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
4.44 | 13 ratings
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ISIS Panopticon Album Cover Panopticon
ISIS
4.26 | 51 ratings
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NEUROSIS Times Of Grace Album Cover Times Of Grace
NEUROSIS
4.25 | 27 ratings
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NEUROSIS Through Silver In Blood Album Cover Through Silver In Blood
NEUROSIS
4.17 | 42 ratings
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CULT OF LUNA Vertikal Album Cover Vertikal
CULT OF LUNA
4.27 | 13 ratings
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THE OCEAN Precambrian Album Cover Precambrian
THE OCEAN
4.23 | 16 ratings
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ISIS Wavering Radiant Album Cover Wavering Radiant
ISIS
4.13 | 41 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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THE OCEAN Anthropocentric Album Cover Anthropocentric
THE OCEAN
4.12 | 22 ratings
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ISIS Oceanic Album Cover Oceanic
ISIS
4.07 | 40 ratings
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INTRONAUT Prehistoricisms Album Cover Prehistoricisms
INTRONAUT
4.13 | 14 ratings
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CULT OF LUNA Somewhere Along the Highway Album Cover Somewhere Along the Highway
CULT OF LUNA
4.04 | 29 ratings
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atmospheric sludge metal Music Reviews

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
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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.

NEUROSIS Fires Within Fires

Album · 2016 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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UMUR
"Fires Within Fires" is the 12th full-length studio album by US, California based sludge/post metal act Neurosis. The album was released through Neurot Recordings in September 2016. It´s the successor to "Honor Found in Decay" from 2012.

Stylistically the material on "Fires Within Fires" features very few surprises if you´re already familiar with the band´s atmospheric sludge/post metal style. It´s slow, doomy, and organic music featuring both deep register clean male vocals and harder edged hardcore shouting vocals. The song structures are adventurous and you never really know where a song is going before you reach the end and look back at an intriguing compositional structure. The whole thing is packed in an organic sounding production courtesy of Steve Albini. The sound production takes the meaning of organic maybe a bit too far though, as this sometimes sound like it was recorded live in someone´s garage. I know some people love a stripped down and raw sound production like that, and under the right circumstances a sound production like that can work wonders. Here though I think it takes the power out of the music and even the most heavy and punchy parts of the album, lack energy and conviction.

To my ears Neurosis also seem to have lost a bit of their creative spirit on "Fires Within Fires"...and don´t get me wrong here, because as mentioned above this is still very adventurous music, but it´s like they´ve made this album before a few times, and I´d like to think of them as innovators who take chances and who challenge their audience. We don´t really get much of that here. "Fires Within Fires" is Neurosis playing it completely safe and since they´ve also tuned down on their more aggressive side, the album does become a bit tedious if you´re not in the right mood. However it still speaks volumes of their general qualities that one of Neurosis lesser albums still deserves a 3.5 star (70%) rating, and I´m probably just being a bit hard on them, but that´s only because I expect so much from them considering their impressive back catalogue.

NEUROSIS Times Of Grace

Album · 1999 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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Warthur
Although it can be enhanced by listening in synch with the Tribes of Neurot album "Grace", even by itself Times of Grace is still an extremely solid followup to Through Silver In Blood which builds on the atmospheric sludge metal sound of that album impressively. The title track's titanic closing riffs melting away to reveal the plaintive brass instrumentation of album closer The Road to Sovereignty is a particular revelation. Between this and its predecessor, I would actually give this one the edge and say that it's the best release since the magnificent, genre-defining Souls At Zero. (Those especially keen to try the "Grace" experiment may want to bear in mind that a compilation of both albums was issued for your ease of buying.)

INTRONAUT Valley of Smoke

Album · 2010 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The year 2008 was a good one for INTRONAUT as they signed onto a worldwide deal with Century Media Records and hit a home run with their amazingly brilliant “Prehistoricisms.” The band followed up with a successful touring schedule with Kylesa and Mastodon as well as the Great Indian Rock Festival in Dehli, India. Two years later INTRONAUT followed up that album in a most unexpected way with their 2010 release VALLEY OF SMOKE. There was a new direction a-brewing and the most noticeable aspect is the toning down the overall harshness and adding heavier doses of post-rock thus creating a thick atmospheric slick of post-metal with healthy portions of sludgery on the side. The band enjoyed the luxury of a stable lineup as well and on this one sees a cameo appearance of Justin Chancellor from Tool adding a second bass on the title track.

The opening track “Elegy” belies the direction of the album as it sounds like the signature progressive post-rock infused sludge metal that the band has been conjuring up from day one, complete with progressively constructed distorted riffs, shouted vocals and jazz-infused song structures. Starting with the second track “Above” Sacha Dunable seems to leave the harsh extreme vocals behind for the most part and focuses more on a clean atmospheric approach reminding me of the clean parts on later Enslaved albums in mood and dynamics. While the shouting pops up intermittently there is much more attention paid to the lighter aspects of the band’s sound. This is an approach they would even further on the following album “Habitual Levitations.”

After a perfect album like “Prehistoricisms” i hardly expected a repeat in its successful formula and i’m glad INTRONAUT didn’t try to simply recreate it. I have to admit that i was initially disappointed by the approach on VALLEY OF SMOKE upon first listen as they seem to be on the same trajectory as The Ocean or even Mastodon where they began their career as uncompromising heavy sludge outfits and have slowly drifted towards the more ethereal and atmospheric pastures of post-rock infused sludge metal but after a few listens this one does sink in and the progressive time signature workouts accompanied by seasoned musicians and the stellar production of Josh Newell only makes this one better after every spin. True that it will never dethrone what came before in my book but VALLEY OF SMOKE is still quite the sophisticated atmospheric sludge metal attack with lots of post-rock meanderings. Unlike “Prehistoricisms” which i can put on any time and fall into the musical ecstasy zone, VALLEY OF SMOKE requires me to be in the right mood to want to hear, but when i am this one does deliver the goods.

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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