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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4.87 | 6 ratings
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ISIS Panopticon Album Cover Panopticon
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ISIS Oceanic Album Cover Oceanic
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4.22 | 44 ratings
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CULT OF LUNA Vertikal Album Cover Vertikal
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4.22 | 15 ratings
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NEUROSIS A Sun That Never Sets Album Cover A Sun That Never Sets
NEUROSIS
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THE OCEAN
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CULT OF LUNA Somewhere Along The Highway Album Cover Somewhere Along The Highway
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atmospheric sludge metal Music Reviews

PELICAN Nighttime Stories

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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The Angry Scotsman
6 years since their last release, Pelican shows they are still a force to be reckoned with.

This album continues their drift from post metal to, well not quite sure what to call it. Instrumental progressive sludge metal? Perhaps atmospheric metal is the most fitting genre to lump it under. What I call it is: awesome.

"Nighttime Stories" is in some ways classic Pelican, (super heavy, killer riffs, grooves, and melodies, quiet peaceful movements) but in some ways quite different. For one, I was quite shocked to here blast beats. In general, "Nighttime Stories" is less "post" and more riff oriented metal. Don't get me wrong, Pelican has always been based on the almighty riff, but here their songs continue their shorter trajectory, all except one clocking in at under 7 minutes, and there's less collective wall of sound, long building sound and more traditional riffy driven metal songs.

This is not unwelcome. It keeps the band fresh, and given the countless number of post metal bands that have faded away with the tide of that genre, I'm glad to see some of the founders of it managing to fight past and stay relevant. This is not to say there isn't still wonderful atmospheres created, because their are, as well as some of the classic slowly progressing old school sound.

The music on "Nighttime Stories" is not as compelling or thought provoking as older Pelican, it's not quite as energetic as some newer, and I found the drumming a bit lackluster, but the music is still interesting enough to hold up without any vocals. The major driver of this album is its biggest difference from previous output: emotion. This is a very emotional work. Not surprising giving the band's various difficulties and changes, and it really comes out. It can't be put into words, but you feel it.

FOUR STARS

INTRONAUT Fluid Existential Inversions

Album · 2020 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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siLLy puPPy
Since the dawn of the post-metal / atmospheric sludge metal combo pack style that Neurosis delivered with its phenomenally original “Souls At Zero” all the way back in 1992, the two closely and often overlapping styles of metal have really covered it all having cross-pollinated with black metal, folk metal, drone metal and beyond but there have been a lot of copycats out there as well. For every Isis there are 10 Pelican sounding bands but even in the fast riding populated style of music that really took off in the 2000s some bands managed to craft a sound that stood on its own. INTRONAUT is one such band that immediately caught the attention of the metal world with its debut album “Void” and has pretty much continued to crank out a series of strong original albums ever since.

While this LA based band has been fairly consistent in delivering a new release every two to three years, it’s been five long ones since the release of “The Direction Of Last Things” and finally in 2020 makes a comeback with the band’s sixth overall full-length studio release FLUID EXISTENTIAL INVERSIONS and with a moniker that connotes a mental inner journey into the vast metaphysical universe that lies within, this album title continues the nebulous mental quandaries of the reality we find ourselves existing in and cranks out nine tracks of the band’s impressive progressive and even jazzy fusion mixes of crunchy sludge metal magic with atmospheric post-rock meanderings with psychedelic extras.

One of the most substantial changes between the half decade absence of the great INTRONAUT is the departure of long time drummer Danny Walker who left the band in 2018 but the great news is that he was replaced by a seasoned tech metal type named Alex Rudinger who has played with a large number of metal bands including Azrael, Burning Shadows, Conquering Dystopia, The Faceless, Good Tiger, The HAARP Machine, Ordinance, Samadhi and Threat Signal. While technically just a session musician, his drumming prowess amplifies INTRONAUT’s strengths and keeps these guys firmly placed in the big boy’s world of progressive sludge metal while other bands like Mastodon and Baroness seem to be wimping out and aiming for more crossover appeal. INTRONAUT continues to stand proud in its time signature rich stamped of sludgy riffs and psychedelic atmospheric excursions.

