I have been sitting in this Conclave album for a couple of weeks, playing it and trying to pin down my impressions of it. I’ve said in the past that sludge is a strange animal for me. On paper I should go nuts for it, and when I hear the first song or two from most sludge albums I am totally on board. But after a time the feeling wanes and I rarely make it through a whole album I don’t have to.
Sins of the Elders, the band’s debut LP, had me in the same pattern. After the intro soundscape thingy, “Funeral Fyre” pounds its way into your eardrums with an almost Bolt Throwerian heft of a riff. The song chugs along steadily and appealingly, the guitars up in the mix; the drums adding just enough variety to the simple riffs to keep the song lively despite the slowish pace.
“Black Lines” follows with a Middle Eastern jingle that wanders into a Sabbath style riff. Just when you think that riff is about to be overplayed the band shifts gears with a massive boogie, again resonant of early Sabbath, the pattern repeating a couple times over the song’s 8+ minutes.
The vocals on “Black Lines” showcase both the band’s strength and weakness. During the above boogie-Sabbath parts, Jerry Orne hits each beat hard with his distant thundering roar, and during these parts it is tremendous. But on the slower parts, the constant descending timbre becomes little more than background noise after a while. And while this isn’t a real issue in doses, over the course of the LP it does contribute to the feeling of drifting attention.
Any one of these songs on its own is killer. Even in pairs, they are genuinely entertaining. But over the course of seven tracks (not including the intro and final dark, quiet instrumental), the effect is to lose my attention. What seemed lively becomes lackluster. What was intense becomes tedious. By the time I come to what ought to be the epic penultimate title track, instead of feeling a rush of tension built up, I feel sort of non-plused.
But there is a lot of promise here, a lot of quality moments and heavy ideas. The band has a lot to offer, and I can hear a great overall record in their future if they keep at their craft.
My recommendation, then, once again depends on your feelings about sludge/doom to begin with. If you just dig the style, the fact that any given song on this record stands up just fine should be looked at as a recommendation. It is a heavy album with a good production, and can really move its massive carcass. But if you are not a lover of the style, consider that the album as a whole left me distanced. You should take a listen to a song or two and see how you feel before plunking down your hard-earned.