Atmospheric Sludge Metal

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Atmospheric Sludge Metal or Post-Sludge Metal is style that mixes the hardcore doom of Sludge Metal with the atmospherics of Post Rock, often with progressive stylings. Atmospheric Sludge Metal was pioneered by US bands such as Neurosis, Isis and Pelican, building on earlier explorations by bands such as Melvins and Swans.

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NEUROSIS Souls at Zero Album Cover Souls at Zero
NEUROSIS
4.53 | 13 ratings
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NEUROSIS Times Of Grace Album Cover Times Of Grace
NEUROSIS
4.36 | 28 ratings
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ISIS Panopticon Album Cover Panopticon
ISIS
4.31 | 53 ratings
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NEUROSIS Through Silver In Blood Album Cover Through Silver In Blood
NEUROSIS
4.26 | 43 ratings
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ISIS Oceanic Album Cover Oceanic
ISIS
4.24 | 41 ratings
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INTRONAUT Prehistoricisms Album Cover Prehistoricisms
INTRONAUT
4.30 | 14 ratings
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CULT OF LUNA Vertikal Album Cover Vertikal
CULT OF LUNA
4.21 | 14 ratings
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THE OCEAN Precambrian Album Cover Precambrian
THE OCEAN
4.17 | 17 ratings
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NEUROSIS A Sun That Never Sets Album Cover A Sun That Never Sets
NEUROSIS
4.17 | 15 ratings
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ISIS Wavering Radiant Album Cover Wavering Radiant
ISIS
4.09 | 41 ratings
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THE OCEAN Anthropocentric Album Cover Anthropocentric
THE OCEAN
4.13 | 22 ratings
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THE OCEAN Pelagial Album Cover Pelagial
THE OCEAN
4.21 | 7 ratings
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atmospheric sludge metal Music Reviews

THE OCEAN Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic

Album · 2018 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Metal is dead they say! But is it? Of course not but the naysayers seem to think that since there is no unifying metal band such as a Led Zeppelin, a Metallica or an Iron Maiden to rally around in the 21st century that the grandiose nature of the genre surely must be just a pathetic shadow of its former glory. Au contraire! The metal universe has never been so large and seen so many torches carried from the past masters and an even greater number of new torches being lit seemingly every single day. The big bang that began in the late 60s with proto-metal bands like Gun, Jimi Hendrix Experience and Iron Butterfly just to name a few, quickly led to the first metal oriented bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Black Sabbath. While it would take a decade or so for the genre to branch off from the parent trunk, once the process began, it splintered off into a million directions and well into the 21st century we are treated to a genre that can seemingly adapt to any disparate musical style and inspiration that has ever been proposed.

Bands like THE OCEAN remind me of exactly how far the metal genre has evolved since its humble nascency that was a mere angsty reaction to the blues oriented rock. This German band while starting out in their own state of sludge metal disquietude has continually ratcheted up the complexity of their albums as they went from a chaotically noisy punk infused sludge metal band to a bona fide progressive behemoth that tamed their aggressive tendencies and funneled them into a more post-metal paradigm that implemented the incredibly diverse classical music elements and electronic sounds that have placed them in a rather unique niche of the progressive metal universe. Led by founder and guitarist Robin Staps, this band that is also known as THE OCEAN COLLECTIVE found a more stable lineup beginning with their album “Heliocentric” and has continued to awe and amaze the world with a series of sophisticated albums that uniquely incorporate Earth’s geologic history into the compositional process and while the geologic themes presented in all their nerdiness may seem a tad eccentric, the fact is that this band is absolutely brilliant in how they adapt the geological themes to the more personal human level of reality.

