Originally written by Jordan Campbell
The complete package.
It’s so important, yet all too rare. But when a band can put everything together–the jams, the stage presence, the art direction—and wrap it in the ever-elusive intangibles, it’s special. It’s what separates the elite bands from the also-rans, the minor icons from the faceless hordes.
Concrete Sustain is Batillus‘ separation statement.
2011’s Furnace was a solid piece of sludge-caked doom, containing enough quirks (in the form of the depressive strip-mining of “…And The World Is As Night To Them” and the uptempo blackturn of “Uncreator”) to slap them on the radar of most. The album’s title was apt. It maintained a white-hot boil throughout, the work of a band that was ready to burst.
And now, Concrete Sustain has spilled forth, but it’s a different demon than expected. On Furnace, Batillus seemed like a band that was tearing at the seams of their sludged-locked tempos. But rather than break loose from these shackles, they’ve turned their prison into a fortress.
The band’s brutally abrasive tones and single-minded riffing remain intact, but have now been fortified with a true industrial undertone courtesy of drummer Geoff Summers. Now, when lesser metal bands adopt “industrialisms”, they often sound, at best, like a Ministry caricature. (At worst? Like Aborym.) But the bleak, martial cadences on Concrete Sustain reflect an inherent influence within these dudes; it’s not tacked on. It’s an underlying specter that dictates, yet never dominates.
This is best embodied, at least superficially, in the opening anti-anthem “Concrete,” the most overtly catchy thing the band has penned to date. But the first true revelation of Batillus’ new, concise brutalism is the doomfucked “Beset.”
It’s a colossal feat, one barely bested two tracks later by the bass-driven pseudo-salvation of “Rust,” a rocking respite from the band’s glacial terror. These twists of style are the hallmark of a perfectly-paced record: swelling and heaving with desperate fervor, the band splitting violent rift after rift only to refill them with mad precision.
Problem? It’s almost too bleak. Concrete Sustain is a perfectly imperfect soundtrack to post-capitalist decay. Drenched in dystopian bitterness, this is a work almost completely devoid of hope. “Concrete” is the record’s emotional high; everything that follows is an unforgiving eulogy for humanity. Even as closer “Thorns” briefly threatens to bring some light to the procession–with its haunting cleans and Jesu-esque crawl–it comes to a close without cracking a much-needed sliver of light. There’s no triumph in the melodic denouement, just a vacuum of emptiness as Batillus’ weight evacuates.
Concrete Sustain is an exhausting, brutal journey. Such is life.