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
4.52 | 13 ratings
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NEUROSIS Times Of Grace Album Cover Times Of Grace
NEUROSIS
4.35 | 28 ratings
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ISIS Panopticon Album Cover Panopticon
ISIS
4.30 | 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
4.23 | 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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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
4.13 | 22 ratings
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ISIS Wavering Radiant Album Cover Wavering Radiant
ISIS
4.08 | 41 ratings
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THE OCEAN Pelagial Album Cover Pelagial
THE OCEAN
4.21 | 7 ratings
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CULT OF LUNA Somewhere Along The Highway Album Cover Somewhere Along The Highway
CULT OF LUNA
4.03 | 31 ratings
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atmospheric sludge metal Music Reviews

CULT OF LUNA A Dawn To Fear

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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adg211288
A Dawn to Fear (2019) is the eighth full-length studio album by Swedish atmospheric sludge metal act Cult of Luna. As their last album Mariner (2016) was a collaboration effort with vocalist Julie Christmas (Battle of Mice, Made Out of Babies), A Dawn to Fear marks the first 'pure' Cult of Luna studio album since Vertikal (2013). It is a double album consisting of eight tracks, most of them lengthy, with half passing ten minutes each. The total length just passes 79 minutes, which is actually about what a standard CD can handle at a push, but I guess the decision was made to play it safe from a technical point of view, since I have heard of CDs having playback issues on their final tracks when the maximum duration is reached. Still, it's on the line enough to avoid accusations of passing a single album off as a double, unlike the couple of minutes shorter Hardwired... To Self-Destruct (2016) by Metallica, which really should have been a single CD, not a double with a double's price to go with it.

But even if it would fit on a single disc, we can forgive Cult of Luna more than we can Metallica, because unlike the legendary on/off thrash metal band, Cult of Luna has delivered exactly what any fan of the band would have wanted in A Dawn to Fear. This could possibly be their best album to date, which is coming from someone who was so blown away by Mariner that he had to confess to wishing several times that Cult of Luna + Julie Christmas would become a permanent thing. Then they release this. The kind of album that immediately grabs your attention and drags you down into its atmospheric sludge metal and softer post-rock passages, leaving you submerged in it's sound, which is distinctly that of Cult of Luna even if the only prior album you've heard happens to be Mariner, for its duration and only allowing you to surface upon its conclusion. A conclusion which seems to come around much sooner than it's near eighty minute length would suggest it should.

On a personal level I first heard Cult of Luna's music with Vertikal. That album was very likely also my first taste of the atmospheric sludge metal style. It quickly became an album I enjoyed very much, but it was only with Mariner that I started to really pay attention to how good the band actually was. I've since been back and heard fan favourite albums Salvation (2004) and Somewhere Along the Highway (2006), both of which are also excellent releases that cement Cult of Luna's reputation as the world's premium, not just atmospheric sludge, but sludge metal in general, act. It's to my own detriment that, including A Dawn to Fear, my knowledge of the band's catalogue only extends to just over half the the studio albums.

Mariner has, in the few years since it's release, become one of only a few albums released since that time that is still in a fairly regular rotation for me. It has that indescribable something that keeps pulling me back. While it is still early days, I can't see that A Dawn to Fear is going to be any different in that regard. Mariner was a grower; the kind of album you suddenly realise is one of your favourites. A Dawn to Fear is instant satisfaction. There was never any doubt in my mind that it would be good, but this good? Truth be told, it's single-handed got me out of a slump regarding new music. This is actually the first review I have written since November 2018. That's how good it is.

Saying any more about the album's specifics feels like I would be doing an injustice to the experience that Cult of Luna has created in this album. A Dawn to Fear offers up tracks that are each substantial enough to be taken as individual entities but like with many atmospheric albums it's surely best taken as a whole rather than try to pick it apart as say this song or that song is a highlight. If you've listened to the band before at any point in their now twenty+ year long career, even if you only came to them on Mariner through Julie Christmas, then stop everything and do yourself a solid: buy A Dawn to Fear immediately. For this listener's money, it's quite likely the album of 2019.

ORO Djupets Kall

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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Kev Rowland
This is the debut album from Swedish sludge/doom quartet Oro, who came together in 2014. ‘Djupets Kall’ (‘The Deep Call’) is an album which is combining elements from lots of different areas including post and black metal to create something which at times is incredibly beautiful and at others dark and foreboding. The bass sounds as if it is about to go out of tune at any moment as the strings are loose and distorted, while the drums pound into the brain and the guitars often create a leaden curtain of sound which doesn’t let any light escape. Petter Nilsson is in pain, crying in anguish with vocals which are coarse and laden with emotion, while the lead guitar solos are like laser beams cutting through the darkness. They may be slow and steady, but they provide just the right amount of dynamic contrast to the hurt and pain everyone is going through. Just one thing, the band just needs to understand it is never right to fade out a song, as that can’t happen when on stage so there has to be a way of ending it!

