Sludge Metal

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Sludge metal generally combines the slow tempos, heavy rhythms and dark, pessimistic atmosphere of doom metal with the aggression, shouted vocals and occasional fast tempos of hardcore punk.

Post Sludge / Atmospheric Sludge metal This metal movement takes influences from post-rock as well as from sludge metal. While it is in many ways similar to post-rock, post-sludge metal tends to include lower-tuned guitars, darker themes and tones, and heavier drums. Post-sludge stresses emotion, contrasting the ambiance of post-rock with the weight and bombast of metal. Vocals are deemphasized or non-existent, and lyrics tend to be equally abstract: often thematic or philosophical in nature. It was originally a largely American phenomenon, but also included in its development some Japanese bands. Bands like Neurosis, Isis, Cult of Luna, and Pelican write lengthy songs (typically five or six per album) that can range from light and guitar-driven to extremely heavy, drum and bass-driven.

Atmospheric Sludge Metal

Post-metal as with atmospheric sludge is a genre that uses metal music to create a sound that draws heavily on atmospheres and textures.

This approach was used by many sludge metal bands including ISIS, Neurosis and Pelican, combining post-rock techniques with sludge metal. Bands in other genres including black metal and doom also combined those styles with atmospheric elements to create metal best described as atmospheric black metal or atmospheric doom metal (or atmospheric folk metal etc). Those bands are listed in MMA under atmospheric sludge metal, atmospheric black metal, doom metal or whatever core style best describes them.

A number of bands originally rooted in those styles moved away from their original sludge (or other) metal roots, increasingly focusing on the post-metal elements of their sound. Others were never based on those styles of metal and took their influences directly from post-rock, adding metal elements to create a more abrasive and expansive sound. These bands are listed as post-metal.

Post-metal is captured as a child-sub of sludge metal on MMA to reflect the stylistic origins of many post-metal bands in atmospheric sludge metal, albeit those origins have largely been left behind.

Sub-genre collaborators:
  • Bosh66 (leader)

sludge metal top albums

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CROWBAR Broken Glass Album Cover Broken Glass
CROWBAR
4.80 | 11 ratings
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CULT OF LUNA A Dawn To Fear Album Cover A Dawn To Fear
CULT OF LUNA
4.82 | 8 ratings
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NEUROSIS Souls at Zero Album Cover Souls at Zero
NEUROSIS
4.48 | 22 ratings
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CROWBAR Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form Album Cover Sonic Excess In Its Purest Form
CROWBAR
4.62 | 8 ratings
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CULT OF LUNA Mariner (with Julie Christmas) Album Cover Mariner (with Julie Christmas)
CULT OF LUNA
4.75 | 5 ratings
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NEUROSIS Times Of Grace Album Cover Times Of Grace
NEUROSIS
4.39 | 35 ratings
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CROWBAR
4.50 | 11 ratings
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ISIS Panopticon Album Cover Panopticon
ISIS
4.33 | 61 ratings
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NEUROSIS
4.33 | 51 ratings
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JULIE CHRISTMAS Mariner (with Cult Of Luna) Album Cover Mariner (with Cult Of Luna)
JULIE CHRISTMAS
4.69 | 4 ratings
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INTRONAUT Prehistoricisms Album Cover Prehistoricisms
INTRONAUT
4.33 | 17 ratings
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sludge metal Music Reviews

MASTODON Hushed and Grim

Album · 2021 · Sludge Metal
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ssmarcus
It seemed like not so long ago that progressive metal fans were lamenting Mastodon’s pivot away from prog-inspired sludge metal and into a more commercially viable riff-happy direction. While 2018’s Emperor of Sand signaled a minor but welcomed course correction for the group, Mastodon’s latest effort, Hushed and Grim, is nothing short of a triumphant return to form, perhaps in even greater measure that any time before in the band’s legendary career.

