Release Details

LABEL 20 Buck Spin
RELEASED ON 8/25/2009
GENRES Drone Ambient,Industrial,Sludge,Atmospheric


Laudanum

The Coronation

posted on 9/2009   By: Michael Wuensch

I saw this band play live at a fairly small house show in the heart of Oakland long before I ever heard them on record. The experience that night many years ago righteously pounded my bones into powder; on stage, Laudanum is as heavy as a lead bulldozer manned by Tad Doyle after a Cattleman's dinner.

They were a three-piece back then: a quick-to-smile, long dread-locked hammerer on bass, a seemingly mild-mannered King Buzzite on guitar, and his benevolent ball-n-chain rounding out the bottom end behind the drum kit. The band's pre-show friendliness, while certainly hospitable, did not prepare me for the down-tempo clobbering I was about to undergo. To this day, Laudanum remain one of my favorite heavy bands to see live. In fact, the only other shows I can recall that suitably match up to the crushing weight of a Laudanum gig would be the night I saw The Melvin's play Lysol in its entirety, and when I was lucky enough to catch Japan's Corrupted play El Mundo Frio. In summation, Laudanum's capacity to crush is friggin' tremendous.

The trouble is, it's fairly difficult to transcribe that huge weightiness to a record, especially when you're on a shoe-string budget. Sadly, the band's inaugural release, The Apotheker, fell short. The follow-up 7" fared much better, but it wasn't until the ink dried with the always interesting 20-Buck Spin that the task was truly met head-on. This year's Sacred Death split with Stormcrow brought the fuckin' hammer to the anvil, and really did the job in terms of preparing fans of this clambering style for the real Laudanum. It also did wonders for spotlighting the band's noisier, more droning personality to boot. This record, however, paints the perfect picture of what I truly believe this band hoped to deliver through a recording.

First and foremost, The Coronation is challenging, even for those already established as fans of down-tempo. A lot of the time here is spent swirling the atmosphere with heady, unsettling dark ambiance to web together the album's heavier measures. The first, third and fifth song cut the metal entirely, and the remaining four coat the corners with a similar creepy climate that'd be snug as a bug inside Carpenter's The Thing, or accompanying that single beam of shuttered light as it falls upon a shivering, closeted victim's eyeball watching an intruder peek under their bed; it's ominous stuff, and if you don't take a particular shine to dark ambient with nods to Harvey Milk/Melvins guitar noise and general industrial clanging, you might want to pass on this offering in favor of something more...straightforward.

Those adventurer's choosing to plow forward will be rewarded for their pluck. When consumed from start to finish, The Coronation ebbs and flows from ominous darkness to clouting heaviness like waves of rumbling sickness. The first hammer drops a minute-and-a-half into "Invoke", but the true lumbering Frankenstein in this batch of goodies hits with "Wooden Horse". The density delivered at that tune's 1:05 mark is only eclipsed by the leviathan groove that clumps forth 3.5 minutes later. "The Last Sleep" takes a sneakier, more serpent-coiling approach to its heaviness, and stands as The Coronation's most funereal offering, while closer, "Apotheosis", waits until just after 8-minutes before it winds the entire work down with the album's doomiest riffs.

Vocals are surprisingly sparse on the record, but do a perfect job of upping the prodigious, gruesome ante when they do hit. Unbeknownst to those who haven't yet had the pleasure to see them live, the booming, low bellows are actually courtesy of drum-pummeler, Becky, with the remaining higher-registered rasps being delivered by Laudanum's newest member, Nathan Misterek. If his brand of blood spattered screeching sounds familiar, it's because he spent the previous three years raking his chords through gravel for the sadly defunct Graves At Sea.

Get the feeling I have a little hometown bias towards these guys? I guess that's actually a pretty fair assessment. But honestly, that bias wouldn't be there if I wasn't crushed so often by the band's live show. I feel proud of what Laudanum has achieved with The Coronation, and I think it's an excellent representation of the band's varying dark moods and heavily shambling muses. In the end, if enough new folks get pointed in their direction to afford them a few rounds at the local bar because of this review, I'll be a happy man. Hail Laudanum! And by all means, crank this fucker!