Backslider – Psychic Rot Review

Sludge is a versatile genre. Sure, there are bands that play it straight, taking the shit I spray out of my gutters in the spring, putting a sprig of parsley on it and saying “$7 digital, $35 plus shipping vinyl.” There are also bands who use it as one disgusting ingredient in their extreme metal soufflé, or like a condiment on their br00tal burger. Death doom not nasty enough? Put a little sludge on it. Prog too weenie? Sludge it up! Philadelphia’s Backslider fall into the latter category, combining filthy fucking dirty sludge with grindcore and knuckle-dragging hardcore. This happens to be one of my favorite uses of supplemental sludge, having previously fawned over Mastiff’s take on the concoction, so how do these Philly boys stack up to the big dogs?

At its heart, Psychic Rot is a grind record. Despite kicking around for over a decade, it’s the band’s second full-lengthdepending on how you define that term when it comes to grindand it packs a dirty wallop. Songs like “Pseudomessiah” and “Goat Snuff” blaze through run times between one and two minutes, while sub-one minute interludes include the kind of kitchy 1950s/60s voice-over samples discussing suicide cults and pseudoscience you’d expect to find. In the midst of the blazers, however, sit songs like “Mortuary Art” that lean hard into chest-thumping hardcore, or “Bone Thief” with its groove-heavy sludge. Guitarist/vocalist Logan Neubauer’s gruff tough-guy shouts especially fit the former, calling to mind any number of 90s Victory Records vocalists.

A good grind band is able to pack enough transitions into each brief blast of a song to keep them distinctive from the blast before and after, and Backslider is a good grind band. For the most part, Psychic Rot lets each song take on its own shape despite similarities. Opener “Asymetric Torment” gives a good overview of the main styles explored throughout, while flowing naturally into the pure powerviolence of “Psuedomessiah.” The real highlights, however, come from the midpoint on. Previously mentioned “Bone Thief” and “Mortuary Art” are the best overall tracks, letting the band’s sludge and hardcore chops shine without losing any of the adrenaline. After ugly rippers “Goat Snuff” and “Corpseflower,” Psychic Rot ends on the pure sludge slobber-knocker “The Floating Door,” the only track that contains no grind. The shortest, fastest songs can be a bit uniform, but the whole package is a well-composed album that gains steam as it goes on.

While Psychic Rot is a solid album overall, mileage may vary on certain aspects. Neubauer’s vocals are a very specific style of dude-bro shout that has never been a personal favorite, although it’s hard to deny their fit for Backslider’s gritty aesthetic. More annoying are the two interlude tracks. When your total runtime is 24 minutes, you hardly need to place breaks at not one, but two points in the album. This is especially true when the style of the interludes is so different from the rest of the material. Each one includes the previously mentioned spoken samples over spacy synth experiments, and besides being a bit cheesy, they sound dated. This kind of thing was undeniably fun in the 90s, but here they sound unnecessarily nostalgic.

Even if you aren’t amenable to the stylistic choices of vocals and samples, there’s still plenty to like about Psychic Rot. A pleasingly filthy sound combined with solid riffs, rabid blasts and well-placed grooves keep things spicy from opener to closer. The more hybrid the tracks, the better this album fares, and I’ll be curious to see what directions they pursue on future outings.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: To Live a Lie Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 11th, 2022

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