Classic Neurosis is the closest I can come to in terms of comparisons, but there are more Black and Post influences within it as the band are stretching the sludge/doom genres. Powerful, emotional, this is quite a debut. There is a great deal going on within it and it does need repeated listening to get the best from it, but overall this is a worthy journey.

THE MOTH GATHERER Esoteric Oppression

Album · 2019 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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Kev Rowland
The Moth Gatherer are back with their third full-length album, again centered around atmospheric doom, sludge and post metal. Formed in 2008 by Victor Wegeborn and Alex Stjernfeldt, as a form of therapy to help them deal with loss, the band name is an allegory for finding hope; similar to moths who are always searching for the light. The band has changed over the years, growing in size although musically always staying close to their roots, but there has been quite a dramatic shift this time as although Alex provided the lyrics, he has now left the band with Victor now providing vocals, guitar and electronics. He is joined by Ronny Westphal (guitars), Svante Karlsson (drums) and Dan Hemgren (bass).

The band play incredibly slowly, but the post metal atmospheric sound mean they never seem to be struggling in a morass, rather the atmosphere is so pervasive on everything they do that it just isn’t possible to play any more quickly. They are less like searching for moths in the night than an army walking over a moor shrouded in fog. It is incredibly evocative music, which is heavy but also dreamlike, as the band toy with Burzum-style black metal without ever really embracing it as they move in a different direction. This is music to get lost inside, and when they move away from the intensity into something lighter it is as if a sunbeam has pierced the all-enveloping mist, but soon it is back again. This is music which feels ancient, as if it is linked to the bones of the earth, with vocals full of passion and pain. This is incredibly deep music, far more than just another metal album, and expects the listener to pay close attention. Highly recommended to be played on headphones, it just doesn’t seem to work any other way. Impressive stuff indeed, but not for the fainthearted.

THE OCEAN Precambrian

Album · 2007 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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Warthur
Precambrian offers up two distinct musical trips, with an overarching theme concerning the earliest phases of Earth's formation. Hadean/Archaean offers about 20 minutes of direct aggression; Proterozoic offers an hour of more contemplative atmospheric sludge metal veering into progressive rock or New Age music at points. The full 80 minute package is, to be honest, a bit of a chore to listen to - but break it up into its two component parts and select the piece which suits your current mood better, and the overall package is substantially improved. Let's say it's a three star album packaged with a four star album - but which is which will hinge on the tastes of the individual listener.

TESA Heartbeatsfromthesky

Album · 2008 · Atmospheric Sludge Metal
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siLLy puPPy
TESA formed in the Latvian capital city Riga in 2005 from members of the bands In.Stora, Kriegopfer and Les Corte before mastering the fine art of the progressive post-metal / atmospheric sludge metal that found them on the top of the European scene. This power trio consists of Dāvis Burmeisters (guitars), Kārlis Tone (bass guitar, vocals) and Jānis Burmeisters (drums, vocals) who have been quite successful over the last decade at European and Russian tours and festivals with the most famous gigs playing with the US sludge metal pioneers Neurosis as well as the more drone oriented Canadian band Nadja.

The band released two EPs in the form of 2006 combo pack “Depo” and the eponymously titled release. Two years later found the debut full-length HEARTBEATSFROMTHESKY (alternatively written as HEART BEATS FROM THE SKY) which consists of six untitled tracks that conspire to create a larger than life atmospheric sludge metal experience. The band’s main influences include not only Neurosis but also Shora, Grails, Nadja, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and even Converge. While categorized as metal, the band seems to spend as much time in post-rock territory as with the more energetic metal bombast. For the most part this debut album is instrumental with a few subdued screamed vocal parts emerging from the ruckus.

While not dissimilar to bands like Isis, Russian Circles and other post-metal bands, TESA dishes out lengthy soundscapes that plod along at mid-tempo and offer sublime mixes of textures, darkened melodies, ambient soundscapes, hypnotic repetitive loops and touches of noise all dressed up in a stellar production. What makes HEARTBEATSFROMTHESKY stand out from the post-metal pack is the unique mix of the destructive riffs that contrast with a ridiculous amount of layers of guitar sounds and atmospheric soundscapes that offer a slight doom metal touch. While the pure metal parts are rare, when they do emerge the guitars erupt into a pyroclastic flow of distorted head banging riffage that eclipses the mostly dominant ambience of the album’s 32 minute run.

TESA dish out the kind of post-rock that would surely please in a live setting as the cyclical grooves reverberate across a packed stadium however in the creativity department they implement the status quo of a post-rock album in a metal context and don’t actually stand out from the many other bands ranging from Cult of Luna and Rosetta to Jesu. In fact they are probably less diverse than any of the aforementioned as the formula sticks to the playbook. The biggest draw on HEARTBEATSFROMTHESKY is surely the impeccable production and mixing job that makes this a real treat to listen to. While the vocals are subdued under the sheer magnitude of the fiery instrumental section, they can be heard creating interesting counterpoint harmonies when used. Overall this is a decent slice of post-metal but one i’d hardly call overly essential either.

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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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