The title of THE OCEAN’s 7th studio album (not counting re-recordings, EPs or demos) is officially PHANEROZOIC I - PALAEOZOIC, so first of all we need a few definitions of the title so that the lyrical content makes a lot more sense. The PHANEROZOIC eon is the current geologic eon in the time scale which hosts the most abundant eon for all flora and fauna that has ever existed and began 541 million years ago with the Cambrian period when a huge diversity of hard-shelled animals made their debut onto life’s stage. The PALAEOZOIC era (also spelled PALEOZOIC) is the earliest of three geologic eras (the others being the Mesozoic and the Cenozoic) of the PHANEROZOIC era and lasted from 541 to 251 millions ago. THE OCEAN is serious about their scientific terminology and the seven mostly lengthy tracks tackle the unthinkable task of narrating the geological periods that the PALAEOZOIC era is divided into. There are only six periods, however the beginning Cambrian is divided into two tracks with the other periods following, the Ordovician, Silurian, Devonian, Carboniferous (if you’re really a nerd you’d know this period is divided into two sub-periods, the Pennsylvanian and Mississippian!) and last but not least the Permian whose ending saw one of planet Earth’s largest mass extinctions in its entire history. That’s your geology lesson for the day, so how about the music?

As i’ve already stated, THE OCEAN may insinuate that the lyrical content comes right out of a university text book but in fact, the lyrics are quite nebulous and have double meanings while relating to the geologic narrative, they also incorporate the personal aspects of life. THE OCEAN seems to get more ambitious with each release and this latest endeavor is certainly no exception to that trend. While it’s true that THE OCEAN do not deviate from what came before and stick to their carved out niche like a scuba diver to an air tank, what THE OCEAN does accomplish on PHANEROZOIC is a nice mix of their early heavy chunky guitar riffs of sludge metal with frantic screamed vocals mixed with the sensual amorphous classical meanderings that showcase tender clean vocals with supplemental instrumentation that includes cello, trumpet, trombone, piano and symphonic atmospheres that find the band pulling a Jekyll & Hyde for much of the album.

One uniting factor is the progressive workouts that permeate both aggressive and placid aspects of the band as irregular time signature rich cadences jitter by with the accompaniment of jazzy drum gymnastics and hypnotizing post-metal meanderings that find repetitious riffing slowly transmogrify into a larger picture much like the geologic eras that change so slowly that we cannot perceive them. While the previous album “Pelagial” was in danger of exterminating the sludge metal aspects of THE OCEAN’s own musical history, PHANEROZOIC unapologetically brings back the harsher aspects of the band’s earliest recordings without sacrificing the progressive and atmospheric accomplishments they’ve accrued since their 2007 landmark album “Precambrian.” Suffice it to say, THE OCEAN strike a mean balance between their harshest moments of albums like “Aeolian” and the post-rock serenity of “Pelagial.” PHANEROZOIC finds the perfect balance between these two worlds and best of all this wider sonic spectrum is brilliantly mixed with a production value that perfectly balances the distorted metal outbursts with the exquisitely divine orchestral moments. While the final track is titled “Permian: The Great Dying,” it seems safe to bet that THE OCEAN won’t go extinct anytime soon. This phenomenal work is by far one of 2018’s most ambitious metal projects even if it hasn’t exactly expanded the elements that they are known for.

MORNE To The Night Unknown

Album · 2018 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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Kev Rowland
Formed in 2005, Morne is a heavy, atmospheric band based in Boston, Massachusetts. Their style blends doom metal and classic British crust but stretches beyond those boundaries, combining a bleak lyrical style with driving riffs. They have obviously been influenced by early Neurosis, and there is a frostiness to the music which is more often associated with raw black metal. This isn’t friendly doom by any stretch of the imagination, with riffs that hammer into the brain, and solos that are sometimes so quiet that they can hardly be heard, adding tinges of funeral-like melody to proceedings.

It is some five years since their last album, but they are well and truly back with a bang. There are times when they allow the music to swell and extend, but this isn’t a dirge that seems to last forever, but instead is music with a purpose. The drums are hard and heavy, yet also have a lightness that moves the music away from the bass and guitar which dominate the lower registers. There is always the feeling of the guys being in total control of what they are undertaking, with a purpose and direction, as opposed to some of the more meandering funereal doom bands around. This is dramatic stuff, and there is no doubt that it is one of the most exciting releases from a band within the doom genre for quite some time. Miss this at your peril.

NEUROSIS Enemy Of The Sun

Album · 1993 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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UMUR
"Enemy Of The Sun" is the 4th full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/Post-metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Alternative Tentacles in August 1993. It´s the successor to "Souls at Zero" from 1992. "Souls at Zero (1992)" was the album where Neurosis changed their original hardcore sound towards an atmospheric, heavy and doomy (although still hardcore influenced) music style.