I’ll admit that upon learning Hushed and Grim was a double record spanning almost 90 minutes, I assumed it was going to be yet another covid-lockdown-inspired slog; an under cooked serving by another artist bored and unsure of what to do with themselves with all their new-found time. Bucking this trend, Mastodon have managed to utilize the time to commit every ounce of creative and pent-up emotional energy they could muster to crafting what is an album that is every bit as heavy, psychedelic, technical, experimental, and proggy as anything else they have ever done in their career. While it might be tough to justify a 90-minute run time, it is truly remarkable just how every track has at least something about it to admire.

The record’s only real flaw is the muddy mix that tends to drown out the finer textures of the melodies and riffs. This gets particularly upsetting when comparing the mix to the crisp clean gloss of their previous effort. But putting that flaw aside, Hushed & Grim forces even casual Mastodon fans like myself to come to one inescapable conclusion: this band is simply incapable of making a bad album. And whether you fancy the progressive greatness Crack the Skye or the raw but subtly ambitious onslaught of Leviathan, I think you’ll find Hushed & Grim a worthy contribution to the Mastodon discography.

MASTODON Hushed and Grim

Album · 2021 · Sludge Metal
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lukretion
US prog metal big shots Mastodon just released their eight LP, a nearly 90-minute double-album whammy titled Hushed and Grim. I have been following the band since their 2009 breakthrough Crack the Skye and I enjoyed all releases since then, so my anticipation for the new album, that had been described as darker and more progressive than anything before, was high. Alas, my expectations were quickly disappointed after I gave the new record a couple of spins. After sitting with it for over a week, I can confidently say that Hushed and Grim is a strong contender for my personal “biggest let-down of 2021”, perhaps only second to Steven Wilson’s The Future Bites. So what went wrong?

In an interview to UK magazine PROG, drummer Brann Dailor introduced the album by saying: “We could only get it down to 15 songs. We had multiple listens at my house and those 15 songs just felt like they needed to be together. To whittle it down to 55 minutes, our usual sweet spot, we would have had to get rid of six or seven songs and it wasn’t happening.”. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the mother of all problems with this album. The band and renowned producer David Bottrill (Peter Gabriel, King Crimson, Tool) decided to take an “everything goes” and “more and more” approach to songwriting and album production, which on the surface may seem to push the “progressive” ambitions of Mastodon’ music, but it ultimately greatly harms its listenability.

The main problems of the album for me are direction and consistency. This album does not have either. Its 15 tracks move back and forth between dark alternative rock/metal, spacey progressive metal and remnants of the more sludgy and metallic sound from the band’s origins, without deciding which sonic identity to give to the music. Do not get me wrong, I love albums that incorporate a set of diverse influences into the sound. But this requires careful arrangements to balance the various ingredients into the music. Here the driving approach seems to have been to just let the different influences surface at different points of a song, or in different songs, without worrying too much about how these may flow into one another. The end result is a collection of songs that are yes diverse, but also feel somewhat schizophrenic and directionless, moving back and forth between the various styles without managing to settle on a sensible compromise or achieving a satisfying amalgam. In other words, the album stutters rather than flowing gracefully, and this makes for a rather uncomfortable and frustrating listening experience.

There’s plenty of examples of this across the 15 songs of the album. “Pain with an Anchor” is an interesting opener, introducing influences from modern dark rock/metal bands like Katatonia or A Perfect Circle, that I would not have expected to hear on a Mastodon album, but the following track “The Crux” immediately reverts expectations, harking back towards the heavier and spacey metallic sounds of Once More 'Round the Sun. The album seems to settle on this groove for a couple of tracks, before “The Beast” confusingly throws in some incongruous bluesy sections to bookend what is otherwise a fairly standard piece of atmospheric progressive metal. Meanwhile “Skeleton of Splendor” and the single “Teardrinker” return to the mellow alternative vibes of the opening track, before “Pushing the Tides” veers again towards a heavier sound. The second disc pretty much continues in this ambivalent vein, almost as if Mastodon were undecided between embracing the new alternative rock/metal sound and sticking with their more traditional heavy sound.

