Slugdge – Esoteric Malacology 8.7

  • Slugdge
  • Esoteric Malacology
  • Progressive Death Metal
  • UK
  • 2018
  • 8.7/10

Metallum – Bandcamp

Esoteric Malacology has some unexpectedly harsh death metal within the first part of the LP. With a lump of progressive elements and a thickness in the bottom of the mix that draws from their namesake – Elements which are more thoroughly expressed in the mid to late parts. When the clean vocals also become prominent. Slugdge are supposedly a slug-themed sludge band but with this release the progressive death is really coming through more than anything else. The sludge is more from the mixing vibes.

They’re pitched as a meme band most of the time, but their musicianship is so solid. Personally, I like the pun name track listing, they’re all play on popular albums or songs but with slug related wordplay. It won’t be for everyone but who the fuck cares about the track titles? If you’re going to give them poor marks for anything, it might as well be the hit of djent on some tracks. Even then I still have to wonder if it should be hated on if it is done well enough, it certainly didn’t bother me as much as it has been in a lot of new metalcore and deathcore releases.

We get a strong opening to the album with “War Squids”, which often takes on the guitar tones of Akercocke and Opeth with the strong use of frantic chords and higher notes. Often relying on the back-line to pick up the slack and it does just that. The song alternates between levels of brutality but never quite brings it down, even in the prog segments there is still a wide and dangerous soundscape. It also sets the standard for the song length on the album which mostly sit between 7 and 9 minutes long. Totaling just under an hour of which I never got bored.

 

With these sort of albums, the tracks can get very stale with each one opening in a similar way, I’m seeing a nice variety here. One of the tracks opens up with a killer fresh base line before the rest of the band join in on the tune. This approach ensures the end of one track doesn’t blend in too much with the beginning of the next one. Inevitably, within the meat of the tracks there will be a lot of common ground but that’s kind of the concept of a metal album. It’s not supposed to be a bunch of random songs, it’s supposed to be a coherent body of work. Therefore, I have a fondness of concept albums and this one does its job more than adequately.

Beyond the first few tracks the music does seem to expand outward in terms of styles and techniques, shifting the tone of the album. We start getting cleaner vocals, again in the vein of Akercocke and we also start hearing a lot more of the blackened death vocals which I would say are my favorite. There’s a distinct equilibrium between black and death that can be reached like it’s a spectrum of growl and you must find the perfect spot to reach blackened. Instrumentally is sticks to the progressive death metal song structure but I believe they do so with the finesse required to separate them from the rest.

This isn’t as original as they get credit for, I can absolutely admit that, and my score will reflect that. The Gojira influence is so strong in some tracks that if I heard a pick scrape thrown into the mix I’d yell “thief!”. I think this is also where a lot of the ‘core-touched’ sounds on parts of the album comes from. Its what Gojira would sound like too if they went much faster and were actually heavy. The good news is that Slugdge take the sound in a different direction, ditching many aspects of Gojira’s sound that I don’t like such as the lack of unclean vocals and the tendency to stay on one riff for too long. They at least mix it up, I haven’t found a moment in the album where I was not enjoying myself.

I always felt confident that a killer heavy part was right around the corner and as far as I can recall – there always was.

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