originally written by Jim Brandon
I really hate giving a history lesson at the start of my reviews, but in this case, it’s more than warranted. Sulaco is a Rochester 3-piece decimation unit consisting of drummer Chris Golding, bassist/backing vocalist Lon Hackett, and vocalist/guitarist Erik Burke. Burke was part of the groundbreaking band Lethargy with Bill Kelliher & Brann Dailor before they joined Steve Austin’s Today Is The Day in 1999, and then went on to create Mastodon. Erik also played drums with Kalibas for quite a while, and was a member of MungbeanDemon with Lon before the two formed Sulaco along with Chris. The band released an EP on Relapse in 2003, and a 7” split with Soilent Green in 2004, which due to technical delays and whatnot, was delayed until 2006. Okay…history lesson over, and damn, I feel like doing a bonghit after all that!!
I could easily burst a blood vessel while trying to pinpoint Sulaco’s style, which Lon himself is a bit hesitant to classify, but one thing’s apparent, Tearing Through The Roots is fucking detonative as all hell. A violent hybrid mix of advanced technical grindcore, vicious death metal, and withering sludge, this album sounds like crushing, inexorable death falling directly upon your skull. Forgoing arpeggio wankery and high-octane polyrhythms, each of the tracks go through numerous time changes and varyingly chaotic riff cycles with a stunning amount of coherence. Somehow, Sulaco have found a way of crafting complex, often off-the-rails rhythmic bedlam in such a way that doesn’t eschew firm, marvelously conceived songwriting. It’s terribly coarse yet still melodic, filled with relentlessly massive groove and hellacious blastbeats, often reaching mathematically dynamic proportions at various times.
You might already have a vague idea what you’re in store for, something that would fit in your catalog with Swarm Of The Lotus, She Said Destroy, and maybe Sulaco’s labelmates, Crowpath. Not too far off the mark, but while listening to Tearing Through The Roots, most especially during calamitous highlights such as “Pointing Out The Obvious”, “Brunt Of The Joke”, “An Eye In Every Window”, and the devastating “The Lone Chime”, there was a nagging certain something which sets Tearing Through The Roots apart from other albums I’ve heard of this nature. Whatever you want to call this, it feels, to me, like the equivalent of Death’s Individual Thought Patterns in relation to the way as I described the songwriting earlier. Granted, Death was never this crazy or unbalanced, but there was a progressive brutality present on …Patterns that Sulaco also emulates here, although in a much more elaborate, entirely feral sort of way, and without the soaring solos. In fact, Erik’s vocals strongly resemble Chuck Schuldiner’s tone on …Patterns specifically, throaty, with a shrieking sort of undercurrent often present which sounds as tortured as it does punishing. The vibe may be filthy to behold, but there’s something undoubtedly forward-thinking about this album.
Another strong point about Tearing Through The Roots is how authoritative it is to listen to. This sure ain’t just background music folks, you know when this damn thing is playing. The riffing is simply beastly and raw, ensnared in a fibrous, breathable production job, which brings out every bit of the power this trio has to offer. There is very little ‘lethargy’ to be suffered through, and the songs stay animated even when the riffs slow down to an ominous crawl. I mean really, how hard is it to lose concentration when such a landslide is coming down on your ears at all times?
Sulaco does not play games, fuck around, or waste any time. They just write the songs as the music comes to them, if it’s death metal, grind, schizophrenic thrash whatever, they sure as hell can make some kind of nasty song out of it. I find this album to be even more fascinating when compared to Blood Mountain, for where Brann & Bill have smoothed and streamlined their sound somewhat, Chris, Lon & Erik go for an approach not entirely dissimilar to what Mastodon originally went for with their material before Remission. Tearing Through The Roots scrapes the shit off the bottom of its boot right across your face, and then kicks the crap right off your head with purely erosive, multiple steel-toed blows. And to think I first learned of these guys through Rennie from Starkweather, I’m going to have to raid his playlist more often. I really can’t find any flaws here, other than it almost being too much of a great thing.