That development in sound is further continued on "Enemy Of The Sun", and Neurosis also continue to add new elements and refine their sound. "Enemy Of The Sun" is a cold, harsh, and angry album. It´s drenched in a bleak and melancholic atmosphere. The ingredients of the band´s sound are a heavy yet rhythmically adventurous rhythm section, heavy doomy riffs, feedback and noise, raw shouting aggressive hardcore type vocals (and a few cleaner sung vocals), and atmosphere enhancing use of keyboards and electronics/samples. It´s completely uncompromising, original, and because of the unconventional nature of the riffs, the rhythms, and the atmosphere, probably a bit of an aquired taste (even for fans of heavy music).

It´s sonically challenging music, which most listeners probably won´t find immediately accessible, but the material are not without catchy moments. They just seldom appear in the form of a sing-along chorus, a melody part you can hum along to, or a harmony guitar part that you remember long after the album is over. In that respect the material on "Enemy Of The Sun" are a difficult listen. It´s gritty, menacing and ugly, and generally demand the listener´s full attention. It´s progressive music which hasn´t lost it´s aggressive hardcore authenticity.

"Enemy Of The Sun" opens with two stand-alone tracks in "Lost" and "Raze the Stray", while "Burning Flesh In Year of Pig", "Cold Ascending" and "Lexicon" seque into each other and appear like one long track. The title track and "The Time of the Beasts" follow (the latter is a crushingly heavy track featuring a section which sounds like a funeral march with violin and trumpet) and the album closes with the 26:34 minutes long "Cleanse". "Cleanse" (which is not featured on the vinyl version of the album) is a long hypnotic song featuring tribal percussion, shouting and yelling and samples. The last 8 minutes are a pretty harsh listen as it is a sampled shout repeated over an over again. It´s pretty surely the kind of track, which is an aquired taste. The same can be said about "Lexicon", which is an extremely noisy track. It sits on the verge of being avant garde.

"Enemy Of The Sun" features a suitingly harsh and raw sound production, which further helps the material shine. So upon conclusion it´s a high quality release by Neurosis. While "Souls at Zero (1992)" felt at lot like a transitional album (and in that case, that´s not a bad thing), "Enemy Of The Sun" is an album featuring an almost fully developed new sound. I write almost, because the band would further develop and refine this particular sound on the next two releases, before making another change in musical style. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.

NEUROSIS Souls at Zero

Album · 1992 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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UMUR
"Souls at Zero" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/post metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Alternative Tentacle Records in May 1992. It´s the successor to "The Word as Law" from 1990 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as Simon McIlroy (keyboards, tapes, samples) has joined Neurosis to make the band a five-piece on "Souls at Zero". Neurosis were formed in 1985 and initially played hardcore punk on their debut album "Pain of Mind (1988)". They continued playing hardcore punk on their sophomore album "The Word as Law (1990)", but on that album slower doomy elements began to appear, and it was obvious on that album that Neurosis were in a transitional process. No one at the time of course knew what they were transforming into, but that is revealed on "Souls at Zero".

Stylistically "Souls at Zero" still features hardcore punk elements, but it´s now only a part of the band´s sound and not the core of their music. The pace has been lowered considerably and while the music is often quite energetic and aggressive, the tempos are mostly slow-to mid-paced. One crushingly heavy riff after another, feed-back noises, samples and sound effect, and loads of adventurous rhythmic combinations are now some of the elements which make up the basis of the music. On top of that the shouting raw hardcore type vocals by Scott Kelly and Steve Von Till. The song structures are unconventional and occasionally even progressive in nature, and listening to the 10 track, 61:24 minutes long album is quite the musical journey.

For examples of the more experimental/progressive ideas found on the album take a listen to the subtle piano in the opening section of the title track, the violin and flute section on "Flight", the use of trumpet on "Sterile Vision", or "Stripped", which in addition to featuring crushingly heavy riffs and almost hypnotic tribal rhythms, also feature violin, orchestral keyboards, and a short medieval choir section. Interesting experimental/progressive features which ensure variation. The use of keyboards/sound effects/samples on many tracks also provide the material with a richer and more dynamic sound. The keyboards/sound effects/samples are not a dominant feature in the soundscape, but still an important part of creating the dark atmosphere of the music.

