Seum – Double Double Review

They say you should never judge a book by its cover, so I didn’t. Even though the cover of Seum’s sophomore Double Double set off alarm bells in my head concerning the quality and style of the music contained therein. But garish as the art is, it might be the best thing about the album. Seum’s brand of stoner-sludge here is (almost literally) one-note. And while there are elements of interest, and they play that one note well, it’s not nearly as gripping as angsty, heavy music like this ought to be. Much like eating a vast bowl of supermarket own-brand vanilla ice cream, Double Double does the job fine, but is a little bland, and in dire need of additional flavor and texture. I should have trusted my gut.

Seum double down on the already low, grimy sludge sound by making the bass the star of the show, and doing away with treble guitar. This is effective at keeping the riffs chunky, and the gritty, garage production only enhances it. When certain breakdowns (“Razorblade Rainbow,” “Double Double”) hit, you’ll have to fight yourself to prevent compulsive headbanging and swaying. And there are also some lovely ‘bleh’s and extended screams (“Dog Days,” “Seum Noir”). Not to mention plenty of emphatically crashing cymbals (“Torpedo,” “Dog Days”). In fact, the drumming is a particular highlight; Frédéric Lepoutre knocks the shit out of the kit with palpable flair. This is all pretty nice, lemon-face-inducing punky sludge metal. The snag is that Double Double lacks overall presence, and therefore, the ability to keep the listener engaged from one vaguely thrilling section to the next.

On an album that barely exceeds half an hour, material that on paper ought to be viciously compelling manages to feel tired. The hardcore tinge that manifests in off-key sing-shouts (“Torpedo,” “Dog Days,” “Seum Noir”) and d-beat flirtation runs against both the knuckle-dragging menace of the sludge, and the hazy easygoingness of the stoner doom. As a result, all styles feel unconvincing once Seum has chucked them all at you at least once. Opener “Torpedo” seems to promise so much with its solid psychedelic riffing and punchy percussion, but loses focus, and ends up tedious and wishy-washy. Closer “Double Double,” whose main riff echoes that of the first, does a better job of combining disparate angry styles, with some exceptionally tortured vocals to boot. These literal bookends effectively represent one spectrum on which Seum operates—bland but serviceable to aggressive and intriguing. They are not the ends of the quality spectrum, however. “Razorblade Rainbow” and “Dog Days,” easily stand above the rest for their gnarly energy, snappy drum fills, and general dynamism.

Aside from the aforementioned songwriting issues, Double Double is not helped by further idiosyncrasies. The thirty-second interlude “Toil and Trouble” is entirely disposable, but frustratingly so, since its pulsing feedback feels like an immersive intro to a song that isn’t there. The strange, sour film samples spliced throughout are in themselves the right amount of weird for a kooky package of spunky sludge such as this. But for some reason, in practice, they come across as jarring. The odd digression on “Razorblade Rainbow” cuts a dull wedge between the comparatively excellent grimy psychedelia and punky breakdown that sandwich it. The airport tannoy that closes “Snow Bird” also saps the vigor of the ascending scales and gritty riffing from that song’s end. That being said, maybe this is the entire point of such samples, to poke fun, and to be silly.

I don’t like to say it, but it’s albums like Double Double that vindicate those gut feelings that discourage me from giving music like this a try. It doesn’t stand out from the crowd and it doesn’t hit hard. Seum no doubt will appeal to some who like their sludge punky, no-nonsense, and straightforward; something to break the silence. But for others, Double Double’s high points aren’t enough to encourage repeat visits.

Rating: Disappointing
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 260 kb/s VBR mp3
Label: Self-Release
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 2nd, 2023

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