Slomatics – Strontium Fields Review

Belfast, Northern Ireland sludge trio Slomatics have been plying their trade for almost two decades now. Their seven previous full-lengths have been released in fits and starts, with their most consistently productive period being 2012 to 2016, during which window they released a trilogy of records, culminating in Future Echo Returns, the first of their records to grace these pages. Our dearly departed1 colleague Akerblogger, awarded Future Echo Returns a very respectable 3.0, noting that it was a “meaty and full-hearted” record, although “less bone-rattling heaviness and more synth-led tenderness” might have benefited it. Three years on and 2019’s Canyons took home another 3.0, less monotonous than Future Echo Returns, Akerblogger still wanted a “heartier contrast of sound”. Jeez, that guy, always the needy bloody critic. Well, scroll forward another four years and it’s your truly’s turn to assess Slomatics’ latest album, the eighth in their discography, and see whether with Strontium Fields they can make it three 3.0s from three or, perhaps, something better.

Strontium—or at least synthetic strontium-90—is the principal health hazard in radioactive fallout due to the way in which the body absorbs it. Having absorbed Strontium Fields a number of times, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it hazardous to health, but Slomatics’ certainly open the record in abrasive fashion, with the first two tracks, “Wooden Satellites” and “I, Neanderthal,” both big, down-tuned, knuckle-dragging slabs of sludgy stoner doom. All rumbling guitars and ponderous, crashing drums, they feel heavy in the sense of being physically weighty, a bit like Black Tusk meets YOB. Drummer and vocalist Marty Harvey belts out throaty semi cleans, that sound like the lovechild of Orange Goblin’s Ben Ward and Jared Warren of Big Business. However, as the album progresses, Slomatics introduce more nuance and delicacy into their sound.

Beginning on the ethereal, psychedelic “Time Capture,” the band’s “ancient synthesizer” has a big part to play in the sound of Strontium Fields, as does the other side of Harvey’s vocal performance, which is big sustained cleans, with a slight warble to them, bordering on ballads (for some reason, I had a sudden compulsion to listen to Nevermore’s “Tomorrow Turned into Yesterday”). Slomatics’ stomp and pomp ebb and flow across Strontium Fields, with “Like a Kind of Minotaur” and closer “With Dark Futures” back to the massive, fuzzed guitars and a huge groove, courtesy of guitarists David Majury and Chris Couzens. Although this is not actually borne out in terms of minutes of music, the dominant mood of the back half of the album feels like it is the down-pace, otherworldly numbers found in the front end of “Voidians,” which could easily be from the score of a sci-fi film, and the synth-laden, percussion-free “Zodiac Arts Lab,” where Harvey’s vocals, drenched in echo and reverb, reach for the heavens. Somehow, this side of the record is more impactful and memorable than the heavy stuff.

There is a nice flow to Strontium Fields, which makes it an easy listen, despite the sludgy vibes. The production, while everything you’d expect of the style, is well done, with the DR8 giving it a rich and deep feel. That said, the actual music lacks memorability. The two things that stick with me most after a dozen or so listens are the shifts in style between the weighty sludge sections and the airier, melodic parts, and Harvey’s vocals. There is nothing hugely memorable about the actual material on show in terms of riffs, for example, nor even song construction. It is the Jekyll-and-Hyde approach that abides, rather than the substance. As for Harvey’s vocals, he’s versatile and has a powerful voice, albeit not one I particularly like. That is purely personal taste, however, and I suspect mileage will vary significantly.

Strontium Fields is another solid outing for Slomatics. There are no real missteps on the album but nor are there any truly standout moments and, while “Wooden Satellites” and “Time Capture” stand slightly above the rest of the material for me, they are not enough to really elevate the album. Slightly more fluid and mature again than Canyons (and definitely a cut above Future Echo Returns, which was possibly very slightly overrated), Slomatics remain a compelling act but one that still hasn’t quite found the formula to truly deliver that next-level record. One thing they do consistently take to the next level, however, is their artwork, of which this is the full version:


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 256 kbps mp3
Label: Black Bow Records
Websites: | |
Releases Worldwide: September 8th, 2023

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  1. From AMG Industries, not from the mortal coil.
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