vocalist seems intent on portraying. The sudden change of lyrical themes on the final song “Line ‘em Up”, exaggerate this to the nth degree, with the change to what are essentially party lyrics, ending the album on an incredibly low and sour note. Thank goodness the screamed vocals, whilst rather one-note and unvaried, are hard hitting and damn effective.

An example of this Old School Heavy Metal vibe, attempted by the clean vocals, actually working is with the guitar solos on the tracks “Broken Sea” and “Climatic Death”. The more melodic and bluesy approach to soloing on these tracks is a breath of fresh air in the Death Metal scene, as it makes for a welcome change from the monotonous sweep-picked arpeggios with no thought, that the genre is plagued with. This old school influence is insanely effective and apparent on the tracks “The Long Road” and “Supernova Silhouette”. Both of these songs instantly stand out with flowing intros, and by showing real dynamic change from the rest of the album by simply slowing, and softening, down for a moment. This contrast allows for heavier sections to really hit the listener hard, and is a welcome moment of respite for the listener. However, the crisis of self-identity strikes once again, as both songs quickly return to the same old generic, hard rock riffs this album is littered with, meaning we aren’t allowed to fully appreciate these moments of difference.

Looking back at this review, I feel as if all I have done is rip the record apart. Violently, I have disassembled the record limb by limb, and displayed its head on a pike as a warning to others, but know I honestly believe there is potential in this band. This album makes it clear that they know how to construct a song, and there are some truly great riffs and grooves to be found on this album. These moments are just never allowed to breathe properly. I can hear some great riffs on this album, but they’re never allowed to groove properly, or be extended to their full potential. The drumming is just too mechanical. The beat is always in the same place, and it really works against all the other instruments when attempting a groovy passage. Listen to the track “Balance Of Life” for a perfect example of this.

SLUDGEHAMMER have potential to be something wonderful. There is an incredible ep hidden somewhere amongst this album, but simple indecision prevents these pieces from shining. I eagerly look forward to what is next for this band, but unfortunately this album does not showcase their obvious talent.

Songwriting: 5
Originality: 5
Memorability: 3
Production: 7

2 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. No Control
2. Broken Sea
3. Climatic Death
4. Forsaken Souls
5. Balance Of Life
6. The Long Road
7. Eternal Darkness
8. Supernova Silhouette
9. Line ‘em Up
Lineup:
Josh Stephney - Vocals
Jeff Wilson - Guitar
Tyler Williams - Guitar
Dan Ayers - Bass, Vocals
Fernando Villalobos - Drums
Record Label: Independent
     


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