No other label captures the essence of its genre’s sound quite the way Sludge does. It’s as if somebody took life’s anger and frustration and despair and mashed it all up into a great ball of hatred and forced it through their amps like so much meat through a grinder. It takes a bit of brute force to push it through and what comes out the other side, often slowly, can be as fantastically ugly as it is satisfying to consume. We’re talking about guitars tuned so low you can almost see their tones falling apart, your speakers spraying the floor with fanned out bits of distortion. A sonic representation of society-induced nausea.
Their brand is more Melvins meets Deadbird than your southern fried traditional fare, but Kowloon Walled City take the sludge sentiment to heart. There are too many heavy bands playing these days to easily count, but KWC somehow manage to pack just that much more tungsten fuzz into every note. The guitars play relatively freely about the staff but are clearly most at home underneath it, mucking around with the bass where that seismic needle does its best dances. The band’s name is sure to cock an eyebrow (or perhaps roll some eyes), but is there a better instantiation of what sludge embodies than a putrid, decaying anthill city borne of governmental ineptitude and neglect? And, it’s a great album name, isn’t it? Just begging you to haul your hi-fi shit to the fault line and crank this behemoth to the top of the knob. I wouldn’t.
They’re not all about mundane horrors and pure girth, though. They’ll roll you up in smoky coils on the contemporary post-metal trip of “Sleep Debt” and wrap you in cozy southern groove on “Paper Houses.” The title track adds some slow-mo Mastodonian riffing and texture to paint a bit of suspense into the picture. And the record culminates with a veritable landslide in “More Like a Shit Factory,” a plodding, depressed bit of social commentary that says as much with its uncomfortable angular tones as it does with its ‘been there, lived that shit’ lyrical approach.
Everybody on the planet has a pretty good idea that a lot of it is pretty fucked up and most of us that enjoy heavy metal enough to read reviews on a computer have no fucking idea what that really means. I appreciate that bands like Kowloon Walled City are able to distill the malaise into something potable that gets me close without making me sick. Helps me remember where I am.