Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire // Visceral
Rating: 3.5/5.0 — Convincingly non-sludgy!
Label: Prosthetic Records
Websites: ctttoaff.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/CTTTOAFF
Release Dates: EU: 2012.07.19 | US: 07.19.2012 [MP3 Download]
Sludge is not what it used to be. In the 90s, bands would swarm like filthy locusts from New Orleans to bring the density of the bayou, its mud, and its endless drapes of sticky moss to a world living in denial and feasting its way to the end of the century. Happy days. In the meantime, a lot has changed: a new era has dawned on us and things have gone wrong in every possible way, but that strain of extreme music is still there to remind us that, well, things could get even worse. And when they do, it’s bands like Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire who provide the soundtrack.
But in 2012 in Denver, Colorado, the song does not remain the same. The 16 minutes of Visceral are in fact an epic manifestation of what can go badly wrong when the pomposity of doom is lost in waves of feedback and the balance between aggression and reason results in the latter being obliterated by slabs of pure hatred. The impression one gets when listening to tracks such as the opener “—” or “Biracial” is that it still pays to be brutal.
There should be no specific reason why we should care about yet another sludge band in 2012 if not for the fact that the impasse extreme metal is in at the moment doesn’t allow us to be too demanding. After all, what Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire do is proof that there can be innovation by simply mixing and reworking what has already been done.
The brutality with which tracks such as the opener and “Lower than Life, High as the Sky” provide us with the paradigm the band seems to deploy when it comes to arranging their sonic assaults, is brutal and extremely effective. If in fact, the premise says ‘sludge’, the outcome reads: ‘grindcore’. The song’s structure, the cacophony, the urgency and the furious drumming which sets the pace for the whole length of the EP speak volumes about the direction the band’s music is taking. The raw anger borrowed from less noble genres like punk and crust are subject to a treatment (especially the excellent guitar work) which not only preserves the aesthetics of metal, but which also betrays a fully-disciplined band that is aware of the dynamic and their importance. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that the mid-tempos in “—”or “Garbage” are indeed the bits whose density and intensity deliver the real goods. Or, better yet, it is their relationship with the fast sections that makes the 16 minutes of Visceral stand out.
The more grindcore-oriented tunes (“Special Education” and “Garbage” above all) are a good display of how strong these contrasts are in the band’s music today. Its reliance on these and a number of breakdowns (which sometimes – rather unfortunately – develop into deathcore [D'oh! - AMG]) are all elements which were clearly not the focus of their “Songs of Ill Hope and Desperation” from just two years ago. Although we can’t really talk about experimentation, the aptly titled Visceral can be seen as a compendium of what extreme metal has to offer nowadays since all the clichés of sub-genres mentioned above are touched on one way or another. What surprises is the fact that the songwriting seems almost effortless, as the different parts all seems to flow in accordance with a method which may not appeal to all, but which will surely leave the rest wanting for more.
All and all, it seems that with “Visceral”, Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire are aiming at exploring the range of options and possibilities their music has got to offer. It is an EP which is a testimony to the evolution of not only a band, but of the genre that we’ve roughly come to define as sludge; an evolution that is looking for a path out of the doom-hardcore dichotomy 25 years after The Melvins came out with “Gluey Porch Treatments”.
There is definitely method in their music and enough feedback to make fans of Khanate and Eyehategod go weak at the knees, but do the two things relate in any shape or form? Do the flows of hatred and drones mix up well with the urgency of hardcore? An EP can give an indication of where the band is heading with their career, but what is certain is that “Visceral” is great music to make love to your lady by; provided she is aware that it will be different and that it will definitely be fun. At least until someone gets badly hurt.