The Ditch and the Delta – The Ditch and the Delta Review

The furious, enraged opening salvo of “Maimed,” the lead track on The Ditch and the Delta’s eponymous second album, is probably an accurate representation of exactly how nearly all of us feel right now – especially up here in bunghole Alberta, where it simply won’t stop snowing (not that we’re allowed to do fun things outside anyhow), which only adds insult to injury. I don’t often quote PR material, but the band says the lyrics on this album center on “absolute depression and desperation with hints of lucid clarity and awe.” Sounds about right for these trying times, and like Elliot Secrist here, screaming at the top of my lungs seems like a good idea every now and again.

The Ditch and the Delta are from Salt Lake City, so the first band one thinks of is SubRosa. Not coincidentally, this album was recorded two years ago by Andy Patterson, who was SubRosa’s drummer until the band’s demise last year. Sludge and doom are big parts of the Ditch’s sound, but the trio attempt to bring a level of technicality to their music that not many sludge bands go for. “Maimed” is a good example of that, with its bludgeoning hardcore/sludge that, halfway through, shifts into a technical bridge before lurching to a halt beneath a jagged, jerky riff. It’s a lot to pack into a four-minute track, but it works. “Exile,” on the other hand, sounds like a song Soundgarden could have written if they were a sludge band, and “Aesthetics of Pain” lumbers along as if it’s a Neurosis tune. At seven minutes, it’s the longest song on this seven-song offering, and a sense of tediousness almost sets in, but the song is saved just in time with a thunderous final ninety seconds.

“Hiraeth” is an explosive number with a rumbling, percussive breakdown in the middle, Throughout the album, new drummer Brian Fell proves himself more than up to the task of creating complex. powerful rhythms while maintaining an admirable sense of feel, and “Hiraeth” is his crowning achievement here. In fact, the drumming on The Ditch and the Delta might be my favorite of the year so far, reminiscent of the performance by Adrift’s Jaime last year. That’s not to belittle the efforts put forth by Secrist on guitar and Kory Quist on bass, both of whom bring fitting contributions and aggressiveness to the mix, but Fell is the star of the show.

The Ditch and the Delta is a claustrophobic recording, which only serves to heighten the tension, stress, and angst in the music and lyrics. With such ferocity there isn’t really a need to “let the instruments breath” or anything; just record everything true and push it to the limit. It does make for an exhausting listening experience, but being 38 minutes long means the album doesn’t overstay its welcome. “Bleed the Sun” is the only almost-dud here, a noise rock effort featuring back and forth vocals from both Secrist and Quist. It seems out of place and fails to engage.

Our fearless leader is always more than happy to explain to us that sludge bands have no skill, but I would put forth that many of them do, and The Ditch and the Delta would be included in that group. While the whole album doesn’t pack a consistent wallop, the vitality, technicality, and changeups featured throughout the record keep our attention focused on the here and now rather than skipping ahead to the next promo on the list. With SubRosa having abdicated their sludge/doom throne, these guys have as good a shot as anyone of stepping up to the challenge, and with The Ditch and the Delta having been recorded two years ago, hopefully that means we aren’t far off of hearing what they come up with next.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps MP3
Label: Prosthetic
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: April 17th, 2020

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