Considering the bluntness of its stoner and hardcore components, sludge has proven itself remarkably versatile and capable of great subtlety and depth. In modern days, bands like the blackened Oathbreaker or the progressive Dvne have shown the genre to be capable of more than burly brawn and walls of distortion. That does not mean there is no place for such machismo anymore in the halls of sludge; Allfather recently demonstrated this just fine. Although Carcharodon come from the filigreed halls of Italy, legendary for its theatricality, they named themselves after the genus for the great white shark and the megalodon, and they call their music macho metal. If you still don’t know which side of the subtlety fence they fall on: there’s a song on here called “Whalefucker.”1
But despite having heaviness to spare, Carcharodon were simply not satisfied with grinding along like two millstones. Instead, they strapped those stones to a death ‘n’ roll engine from Wolverine Blues-era Entombed and fashioned themselves a glorious machine of wanton destruction, capable of top speed pursuit as well as riffs that have enough gravitational pull to rip a hole in the space-time continuum. Oftentimes the band smells strongly of Church of Misery, particularly the vocalist’s throat which sounds like it was burned by a flaming whiskey shot lit with a cigar, in a good way. But their visits to both the high and low ends of the speed spectrum set the Italians apart as more than mere copycats. This songwriting quirk, along with the blistering guitars that occasionally draw from heavily distorted bluegrass for inspiration, is what paints the picture of a truck full of nitro on the verge of falling apart.
What makes this work is the sheer amount of fun this record has with its ludicrously energetic style. Despite the frowny picture, it’s not hard to picture the band grinning like madmen playing this material, and the enthusiasm makes a big impact on the enjoyment factor of the album. The concise 33 minutes are never short in variety either. The mid-paced, laid-back “Weed & Brown Sound” sports an immediate and likable riff plastered on walls of fuzz, while its immediate successor, the title track, barrels down the highway with the wheels coming off. “Whalefucker” features the longest and heaviest breakdown on the album, complete with pig squeals, while “U-666” features old-school gang growls all along the chorus. These guys are not afraid to try different variations, and they they’re crazy enough to get away with it.
The funny thing about such high levels of manic energy is that it becomes much easier to forgive small mistakes. Sure, the playing is sloppy at times, particularly when the guitars are tackling the more noodly bits on their forays into blackgrass (I’m keeping that one). That’s no problem; if anything, it adds to the wild experience. But the mumbling background noises that make up the last four minutes or so on the closer are harder to overlook. It’s like the band were nervous about having a full-length album under 30 minutes and just padded out the end to technically satisfy their imaginary requirement. Guys, Reign in Blood was 29 minutes as well, you’re cool. Additionally, the drums are mastered in the worst way possible, drained of all weight and impact with a flat thwack for a snare. I guess all the budget went to the bass, which has a lovely overdriven sound, adding a little more depth to the fairly, but not unsuitably, loud production.
It’s funny how the country of origin can shape your expectations because I still have trouble wrapping my head around this coming from Italy, the country of ill-advised orchestral interludes and endless theatrical mumbo-jumbo. Instead, Bukkraken is a small, simple album, focused yet rambling, flawed yet highly entertaining. Its relentless mania and thunderous groove make it easy to forgive the occasional sloppiness in the execution, sans the annoying tail. Sophistication is a good thing to have when you’re playing progressive or technically complex music, but sometimes you just have to shirk that monkey suit and burst an eighteen-wheeler through a stack of flaming car parts. In those cases, Carcharodon‘s got your back.