While flow is a characteristic that I find very important in a full-length album, I could have forgiven the album’s deficiency in this department if Hushed and Grim were consistently high quality across its 15 songs. Alas, it is not. The album is crammed with mediocre material that should have absolutely been filtered out. “The Crux”, “More than I Could Chew” (which, come to think about it, is a pretty accurate description of how I feel about this record), “The Beast”, “Pushing the Tides”, “Savage Lands”, “Eyes of Serpents” are all pretty subpar songs that really do not add much to Mastodon’s extant discography, sounding like a re-hashed version of their earlier material. The frustrating thing is that the filler material severely dilutes the impact that strong tracks like “Pain with an Anchor”, “Skeleton of Splendor”, “Teardrinker”, “Peace and Tranquillity” and “Gobblers of Dregs” could have made on the listener. All these songs are interesting, some even exciting, but it is excruciating to have to wade through almost an hour of average material to get to listen to the good bits of the album.

Mastodon are top notch musicians and the playing throughout Hushed and Grim casts no doubt on this, from Brann Dailor’s frenzied drumming to Brent Hinds’ and Bill Kelliher’s dazzling guitar playing, the album brims with excellent musicianship. Where Hushed and Grim falls considerably short, however, is in the songwriting and arrangement department. Ultimately, the combo of lack of direction and watered down tracklist was definitely a killjoy for me and I do not see myself returning to this record anytime soon. I nevertheless choose to believe that this is just a blip in Mastodon’s impressive discography and I remain hopeful and looking forward to the band’s next move.

[Originally written for The Metal Observer]

LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR War Metal Battle Master

Album · 2008 · Sludge Metal
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UMUR
"War Metal Battle Master" is the 3rd full-length studio album by US, Chicago based metal act Lair of the Minotaur. The album was released through Southern Lord Recordings in March 2008. It´s the successor to "The Ultimate Destroyer" from 2006 and features one lineup change since the predecessor as drummer Larry Herweg has been replaced by Chris Wozniak. The remaining part of the three-piece lineup are vocalist/guitarist Steven Rathbone and bassist Donald James Barraca.

Stylistically the material on "War Metal Battle Master" is a direct continuation of the sludge/doom/thrash metal style of the two predecessors. It´s a raw, organic, and mean extreme metal style, which draws elements from many subgenres of heavy metal. Lair of the Minotaur have always been quite eclectic and anarcistic in the way they play and write music, and that tendency is continued here. You´re never quite sure where a song will go and that´s a great quality to my ears. It´s not like the tracks feature anything odd or anything out of place, but they are often rather unpredictable and it keeps the listener on his/her toes throughout the playing time.

The basis of the music is predominantly heavy riffs and rhythms (either a bit thrashy or a bit more heavy doomy/sludgy) and Rathbone´s aggressive shouting or snarling vocals. And that´s pretty much it. It´s all about the furious expression and raw energy, and that part Lair of the Minotaur convey in a most convincing way. Sometimes it feels like you´re in the room with them while they are playing, smelling the sweat, the blood, and tears, that´s how organic and raw this sounds. It´s not only about the ferocious performances though, as Lair of the Minotaur are skilled musicians and composers too. Just because the performances are raw and organic, it doesn´t mean that everything aren´t performed with skill and precision. These guys just understand the importance of a human touch and the importance of delivering your music with conviction and a burning passion.

The material on the 8 track, 39:31 are well written, catchy, and memorable. It may take a few listens to fully absorb because of the relatively anarcistic nature of the tracks, but there are plenty of hooks to hold on to throughout the album. Killer riffs and shout-along vocal phrases, and who doesn´t love song titles like "Black Viper Barbarian Clan", "When the Ice Giants Slayed All", and "Horde of Undead Vengeance"?...now that´s pure heavy metal class.

