Trends are unstable and often unjust. And really, there’s no better illustration to that point than our dear old friend, sludge.
The word itself seems enough to keep anything attached to it chained to disapproval. Sludge is not good. Sludge is why your car’s engine is mocking you. Sludge eats shoes, clogs otherwise productive drains, and makes gallbladders all the more sadder. Sludge is something we all know is out there, but we’d really rather keep it under control deep at the bottom of our cricks, rivers, lakes and swamps.
Then the Melvins arrived.
Years later, in swooped Eyehategod, Crowbar, Acid Bath and Grief, and others such as Neurosis that put a further twist in the myth by hitching post-metal to sludge’s bumper, which subsequently opened the doors to allow Isis, Cult of Luna and The Ocean entrance. High On Fire ultimately provided the bridge to the stoners, and lastly, Mastodon delivered a notably digestible form of sludge to the masses that gave life to an endless slew of bands that appeared to be decorated with the descriptor simply because they spent a summer obsessing over Remission and/or Leviathan.
In short, sludge became popular. The word, mostly, because the key elements that make up sludge’s origins—a crude mixture of doom and molten punk—was missing from a significant portion of the bands that landed the word onto glossy covers during the early stages of the 2000s.
Eventually, after the hundredth photocopy of the two-hundredth Xerox dropped to the killing floor, the population had had enough—sludge as an everyday occurrence not only croaked a magnificent death, the tag itself became an albatross for those still doing the style justice. An understandable conclusion, to an extent, because little else in metal is more grievous than fourth-tier sludge bands riding the coattails of third-tier sludge bands.
But amidst that rise and fall and extending forward to the present day, bands have endured and still manage to release sludgy brews that are frequently slow / sometimes lively / regularly brutal / occasionally…breautalful, and the entire enchilada comes together with a sense of rowdy, pulverizing swagger that smells a lot like Otto’s jacket. Great sludge that summons the greats, basically, which is where Oakland, California’s Brainoil enters the picture.
The formula here is pure, oldschool sludge: a heavy form of racket that blends slow, grimy, southerly doom with a righteous dose of noisy punk that sounds as if grind might just try to sneak a card up the sleeve. Basically, the riff is King, and the lords and ladies of the court are all sworn to a common oath that involves defending the Riff, delivering its will, and reveling in the lamentations of the riffless peasants that have no choice but to while away days with non-heavy pursuits such as doily-dusting and ruffle-fluffing.
That’s the essence, homeslices—all the songs here mingle pace and mangle the face, and the dominant finishing move is a ponderously heavy & slow boot that fuses skull to concrete, which has pretty much been Brainoil’s ambition since day one. There are, however, a few principle distinctions that separate Singularity To Extinction from previous works:
- A bigger, more robust production—Greg Wilkinson recorded the album at Earhammer, but Brad Boatright (From Ashes Rise, ex-Deathreat) is responsible for the mastering, which delivers a new level of vigor that could power a Cat D9 for a solid week.
- More variation in the vocals—the deep growls are husky enough to rattle bones, the rasp is perfectly acidic, and one more inflection gets thrown in for good measure that sounds a bit like an old junkyard dog barking about the cold. Alternating vocals in this manner helps to give Singularity To Extinction more depth, which is a smart move, sis.
- A guitar solo—has Brainoil ever had a guitar solo on a record? If so, it clearly didn’t make as much an impression as the quick & bright lead you’ll hear toward the close of “Recursion Abyss.”
One last detail worthy of celebration is the fact that Brainoil continues to understand the strength of brevity. I suppose some might feel burned by the fact that Singularity To Extinction offers up slightly less than a half-hour’s worth of new music, but the record is succinct without feeling too short—just because someone plays a form of sludge that seems very well suited for those taking long rips off skullbongs from the comfort of deep couches doesn’t mean gratuitous 10-minute-plus droners are required. Stoners got shit to do, Jack—jump in, enjoy it, jump out.
You don’t have to be a sludge freak, stoner or degenerate to enjoy Singularity To Extinction. Admittedly, it wouldn’t hurt if you were any or all of those things, but all you really need is an undying love of The Riff and The Haymaker, plus the grimy grit that often comes packaged with that particular twosome. Ultimately, Singularity To Extinction represents Brainoil doing what Brainoil does best: slay with sludge.