Negative 13 – Mourning Asteri Review

Negative 13 first hit the scene way back in 2002 (at the time as Negative Theory) with their self-titled (again Negative Theory) sludgefest. Presumably, life happened, as it so often does, and their dozens of fans were left with a welcome mat tagged with a goodbye note. However, in this world that keeps on giving, the past couple years have allowed people to rekindle old hobbies (and ditch new hobbies), bake bread (and then never bake bread again), and, in this case, jam with old friends. Just like that, these reinstated Pittsburghers were able to reissue their previous album as Negative 131 and lay plans for their sophomore outing Mourning Asteri. Bust out the arnica salve and put on the knee brace—it’s never too late for a comeback when you’ve got sludge in your veins.

If you’ve ever heard the first couple Eyehategod albums 2, then you know the basic blueprint for the churned-shout plod that Negative 13 throws down. Though, these Pennsylvania lifers sure ain’t from NOLA, so the crew can pull a few different tricks from their well-traveled toolkit. As on their previous effort, a post-grunge misery pervades the slower sections in equal proportions to a grinding doom (“Crack the Code,” “Parahell”), letting Negative 13 channel a creeping saunter like that of the later Neurosis works. This collision of jagged grooves and core vitriol (“Pain Prism”) occasionally also brings to mind the sludge-leaning work of the ever-evolving Zao. For a band of weathered but mostly unlisted players in the annals of the metalverse (save for bassist Mary Bielich who had a successful stint with Novembers Doom and Penance, among others), Negative 13 rests in well-performed waters.

Good sludge needs a great rhythm section; the thump and bump on Mourning Asteri keep this ship on a steady course. Particularly on tracks like the longer format closer “Villain,” where the mood runs low and slow, a carefully accented kick and pulse goes a long way to sustaining the gentle head bob. On that track and other brooding numbers (“Pain Prism,” “Crack the Code”), Bielich’s warm tone, much like that of a traditional heavy metal dangle, maintains a guiding presence through the murk. And when it’s time to inject a potentially expired dose of punk rage (“Never Ending Exit Wound,” “The Key and the Coat”) into this somber outing, skin slapper Chip Reynolds counts to D and lets his dirty kick fly.

Additionally, the varied vocal attack throughout Mourning Asteri provides both an emotional connection to the downtrodden dirges, and a hissing twist when necessary. While Scott Fisher leads mostly with his NOLA-influenced croak, he settles into his best Steve Von Till drone for “Villain,” allowing a more placid suffering to envelope the soundscape. Yet like the agile dying fox he is, Fisher can accentuate the mental spiraling of wretched breakdowns (“My Scars Are Showing Again,” “Parahell”) with a screech foul enough to flare the nostrils on a skunk. At other moments when the riffs get thick enough to feel impermeable to Fisher’s shouts alone (“Pain Prism”), Reynolds pulls an assisting bark from behind the kit, reminding me of the underutilized brutish bellows that Dave Edwardson unleashes on select Neurosis tracks.

An old dog really can learn new tricks. Mourning Asteri has successfully updated the slightly dated stylings of their more post-grunge influenced sludgecore past with some modern nods to their equally aged, wise peers. Outside of the low-impact piano interlude title track, each cut has enough room to stand tall. In a year where we’ve already experienced a strong fresh start album from similarly-minded riffmongers Come to Grief, there’s still plenty of space for more doom and gloom. The world is a much different place than it was when Negative 13 first started their journey. Heck, they even missed the rise and fall of Myspace so they could start fresh on Facebook and Bandcamp. I, for one, am happy to see this group back on their feet and already hitting the stage with their new tunes. But please, don’t make us wait another 20 years for the next one.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Self-release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: July 8th, 2022

Show 2 footnotes

  1. A choice that will forever haunt our Positive Twelve.
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