"War Metal Battle Master" features a suitingly powerful, raw, and organic sounding production job, and upon conclusion it´s a high quality release through and through. To my ears the band lost a bit of their raw charm on "The Ultimate Destroyer (2006)" (although it´s still a great album) compared to the savage rawness of the debut album, but "War Metal Battle Master" restores the ferocious attack on the senses that the debut album delivered. Paired with slightly more mature songwriting "War Metal Battle Master" is the right step forward for Lair of the Minotaur and a 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

NEUROSIS Souls at Zero

Album · 1992 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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SilentScream213
This was one of the biggest surprises in my course of listening to Metal evolve chronologically, for a few reasons. First of all, I hadn’t been a fan of Sludge Metal or Neurosis so far, so my expectations were something very different. Second of all wow, it’s breathtaking, especially considering absolutely nothing sounded like this in 1992, not even close. The layering, atmosphere, and building crescendos here are what would become the genre of Post-Metal, as well as Atmospheric Sludge.

Despite that terminology, this album has much more in common with Doom than any prior Sludge, and that’s why I love it! It’s all pessimistic melancholy and gloomy angst here, built on anxious, depressive but often melodic and sometimes beautiful melodies. The slow, plodding tempo is accented nicely by interesting rhythm work. The vocals are the only trait really reminiscent of Sludge, being a hardcore punk-esque strained yell that works wonders against the grim soundscapes. The desperation and angst in the vocals is ferociously convincing.

The core band creates some amazing instrumental soundscapes, the guitars especially doing some very interesting things I couldn’t begin to describe to add to the wall of punishment. It sounds dissonant, but never chaotic; very well constructed and orchestrated to add unique layers to the sound. However, possibly the most interesting factor to this album are the samples and other instruments/keys used quite liberally. The samples effectively convey some hopeless situation or another, and add to that overall anxiety purveying every moment. The other editions are endless… piano, violin, big band hits, horns, and more. Some are obviously synthed, so it might all be the work of keys, but it adds so much to the already very strong arrangements.

Something I noticed were a lot of moments that reminded me of one of my favorite bands, Mar de Grises (before now I hadn’t heard anything that really did). I think that shows the clear Doom sound here as well as the Post-Metal influence on the later band. Anyway, this thing is very nearly a masterpiece, huge variety and immense quality. A few fillers hold it down, but the heights are vast.

MELVINS Lysol

Album · 1992 · Sludge Metal
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SilentScream213
It’s not really Drone Metal, it’s more like Sludge Metal and Drone for the most part kept separate. Anyway, aside from adding 10 minute feedback sections to their album, it sounds like what Melvins have been doing for a while now; monotonous, generic Sludge Metal. I will say there are times where the guitars die down and the bass provides some nice undertones, but most of it is quite boring. The 10 minute drone section is also entirely a chore, with nothing interesting going on at any time.

Melvins continue to make abrasive, experimental albums that are simply not for me.

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

MASTODON The Workhorse Chronicles: The Early Years 2000-2005

Movie · 2006 · Sludge Metal
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Kingcrimsonprog
The Workhorse Chronicles is a must have for any fan of the band. Period. The DVD contains a huge documentary, their first four music videos and live performances of just about every song the band had written up until the touring for Leviathan. The documentary is incredibly informative, with details on how the band formed, inter band relationships, the witting process, touring, their personal lives and what inspires them. Footage from their old bands, their earliest shows and backstage is mixed with candid interviews to let you in on just about every aspect of the band you could think of.

The dvd displays just what a down to earth collection of musicians Mastodon are, never acting like rock stars and always feeling honored to be where they are. While the dvd is completely serious and professional, fans of the band will already know what a humorous bunch of guys they are and will revel in the joking, sarcasm, unusual dreams and even an interview conducted in the shower.

Then you get the live performances taken from several sources, One concert while the band was still a Five Piece playing material off of the then upcomming LifesBlood EP which is recorded by the audience so isn’t of high audio/visual quality. Another Concert is from The Leviathan Tour is a sold out club, with higher Audio/visual quality and a career spanning track listing. Then there are several professionally recorded one off performances for television with superb sound and looks, With songs like ‘Workhorse,’ and ‘Mother Puncher,’ played to the highest standard with crystal clear audio. Finally the music videos which are welcome. Overall this dvd is a must have; with a superb documentary, four videos and an astonishing 29 live songs.

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