It’s always cool to see another website put down the pen the keyboard and help a band out. In this case, the good folks over at The Sludgelord have done just that by creating their own self-titled record label! For their debut, they’ve released Dismal Planet, the debut full-length by South Carolina’s sludge duo Coffin Torture. Having a slew of EPs under different monikers (starting off as Tsavo from 2006 and then as Cave Dwellers1 until 2008) as well as their current name, Dismal Planet hopes to cave heads and leave entrails in the band’s wake with their debut. With over a decade under their belt, does the duo succeed in bringing the sludge and pummeling?
If we go by the first couple of tracks, it’s a strong “yes.” With a drum intro that would make High on Fire‘s Des Kensel stand up and take notice, opener “Bull of Minos” charges head-first with barreling drum rolls, thick-as-tar bass, and easily the most fuzzed-out, swirling guitar tones I’ve heard in a long time. Alex Thorfinn’s vocals remind me of the infected howls of Mike IX (Eyehategod) and his ridiculously down-tuned riffs build a sense of dread and disgust over the song’s length, while drummer and bassist Blind Samson does a remarkable job holding down the bottom end. Elsewhere, follow-up track (and highlight) “Izhar” contains the album’s most roaring, infectious guitar riffs and trance-inducing drum fills. So far, so good, right?
Not so fast, dear reader. As the album lurches further, and the songs get longer, repetition rears its ugly, diseased head. The album’s final triptych, “D.H.F.,” “Dismal Planet,” and “Trench Hog,” all suffer from a severe lack of self-editing, which is made worse when each song drags over the seven-minute mark. Look, I have no problems with songs stretching out for long periods of time, but they have to go somewhere intriguing, which these don’t. Sadly, you could shave off each of the three songs by roughly half their length, and not only would it stave off boredom, but the songs would strengthen as a result. “Izhar” and “Gustave,” the album’s shortest songs, are also the album’s most potent as they go in, decimate, and then vamoose when the damage is done, leaving me craving for more.
Given how fuzzed out and grotesque the guitar is mixed, I’m surprised at how enjoyable the production is. With the guitar mixed so upfront and loud, I can still make out how thick and chewy the bass is, and the drums pound and pummel with heft and clarity. Dismal Planet‘s production and mix is impressive. I just wish I could say the same for the songwriting on here. When the band compacts their songs and trims the fat, Dismal Planet effectively caves heads with ease and ichor. When they venture out into lengthier passages, however, boredom sets in, and that’s a death knell, especially when those longer songs pad out the second half of the album.
But there’s promise here in Dismal Planet. I know I sound like a broken record when I end my reviews by saying this, but with some work, Coffin Torture could go places with their sludgy, gross doom. The potential is present, but the results aren’t quite there yet. With some tightening, we could see a new sludge juggernaut. I’ll be keeping an eye out until then.