Thursday 24 May 2012


Undersmile 'Narwhal' Artwork

Undersmile are a Sludge/Doom/Drone Metal Band from Oxford, UK.

The members are:

Tom McKibbin - Drums
Olly Corona-Brown - Bass
Hel Sterne - Vocals and Lead Guitars
Taz Corona-Brown - Vocals and Guitars

Undersmile are a brilliant Sludge/Doom Metal band who mix elements of Sludge, Stoner, Doom and Drone to full unsettling maximum effect. They are led by two of the best female vocalists Hel and Taz in UK Sludge/Doom Metal has to offer.

We at Sludgelord are huge fans of this extremely talented band. I have featured them twice with their previous debut EP and the split EP with Caretaker. Well Undersmile are back with their long-awaited debut album – Narwhal.

A 10-song and almost 80 minute epic of pummelling and long drawn out Sludge/Doom/Drone riffs. This release is heavy from the start. And I mean – HEAVY. Nothing will prepare you for this unsettling and unflinching portrayal of long drawn out Sludge/Doom/Drone Metal mixed with haunting ambient soundscapes.

I must say the production is amazing. This is the best Undersmile have ever sounded. Every note is played to down-tempo bleak perfection.

If you have heard Undersmile’s other releases then nothing will be prepare you for this. The heavy loud drawn out riffs their famous for are still there but they have added a creepy ambient drone metal feel to their music. This is a band that has taken their music upto the next level. At times this is brutally creepy to listen to.

They have added a very creepy occult overtone to their music. And at 80 mins in length you’re in for quite a ride. The album has 5 tracks that run past the 8 minute mark. The longest “Myra” is on a for an epic 16 minutes plus.

First up is the 12 minute epic – Lockjaw which sets the scene in what’s in store. Full of filthy low-tuned down-tempo instruments with haunting vocals to match. There is nothing wrong with your stereo. Give it a minute or so when this monolithic beast springs to life. This is proper Sludge/Doom Metal to awaken the soul to.

The riffs are slow, epic and have a life of their own with haunting vocals to match. Torture has never sounded so good. A great start to this amazing album.

This is where you can tell Undersmile have left the trappings of their previous releases behind. This is a band reborn. The old Undersmile are gone. This is Undersmile in full flight and the band we have been waiting for.

Milk is up next and continues the same path of loud and heavy destruction that Lockjaw laid down before it. Undersmile are a band controlling their own path and destiny. Even I wouldn’t be brave enough to tell this band to speed up. Nor do I want to. It’s the more better for it. It’s possibly one of the bleakest releases ever to be released by a UK Sludge Metal Band.

Funayeri is a great 2 minute slow-paced quiet track compared to the previous 2 epic tracks. But this is more of a break before the usual business of heavy pummelling soul-destroying riffage kicks off again.

Berk is the next happy-go-lucky 13 minute epic this band will take your soul through the darkness of despair. Full of more low-tuned down-tempo riffage but this adds a few great riffs to proceedings. The bass playing is just perfect on this track. It adds a sense of calm to proceedings. But only for a short while before a few fast paced riffs start showing up.

Does this mean the old Undersmile is coming to join the party. Not really. There are glimpses but this is the demonic version of Undersmile that is in full proper control.

The album’s short tracks are great tracks such as Cortege and The Unthinkable. These are just moments for the listener to catch your breath. Cortege does feature some truly haunting vocals that add a lot of weight like their epic counterparts.

The album’s defining track is the 16:34 minute epic “Myra”. This has the feel of Mastodon (Leviathan era) jamming with Electric Wizard. The track start with a slow pounding progressive sludge riff before the chaos starts again with more outstanding vocals of these talented rockers.

This track is Undersmile’s best work to date. It immediately draws you in with the full creativity and imagination of the band’s talents on show. Every band member plays an equal role in performing a haunting masterpiece of Sludge/Drone/Doom Metal that will sound brilliantly epic and loud on stage

Before The Unthinkable are two epic tracks – Mandrill and Verdirgis that run for about 7 to 8 mins each. Both of these like their earlier counterparts are drawn out dirge driven Sludge/Doom/Drone Metal you should now be accustomed to. If not they will soon have you in their grasp. Both unrelenting pieces that feature haunting emotional vocals and riffs you wont hear anywhere else.

After the two minute rest with “The Unthinkable” it’s back to one big last epic. As if you haven’t already gone through the motions – Undersmile unleash another 12 minute classic. Qaanaaq - This is last hurrah before this astonishing debut reaches its unforgettable and possibly unforgivable climax. Things get very loud indeed. Possibly the loudest track out of the entire album. You know what to expect by now but this does not mean its predictable. Far from it. Undersmile still have a few tricks up their sleeve.

I don’t know if this is a concept album of sorts but it does feel like it has a story to tell. One I am not going to go to much into if it has. As to be honest after almost multiple listens I still don’t know. It’s simply a journey you have to make yourself and make your own conclusion. What we can all agree is what a brilliant loud and epic journey it is.

Undersmile have channelled the aggression of SLEEP with the bleakness and low-tuned riffs of Electric Wizard but still putting their own unheavenly spin on things.

Narwhal could be their career defining masterpiece which is quite rare for a full-length debut release. I honestly don’t think Undersmile can top this great release. I hope they can as this will be considered their own benchmark to beat.

Undersmile have not only released their definitive album of their careers, they have also released one of the definitive masterpieces of UK Sludge/Doom/Extreme Metal that will be considered a landmark classic for many years to come.

You can buy Narwhal from all good stockists now.

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