In a faraway corner of the Southern hemisphere belonging to radiant women and men who loot (and labor), a storm is brewing. A seething swarm of stoner sludge swirls and simmers in the starless sky, and my advice, should you hear that thunder, is the same as Colin Hay’s: you better run, you better take cover. A scant 2 years after dropping a self-titled pseudopodian riff bomb on an unsuspecting world, Melbourne’s Motherslug have added a second full-length to their cornucopia of doom, and all the salt in the world won’t keep you safe from this slugger. You’ve probably picked up on my positive reception of this album by now, being smart enough to lurk in the Angry Metal Garden and all, so let’s slither our way through a word or two and find out why.
The Australian doomsters have named this most recent offering The Electric Dunes of Titan, an aptly image-invoking title if ever there was one. From the slowburn of gatecrasher “Downriver” right up to the last cymbal gently crashing its way out of “Cave of the Last God” and The Electric Dunes altogether, everything feels titanic and electric, and I’ll be damned if the copious levels of sustained feedback and downtuned fuzz don’t lend a sense of being, as put during a random astronomy lesson delivered on “Staring at the Sun”, ‘in the middle of Buttfuck, Nowhere’. I don’t want this to come as too much of a shock, but these guys win their race slowly and steadily. The riffs are there, and they are excellent, but it’s the band’s keen sense of maintaining a lumbering, monolithic atmosphere that makes this mother worth its salt. Taking cues from Electric Wizard and Sleep, Motherslug tend to simmer in an ooze of rumbling sludge tones and reverb-laden harmonics before revealing their sinister riff armada in any given song, and the payoff is as rewarding as anything by either aforementioned band.
The Jeffrey-Nothing-does-Danzig vocals of Cameron Crichton are delivered admirably and suit the music quite well, ranging from slightly ominous cleans to snarling shouts. What makes this band work, however, is… well, the band. Nick Radcliffe and his trusty drum kit keep everything plodding along smoothly with the pacing sensibilities of Black Sabbath or Destroyer of Light, never stealing the show but always keeping it alive. The give and take of Regan Batley and Cynthia Bae on guitar and bass, respectively, employs a similarly effective mentality, working together at all times and never upstaging each other. “Serpents” sees the band displaying this sense of cohesive creativity to perfection, opening with a slow motion peyote trip of minimalist techniques accentuated and strengthened by each member of the band before coalescing into a firestorm of fuzzy riffs and overdriven lead work. With relatively little focus given to flashiness or effects, Motherslug reaffirm the chosen doctrine of the trvly kvlt: sometimes, less really is more. Go figure.
One of the most shocking things I found on The Electric Dunes (I’ll see myself out) was the clarity of the mix. Even as “Cave of the Last God” writhes in its thickest, sludgiest sections, you can still hear not only the guitar notes buried within the fuzz, but the other individual instruments as well. Beyond that, the intermittent moments of lazily plucked Knopfler-esque clean tones sound truly beautiful atop Bae’s bass base, something I don’t typically expect from a stoner doom act with ‘slug’ in the name. The Dunes may rest under a choked sky of sludge clouds and feedback showers, but a clear mix with an average DR of 9 allow the music to breathe comfortably as it follows the snail trail to the end.
Perhaps more shocking, still, is the fact that these Aussies managed to make 44 minutes of doomy goodness fly by so deceptively quickly. I credit this to superior track placement, as the one song that suffers from a touch of drag (“Followers of the Sun”) is disposed of early in the album and followed only by greatness, the end result being a doom experience that almost feels too quick. If I have any other complaints, they mostly revolve around uttering the band name in public and should be ignored entirely. Between the riffs and the tones, they could go by Butt Gobbler and I’d still praise them. All in all, The Electric Dunes of Titan is one bad mother, and I expect Motherslug to take the doom scene by storm if they can continue down this road.