In the big and scary world of progressive music, fusion jazz is definitely among the most divisive. The heady complexity of the riffs, the drums that jerk back and forth with different tempos and measures and the structural integrity of a house of cards constructed by a madman often invite words like showing off, musical masturbation, or simply wanking. Myself, I’ve found I can enjoy it perfectly well in contained doses, as long as the songwriting doesn’t let the wank fly off the handles. I enjoy the playfulness and the surprises inherent in the ricocheting of rhythms and the mad measures. It’s what attracted me in the latest Disperse album as well. So when I heard Slagduster play a left field mixture of fusion jazz-like riffing with spin-on-a-dime signatures and a sludgy groove metal sound, I wasn’t taken aback right away. Weird combos and ADHD riffs? Let’s hear it!

Well, the ADHD is certainly strong with this one. Deadweight is an antsy album, the riffs bouncing off each other, switching from one to the next at a moment’s notice. The unpredictability is the main appeal here, as the songs go from crushing groove to lighthearted plucking to short bursts of aggression to tapped out solos that make your head spin, all in the space of 30 seconds. The performances on the guitars and drums are especially commendable, as it never feels like the band has to overreach to keep track of the time.


Which makes it a shame the rest of the album never really comes together, because while the band is pretty good with all the fiddly details, they have trouble with the larger picture. “Mother’s Milk” is one of the most coherent songs in the list and even that one has a tendency to fall apart into a collection of riffs and fills. There’s plenty of individual moments I enjoy, like the bouncy riff that opens up “Profane Puppets,” the fluidity of the solos, or the closing highlight “Untouchable” which sports both a groovy dragged-out lead and some furious tremolo work.

Zooming out further, the incoherency causes all the songs to gel together. No track stands out from the others, apart from a riff that may pop up along the mess as particularly noteworthy, but they rarely stay around long enough to set any particular song apart. Coming back to the opening paragraph, I like the playfulness of jazzy riffs, but songwriting needs to be on point to prevent the endeavor from collapsing into an ungodly jumble. This is where Slagduster drops the ball, and never picks it back up, from the first note to the last.

To add further insult to injury, the vocals are simply not of the same quality as the instrumentation. The earthy sludge-based screams would be a great counterpoint to the flight of the guitars and drums, but they are executed in a thin and clenched fashion. There’s not enough body to the growl and they lack any variation in the delivery, defaulting to ‘always kind of angry.’ As such, they add to the monotony caused by the over-eager instrumental madness, rather than balance out the lack of recognizability.

The production is another unfortunate demerit. Of course, there is the usual loudness complaint, something sludge-related genres always have issues with. The rather abominable DR4 has some spotty clipping problems, but the fatigue is dampened somewhat by a clear mix. However, an unexpected problem arises in its stead: the different layers feel quite separated from one another, especially the drums and guitars. It’s like each was mixed individually and merely played simultaneously. A large part of this is the shitty tin-can snare sound that seems to actively repulse the other tracks in the mix. It’s a distracting issue that the band can not recover from.

All these complaints make it seem like I hate the record, but I truly don’t. While so many albums struggle with inspiration and ideas, Deadweight has plenty. But it’s such a letdown seeing all those ideas go to waste, lost amidst incoherent songwriting, mediocre vocals and a jumbled and flawed production. There is simply no redemption possible, no matter the skill of instrumental execution or merits of individual riffs. Slagduster have promise, but there is a ton of work to do before that promise can become a reality.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Waterlow Audio
Websites: slagduster.com | facebook.com/slagduster
Releases Worldwide: May 5th, 2017

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  • AlphaBetaFoxface

    I’m listening to the embedded track and this also seems to be another case of tone-deaf talent. Some of these riffs sound terrible, regardless of the obvious technical prowess the band possesses. I know jazz is all about dat free form but some of this just sounds plain gross.

    Doesn’t help knowing thatguy is gonna have a bloody field trip with that band photo. At least the review was a great read, GrandmaTails.

    • GardensTale

      Thanks, AllBallsFall. I’d say the guy on the right loses the “avoid looking like Micheal Cera” competition.

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        Fun fact: Michael Cera has a lo-fi indie album that is better than this album!

        • GardensTale

          That IS a fun fact!

    • Drew Music

      Given his recent allowances of mercy and restraint, I’d almost like to think that such easy photo-fodder as this may be beneath Thatguy.
      Totally with you on their take on jazz, and I’d also point out that it tends to echo my sentiments on most artists purporting to be jazz influenced. I get that it’s freeform and as such not necessarily adherent to any ‘rules,’ but it seems to me that, like with most genres, those intentionally trying to create jazz-specific soundscapes tend to yield less pleasant results than those who just go with whatever their instruments throw at them. There’s organic, then there’s “organic.”
      Obviously the subjective and largely uninformed experience of listening to someone else’s creation means that I can never truly know when someone is posing versus vibing, but by and large it seems to me that most jazz fusion music is trying too hard to incorporate jazz, a self defeating contradiction that too often has proven a shame for me to witness.
      I am always open to new musical suggestions, though, and you typically seem to have your musical shit together, got any jazz recommendations for me, ‘Face?

      • AlphaBetaFoxface

        Agree with all of this.