The beauty of INTRONAUT is that while keeping the same basic stylistic approach that started from the beginning, this band manages to keep quality control with every album just different enough from what came before and in the process manages to consistently deliver an excellent album’s worth of progressive sludgy post-metal with psychedelic accoutrements. FLUID EXISTENTIAL INVERSIONS is no exception to this rule. In many ways, this album is like a synopsis of the band’s entire run. Not only does it include some of the heavier growly vocal fueled sludge attacks as heard on “Void” but also delivers a fair amount of clean vocal led atmospheric post-metal sounds that peaked on “Habitual Levitations (Instilling Words With Tones).” Add in an amazingly crisp clean production that captures the perfect essential oils of both the metallic fury and clean passages and you have a freekin winner of an album.

Personally i think INTRONAUT probably peaked with its sophomore album “Prehistorians” which captured its sound in perfect balance but despite that fact the band has been very consistent in crafting really complex yet compelling albums ever since and that certainly has not ended with FLUID EXISTENTIAL INVERSIONS. While i would prefer that the band venture into more explorations beyond their comfort zone, i’m quite aware that they are walking that tightrope act of pleasing the old fans while trying to attract the new and for that effort i have to say that this album is the perfect mix of what has come before even if no new elements have been added other than the tight-knit instrumental interplay that includes the new drummer. While this album may not expand on the band’s previous stylistic approach in any way, for true fans this will not disappoint one little bit. This is another strong INTRONAUT album that delivers the goods.

THE OCEAN Aeolian

Album · 2005 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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UMUR
"Aeolian" is the 2nd full-length studio album by German sludge/post metal/hardcore act The Ocean (sometimes referred to as The Ocean Collective). The album was released through Metal Blade Records in November 2005. "Aeolian" is the second part of a two album project that started with "Fluxion (2004)". As far as I understand the tracks for the two albums were written and recorded during the same sessions, but the band (or the label?) decided to release the most atmospheric and orchestral material on "Fluxion" and the more aggressive and direct material on "Aeolian".

...it´s definitely an interesting approach and to my ears "Fluxion" started the project pretty successfully. "Aeolian" is definitely the harder edged ugly monster sibling. The level of aggression and the amount of chugging riffs are much higher on "Aeolian" than the case was on "Fluxion", and "Aeolian" is not at all as atmospheric or as sophisticated as "Fluxion" either (although not completely devoid of atmospheric moments). We´re still dealing with fairly technical playing and complex compositions, but the emphasis is on aggression and heavy riffing. The vocals are predominantly raw and shouting type sludge/hardcore vocals. There are as many as 6 different vocalists who contribute to the album, so the vocal style also changes from deep semi-growling, to harsh hardcore screaming, to aggressive barking.

While all material on the 10 track, 55:32 minutes long album is well written and performed, there is a slight identity crisis heard throughout the album, and it´s like The Ocean can´t decide if they want to play metal or hardcore (there are several predominantly hardcore oriented tracks on the album). There´s even a wiff of metalcore/melodic death metal featured at one point, so it´s not a stylistically consistent release. Wether that´s a weakness or a strength is up for discussion, but personally I found the band´s adventurous approach to musical styles relatively intriguing, albeit not always equally successful. Highlights include "The City in the Sea" and "Inertia", which are the two tracks that bookends the album. Especially the latter is a great track, but all material on the album is of a good quality.

"Aeolian" features a well sounding and powerful production, which suits the material well and the musicianship is on a high level on all posts. So upon conclusion "Aeolian" is through and through a high quality release. Compared to it´s sister release "Fluxion", "Aeolian" is slightly less interesting though, but a 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is still deserved.

WASTE OF SPACE ORCHESTRA Syntheosis

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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UMUR
"Syntheosis" is the debut full-length studio album by Finnish doom metal act Waste of Space Orchestra. The album was released through Svart Records in April 2019. Waste of Space Orchestra is a collaboration project between the members of Oranssi Pazuzu and Dark Buddha Rising and was originally formed with the goal of a one-off performance at the Roadburn Festival 2018. The performance was so successful though, that the band were offered the opportunity to record and release "Syntheosis"...

