Sloth Herder - No Pity, No SunriseIf you’ve never heard of Frederick, Maryland, then you’re amongst 99.9% of the U.S. population. It’s a Podunk settlement in the western part of the state, composed of little more than a quaint downtown, rolling hills, a few cookie-cutter suburbs, and some scattered golf courses. It also happens to be where yours truly grew up. One dark night years after I moved away, I randomly scoured the web for bands from my musically barren hometown, only to come across Sloth Herder and their Abandon Pop Sensibility EP. Treading the foul line between black metal and grindcore, the record was a lot like Thomas Hobbes’ description of life before society: nasty, brutish, and short. Four years later, the quartet has signed to the Baltimore-based Grimoire Records for the release of their debut full-length No Pity, No Sunrise. And somehow, things have only gotten nastier.

I mean that, of course, in the best way possible. Listening to this record, I can’t help but think of metal’s past innovators, who combined genres, not for the sake of novelty, but because doing so was the only way to properly convey their message. For Herder, that message is one of abject filth and ugliness. It’s a message that can only be properly delivered via the band’s merging of black metal’s haunting atmosphere, sludge’s grimy nihilism, and grindcore’s spastic fury. Sunrise isn’t so much a listening experience as a mental assault, a merciless barrage of harsh chords, frantic tremolos, errant blastbeats, atonal melodies, meaty lurches, and abusive riffs that will have you calling your estranged relatives and apologizing for whatever petty grievances you ever held against them.

The closest point of comparison is the disturbed older brother of Dendritic Arbor or a version of The Dillinger Escape Plan that’s gone horribly wrong. Opener “Antipathic Grades” shows this nightmarish atmosphere from the start, battering through more riffs in its first two minutes than most records do in their first two songs. From the ragged, unforgiving chords to the rapid, discordant melodies, the song is swift and chaotic — and yet it still feels like a song and not just three minutes of abrasive noise. Likewise, late highlight “Whoresblood” initially stands out for its manic thrash beat and gut-punch riffing, before giving way to malicious clean picking and a ghastly, layered midsection that feels surprisingly cinematic — all in less than two minutes. In an often oppressive 35 minute runtime, it’s these fleeting moments of memorability that keep you clinging on for dear life.

Sloth Herder 2017

Through it all, vocalist Josh Lyon vomits out a rabid, frothy snarl that sounds vaguely like a more guttural version of Gospel of the Horns’ Mark Howitzer. The guitars are similarly venomous and hefty, and though the overall sound is bleak and murky, every note is loud and wholly audible. As is common with bands that flirt with such savage dissonance, memorability is occasionally sacrificed in the name of ruthlessness, and at fourteen tracks Sunrise does overstay its welcome a bit. Yet amidst the frenzy is a sense of order: the performances are tight and grounded, with precise drumming that sounds like a supercharged metronome. Despite shifting time signatures, Sunrise never veers into kookiness or battering slop, remaining harrowing and bludgeoning as it morphs from the demented, skipping rhythm of “Agnosiak” to the crawling sludge of “No Adherence.”

But more important than the riffs is the feel. Sunrise feels like the aural depiction of a fever dream, of waking up in a cold sweat and being unable to tell where reality ends and nightmares begin. This is the music of trash-clogged gutters, of rainy back alleys, of rag-clad despondents choking on their own phlegm. This is the type of record you listen to once and are impressed by but assume by its often-inaccessible nature that it will eventually be tucked away and forgotten. Take if from me: it won’t be. Sunrise digs its way into your psyche like a parasite, beckoning you to listen all the way through to the tangled bit of clean picking that concludes stomping closer “Privation.” In a record so unsettling and claustrophobic, that clean picking is the only glimmer of light, the only shred of redemption this so-called “power-slob” group has to offer. I never knew my hometown could generate such darkness, and yet here we are. Sloth Herder is fresh yet frightening, abrasive yet addictive – partake in at your own risk.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Grimoire Records
Websites: slothherdermd.bandcamp | facebook.com/slothherder
Releases Worldwide: March 24th, 2017

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  • herrschobel

    like like like….like the review as well … life before society..hmm…have to think about that one for a while …

  • Yes! This was such a surprise for me. I get a huge Immortal Bird vibe from them, more than the mathcore-ish direction named here. Great record.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Immortal Bird m/

  • rumour_control

    Hobbes’ reference is on point. As is the review. Kudos to Sir Z.

    • madhare

      Nice quote in a great review. But still we need to keep in mind mind that Hobbes is totally wrong. It’s bullshit, as we more refined academics might say (cf. H.G. Frankfurt, 1988). ;)

      • rumour_control

        Based on the current American president, I’d say Hobbes was being nice about the human race, but, yes…of course, lest I become jaded myself, Hobbes was much too cynical about human nature.

        • Dagoth_RAC

          So … nasty, brutish, and short-fingered?

          • rumour_control

            Ha! You nailed it! (No pun intended.)

  • Westpaceagle

    Great review! Found this gem on BC and it is indeed unsettling. Who knew that herding sloths was so chaotic and disturbing. I would think it would be pretty chill because they are so slow

    • rumour_control

      Sloth Herder: “Are you up?”
      Sloth: “Five more minutes.”
      Repeat ad nauseum.

      • Westpaceagle

        People don’t know this but sloths are really assholes. Herd them. Herd them all I say!

    • The Unicorn

      They are only slow because they want to be. Trust me, those fuckers move like lightning with a Unicorn chasing them.

  • Brutalist_Receptacle

    FVCK YEAH THIS

  • I really liked it too! I got a Converge-like vibe (Petitioning The Empty SKy, Jane Doe era). I gave it a 4.0 on my own website though!
    Great review by the way I liked your write-up sir!

    • Name’s Dalton

      So much Chicago noise rock nastiness here too. A heavy dose of Big’n at times, especially on cuts like “Agnosiak,” with its razor blade & whiskey shrieks and head-snapping low-end that shows up with about a minute to go.

  • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

    Sloth Herder? Awesome band name!

  • The Unicorn

    Mad props for the Dead Milkmen tee.

  • sir_c

    Can’t be any bad music when one of the guys is wearing a Pestilence shirt, I tell ya!

  • Aguy

    This is like the poppier, more accessible, radio-friendly version of Dodecahedron: noisy, claustrophobic, and uncomfortably dissonant, but altogether less so, with a rockin’ beat. I couldn’t make it through Dodecahedron’s albums, though I acknowledge their artistic value, but this! – this is something I can listen to for long enough to feel thoroughly nauseated and exhausted.