There is certainly no shortage of “narrative” potential about England’s Slugdge, for those that look for such things. First is the ludicrous speed at which they pumped out Dim & Slimeridden Kingdoms after Gastronomicon, itself one of 2014’s best albums. Then there is their placement within the modern independent aesthetic; everything is name-your-price on Bandcamp, and until very recently, nothing was available in any other form. Not to mention that they can play and write circles around about 90 percent of the mediocre acts that weasel their way onto massive package tours. Hell, you could even go on for quite a while about their whole space slug gimmick and dedication to puns as song titles.
That’s all well and good, but to this guy, it doesn’t really capture the Slugdge gist. Since the first time I heard the band (last year), the various influences rang off like lyrics I would personally write for a cover version of “My Favorite Things.”
If that both entices you and yet makes you question the band’s ability to weave it all together, know two things: First, they not only honor their influences, they stand up to them, and second, there is nary an out-of-place moment on this album. The two men that make up Slugdge have an uncanny knack for song construction and studio treatment. Everything is where it should be and recorded with impeccable skill, but that doesn’t mean it’s refined to the point of lacking an edge or any surprises. It has both, in heaps.
Slugdge is so adept at constructing their music – which can generally but only about half accurately be described as “melodeath” – that they may cause you to question a bit of what you know about both unsigned bands and goofy gimmicks. From note one of the album’s title track, this is some serious stuff. The Edge of Sanity and Hypocrisy comparisons are pretty instantly apt, as this stuff likes to go deep, and heavy (really heavy). The track also offers some meloblack tremolo riffage, something that happens throughout the album, before introducing the secret weapon: the clean vocals.
For a band with all of the death metal pedigree mentioned above, it is actually their ability to weave in Matt Moss’ soaring clean vocals that brings their music to its highest heights. The immediate impression is of Dave Hunt’s singing in Anaal Nathrakh, as these passages are often pillars of terrible majesty rising out of moments of madness. But in truth, they are more of a three-way meeting of Hunt, Dan Swanö, and ICS Vortex’s more restrained work with Arcturus. The Swanö vibes come up in separate moments as well, like the doom croons in “Pellet in the Head.”
With all ingredients in place, Dim & Slimeridden Kingdoms absolutely dominates. It is not as immediate an album as was Gastronomicon, but it is deeper, more progressive in song structure, and in the end, better. This really becomes apparent during a particularly satisfying moment in “Spore Ensemble.” After Kev Pearson’s guitar offers eerie, picked chords, wonderfully simplistic melodic leads, and one seriously killer passage of bottom-feeding 32nd-note triplets, things get really quiet and sparse. And then… The Great Wall of Slugdge. A lurching, dissonant, monolithic beast emerges, leveling everything in its path, as if this sound itself is the band’s mythical Mollusca. Somehow, imagining this bit of monster sci-fi only makes this passage all the more brutally fun.
That each song has its share of such rich detail is yet another testament to Slugdge’s variety of skills and songcraft. And man, what fun details they be. “The Toxic Salts” offers hints of Dawn-ish melodic black metal, while its final moments are like the fists of a giant pounding the ground with each downbeat. “Suffering Quahog” takes a diversion into ultra-techy, Necrophagist territory, perfectly setting up the oozing doom/death and bellowing deep growls that follow. (Moss also possesses a knack for all types of harsh vocal techniques.) “The Chapter for Transforming into a Slug” has the kind of hammer-on-pull-off riffs that, while not necessarily industrial as they exist, would translate well into that terrain. And that’s key—so much of it invokes something else without ever losing focus of the song at hand.
Slugdge nail this and about all other possible dualities: They are fun without having an ounce of irony; theatrical without making it a mindset; deeply melodic without forgetting what it means to be brutal. Keeping all of these things in mind, they were able to make Dim & Slimeridden Kingdoms their best work yet, a mere year after killing it with Gastronomicon. Because of all of the influences at play, it tickles so many Intense Heavy Metal Discussion senses, but because of how much every single second kicks all of the asses in town, you keep going back for more, and often.
Go here and give these guys some money.