        I think Slagduster are trying to jazz up their sound too much. There are countless examples of bands who have incorporated some jazz elements very well (Ne Obliciscaris, Aghora, Chon, Cynic, Diablo Swing Orchestra, Augury, Gorod, etc) but very few have managed to reach the point where you may as well be dealing with a band consisting entirely of jazz musicians who just so happen to love metal (Atheist, Defeated Sanity’s last album’s second half, some Animals as Leaders, etc). Slagduster seem to be fairly keen to reach that level of jazz-based metal and it just isn’t working out well for them. There is no strong incorporation of other sounds.

        As for bands to check out, I guess any I just listed are worth listening to. If you wanna see the closest equivalents to freeform jazz in metal I can think of, you can try Pyrhhon’s EP from last year or Brain Tentacles’ debut, also last year.

        • Drew Music

          This is why this site rules. I love me some Cynic and Chon, and Ne O average 3.0 out of 5 for me but I’ll have to check out pretty much every other band you listed. I tend to enjoy Animals As Leaders, but I always feel slightly ashamed about it. Might delay looking into DSO cuz I hate the name and am ignant like that, but other than that I appreciate the list and look forward to digging into it. Thanks a bunch!

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            DSO are brilliant. I’d check them first tbh. Check out “Pandora’s Pinata”, fantastic record. Think it got a 5.0/5.0 here on AMG if that means anything to you.

            Just remembered two more bands worth checking. Ephel Duath’s “The Unpoetic Circle” is the best jazzy black metal album you’ll probably ever hear. The bassist and drummer hadn’t played in a metal band prior and it shows.

            Yakuza’s “Transmutations” is also an interesting little ditty. Pulls from jazz, prog, folk, and more. Quite an odd album but an enthralling listen nonetheless.

          • Drew Music

            Fair enough, though for my general music interests Ephel Duath sound the most compelling of everything you’ve listed up to this point. I love metal most when it can’t help but be metal, when it’s an organic creation instead of someone trying to specifically craft something that others will call metal, hearing of a metal album by non-metal musicians definitely gets my attention quickly.
            Either way, between these, the King Diamond discography and hopefully my Ulcerate vinyl whenever that shows up, it looks like I have quite the soundtrack ahead of me for an unexpected vacation (my corporate overlords miscalculated some vacation hours I took off for an upcoming Coheed show and I haven’t corrected them. Fuck you, The Man.)
            Gonna be a good week.

          • LExpoZiod

            If you’re looking for metal by non metal musicians, check out Cthulhu Rise. It’s instrumental, slightly wanky jazz with a ton of metal influence.

            Also, Panzerballett.

          • Drew Music

            I feel like I’m gonna have serious mental issues by the time I check out everything on my plate. Thanks for the recommendations, I’ll be sure to get to them eventually!

      • If it doesn’t have to be metal + jazz, then a good and fairly new jazz album I got my hands on recently is: Kendrick Scott Oracle – We Are the Drum. The title track sold me on the album immediately… but different strokes, different folks, of course.

        • Drew Music

          I’m about music in general, metal is my home but I try to visit as many soundscapes as I can and I always appreciate recommendations. I’ve got quite the list of metal to wade through already, I’ll probably save this for when I need a break but I’ll definitely check it out, thanks!

      • Try “Physical Cities” by The Bad Plus. Sounds like Meshuggah being filtered/shredded through a piano trio. Not “polite” jazz at all. Pretty heavy, actually.

        • Drew Music

          I’ma OD on muzax at this point. There are far worse problems one could have, though.

  • herrschobel

    i wasn´t aware you could growl that weakly … all throat ..no body .. again the review is way too good for the actual music

    • AlphaBetaFoxface

      a good thing too

      it’ll only take half a tour before the band are on the search for a new vocalist

  • rumour_control

    We may have our first (2.0) score – Diaper Bad.

  • Drew Music

    Well now I’m certain that I’m losing it. I seem to recall reading about this band being local to the reviewer, along with a few other random details, and I would have sworn on a stack of Satanic Bibles that I had read the review right hyah. According to all my investigative efforts, though, aforementioned possibly-hallucinated review does not appear to exist.
    So yeah, if ya don’t know, now ya know: my name’s Drew, and I’m batshit crazy.
    Hi, Drew!

  • drug_genosh

    I love me some jazz fusion and after reading the description for a track yesterday, I gave it a listen. then I turned it off.

  • Reese Burns

    That cover art is also terrible. Just plain bad.

    • [not a Dr]

      Are those Furbies?

  • Sean Sky

    Disperse made one of my favorite albums last year. So damn good.

    • GardensTale

      That was February! Granted, it may have been -recorded- last year, but it was released in good old 2017.

      • Sean Sky

        Oops! My mistake! Now that I look at my AOTY contender list for 2017 it’s on there lol.

  • Paul VH

    Sorry….only Mike Patton can wear diapers and still be cool.

    • Drew Music

      Take that, babies! You’re all poser-ass hipster bitches!

      • Paul VH

        Yeah…..babies suck.

        • Drew Music

          About as un-metal as they come, really.

          • GardensTale

            So un-metal, you have to bang their heads FOR them.

          • Drew Music

            So THAT’S where Juggalos come from!

  • Huck N’ Roll

    You must have been in an unusually good mood, GT, I would’ve gone even lower on this dog.

  • Kind of interesting. Somehow reminds me a bit of Soilent Green. I’m going to have to listen some more to figure this one out. Certainly not boring, so that’s a good start!

    I also like the weird cover artwork a little. It’s both repulsive and attractive.