The album´s greatest strength, in addition to the strong musicianship and powerful and well sounding production, is how well Neurosis combine primal hardcore aggression with slow doomy riffs and rhythms, experimental/progressive ideas, and bleak atmospheric moments. It never sounds contrived. It just flows completely naturally and the many stylistic elements are used to great effect and they are used at the perfect moments throughout the album. Hour long album releases can sometimes be a bit of a chore to get through, and there are often filler material or tedious moments on releases that long, but "Souls at Zero" is one of the exceptions to that rule.

So upon conclusion "Souls at Zero" is a high quality release by Neurosis, which feels a bit like a new beginning for the band. It´s not like their first two releases aren´t worth listening to, but they pretty much sound like they were recorded by another band. "Souls at Zero" signals a new start and a new musical direction, but the journey had just begun, and Neurosis would evolve, and develop and add new ideas and elements to their heavy doomy core sound over the course of their subsequent releases. In that respect "Souls at Zero" is a relatively unique release in their discography. Not only because it´s the first release in their new heavy and experimental/progressive style, but also because it´s still immature and raw in many ways (or maybe stylistically "unfinished" is a better description), which is ultimately greatly charming. A 4.5 star (90%) rating is deserved.

NEUROSIS Souls at Zero

Album · 1992 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
Necrotica
Did you feel the shifts? The shift in the tempo, the shift in the style or the shift in the vision of the punk-turned-doom act Neurosis?

Was the eerie Wicker Man-inspired album art a strong enough indication of the change? Or did we have to wait until we heard the content within?

The content within, I must state, is terrifying. Sludge and hellish distortion crush the ears like a trash compactor; the songs are longer, the compositions more complex, and seemingly inching toward the progressive or avant-garde;

"To Crawl Under One's Skin" sets a grim tone, its creepy intro sample a sinister indicator of the following horrors; and what follows? A brilliant mixture of post-metal, doom metal, post-hardcore, and sludge metal with enough menace in its tone to make a seasoned metal fan buckle.

Did you feel the shifts? Did you experience the sea change? Listen to the way the acoustic and electric guitars of the title track bicker and contrast with one another; an cold, tenuous relationship forming a dreary masterpiece of atmosphere as the bizarrely paced piano chromatics seal the deal.

Once in a while, the speed picks up and yet the tension never truly dissipates. The two chords that encompass most of "Flight" rely on instrumental textures and tortured vocals until the acoustic guitar beckons us back to the void.

The content within, I must admit, never ceases to be draining. The further you delve into it, the more it takes from you. Some quiet moments occur, such as the acoustic intro to "Stripped," but it never feels like a respite. The heavy moments plow through like a sledgehammer to the skull and the reflective moments are woeful and depressing.

But that's also the beauty.

Souls at Zero is something of an entrancing horror; much like Requiem for a Dream or Eternal Darkness; the vivid hell it portrays is intoxicating. And just one listen to outro "Empty," with its uneasy acoustic melodies and melancholic electric leads, and you'll feel both gutted and wanting to brave the whole journey again.

Do you feel the shifts? Did you hear the rise of a remarkable force towering over you? Have you heard the utterly disgusting majesty of 90s metal in its prime?

With Souls at Zero, you'll feel it.

atmospheric sludge metal movie reviews

ISIS Clearing The Eye

Movie · 2006 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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Triceratopsoil
Probably only really for fans of ISIS (I mean, who else would buy a concert DVD than a fan of the band in question?), but an absolutely great experience. Witness an incredible band at their peak. The main feature here is the full 70 minute performance from Sydney Australia in 2005. Great cinematic camera work, a relaxing and overall fantastic performance of some of the best songs ISIS ever wrote. Top notch. No complaints here, though I'm a giant fanboy so take my opinion with a grain of salt or 10.

Most of the other live videos are curios, though they are quite good - not the same professional sound and video quality as the Australia concert.

I made my mom buy me this for Christmas a few years ago, ahaha

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