...and listening to "Syntheosis" it doesn´t take long to understand why that is. Already from the opening notes of "Void Monolith" (well it opens with some mellow noises, but about 1 minutes into the song) it becomes apparent that Waste of Space Orchestra are a pretty special unit. Droning doomy paces (and occasionally more energetic tempos), heavy riffs and beats, organic and pretty busy drumming, psychadelic dark nightmarish atmospheres, and various types of vocals (black metal shrieks, death metal growling, sludge/hardcore shouting, and even some female clean vocals) are some of the features of the album. Keyboards and effects often help build epic moments of dark bliss, and this is a very adventurous but also stylistically consistent release with a great tracklist flow.

Personally I find the repetitive almost hypnotic krautrock influenced first minutes of the 10:36 minutes long "Journey to the Center of Mass" to drag a little, but it´s more a matter of subjective taste than it´s a matter of quality, and the closing epic climax to that song is very impressive. The remaining part of the album is a bit up and down as far as intriguing structures and effectful songwriting go. Both the ritualistic, repetitive, and slow building "Infinite Gate Opening" and the ambient "The Universal Eye" drag for far too long, and are both uneventful and a little hard to get through. The closing 13:02 minutes long title track is thankfully a bit more interesting and an effecful closing of the album.

The musicianship is strong on all posts and "Syntheosis" features a powerful, detailed, and organic sounding production job, which suits the material perfectly. "Syntheosis" is a dynamic release which is sometimes a wild and energetic ride but often a more slow building and atmospheric journey and the contrasts work well on the album (although some tracks are a bit too repetitive and drag for too long). The opening trio of tracks are absolutely amazing to my ears, but I don´t think the band are able to deliver the same high quality throughout the album and therefore my rating is a bit lower than I thought it would be, when I started listening to the album. A 3.5 - 4 star (75%) rating is deserved.

ISIS SGNL>05

EP · 2001 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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siLLy puPPy
The making of the band’s debut “Celestial” resulted in lots of extra material but ISIS was rightfully apprehensive about releasing a double-album as a debut full-length album. Instead, the band wisely chose to release a companion album titled SGNL>05 the following year that acted as an extension for the “Celestial” experience for those who just couldn’t get enough. Originally released as a separate EP, the album appears as a bonus disc on the newer deluxe versions of “Celestial.”

Unlike “Celestial” that offered the first glimpse of ISIS’ unique take on atmospheric sludge metal all teased out with post-rock compositions, SGNL>05 feels much more like a supplemental album that exemplifies less metal bombast and is much more experimental in the ambient and atmospheric possibilities. The EP is somewhat of a remix album of different tracks that didn’t make the cut with remixer Justin Broadrick who worked with Godflesh and Jesu contributing a new version of the title track from “Celestial” now with the added “(Signal Fills The Void.)”

In fact, tracks like “Beneath Below” are more dark ambient with little or no contributions from the guitars and other metal features. “Divine Mother (The Tower Crumbles)” is one of the highlights that does deliver the metal goods but even here, much less so than the band’s full-length releases that sandwich this oddball. The tracks are for the most part lengthy and sprawling soundscapes that evoke an emotional reaction rather than create melodic constructs and are even more hypnotically repetitive than “Celestial.”

More instrumental than vocally infused, tracks like “Constructing Towers” display some of the guitar chugs that ISIS are famous for and is the heaviest track on the album. When the vocals do emerge, they are barely audible as they emerge from the suffocating din. The ambient “Celestial (Signal Fills the Void)” is the connecting track that bridges the album and this EP but is very much rooted on the electronic side of the ISIS equation with guitar sounds merely providing sonic textures to embellish upon.

Overall, SGNL>05 is a decent companion piece for “Celestial” but the far inferior of the two. I’m so glad that the band decided to release this separately or as the optional deluxe double discker because while this is a nice chill out album, it’s not nearly as interesting or as fluidly dynamic as “Celestial” and if these tracks were inserted into that album’s run, it would’ve totally derailed the flow and added way too much bloated padding that would’ve sunk it. With the exception of “"Divine Mother (The Tower Crumbles)” and “Constructing Towers,” these are really just leftovers without enough appeal except for the hardcore ISIS fans. The other two tracks just mentioned are quite dynamic and could easily be slipped onto an ISIS album without much ado. Good but not essential.

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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