Wharflurch – Psychedelic Realms ov Hell Review

I had Florida-based doom/death/mushroom farmers Wharflurch in my sights for a review last week, but life dragged me off to the salt mines to toil for actual pay. This had the unintended consequence of giving me more time to absorb the weird dish Wharflurch served up on full-length debut Psychedelic Realms ov Hell, and more time was definitely needed. This is a strange act delivering unusual music that runs across several clearly labeled genre boundaries like an outlaw on the run from the normality police. The base of their sometimes swampy, sometimes spacey sound is rancid old-school death metal, but there’s plenty of doom and psychedelic elements baked into that shit crust too. But that’s not all! Over the course of the ups and downs encountered on Psychedelic Realms, you’ll meet all sorts of odd fellow travelers, and not all of them turn out to be friendly.

I heard some underground buzz about this platter going in, so expectations slipped upward a bit. As opener “Celestial Mycelium” unfurled its thick, burly, and scuzzy doom-death soundscape, I was interested but somewhat underwhelmed. It’s like Hooded Menace with a dose of Acid Witch and some third-tier Obituary, and while it’s enjoyable, it’s not what I would call essential. The riffs are big and bold but fairly derivative and the shouty death croaks can feel one-dimensional. The song shifts quite radically at mid-point to become more trippy and subdued, opening up to some jammy guitar-work, and I slowly start to see what the fuss may be about. There’s some interesting world-building and atmosphere created in the final few minutes that offset the rather rote beginning.  “Stoned Ape Apocalypse” (excellent title) is a step backward however, alternating blasty bits with slower doom segments featuring Inter Arma-style riffs that are decent but unexceptional. Some 10 minutes into Psychedelic Realms I was finding myself rather nonplussed.

In fact, it isn’t until “Phantasmagorical Fumes” that the true potential Wharflurch possess gets revealed in all its ghastly, stoned-out glory. This one lurches and staggers all over the lot from genre to genre seemingly without plan or design, yet it works very well and flows in a strangely organic way. Blasting death metal with blackened elements tumbles into earth-shaking grooves and out of left field comes beautiful post-metal moments. And let’s not forget the melancholic doom sections that appear and drift off into nothingness. This is a Mad Hatter of a tune and shows the band at their creative zenith making the most of the nearly 7-minute length to draw all manner of interesting shapes and structures. This high wire act is reproduced for the closing title track with much the same success. Thrash and sludge collide like oiled-up sumo titans and the spaces in between the fat rolls are stuffed with all manner of cargo beshorted death metal shenanigans. As gripping as the best cuts are, the writing isn’t consistent across the album and some songs feel half-baked (had to be done) and like missed opportunities. The band has creative chops in spades but they aren’t applied evenly across the material and as a result, the 37-minute runtime ends up feeling longer than it should.

Myk Colby and Steven Klein churn out all manner of riffs spanning death, doom, mushroom worshipping stoner trip rock, and several other musical veins. They have talent aplenty and the extended jam segments are quite captivating. John Mano provides a pretty standard death metal croak that’s powerful and effective but sometimes feels monotonous and it can become annoying on cuts like “Celestial Mycelium” when he lapses into ape-like herr-gerr-ferr-werr intonations. Higher pitched screams/shrieks appear at times courtesy of Myk Colby and they help, but more would be better here to shake things up. The band is tight and can handle the free-range genre exploration, the writing just needs to be firmed up and smoothed out more.

The old adage that there’s something here for everyone applies in this case. Psychedelic Realms offers a wide-ranging musical journey, and it can be quite stunning when the stars align, but just as often things feel stuck at the space dock awaiting blast off. I’ve seen the buzz increasing for the album, and I get the genesis, but the buzzworthy magic is only present on roughly half of the material. Wharflurch have heaps of crazy-ass potential and I’ll be eagerly awaiting whatever comes next, but this release is more like the warm-up stretch than the sprint to death-doom infamy.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 8 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Gurgling Gore
Websites: wharflurch.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/wharflurch
Releases Worldwide: September 3rd, 2021

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