Saturday 9 July 2016

The Sludgelord Presents: The Top 16 of the Sour 16 (January - June 2016)

By: Aaron Pickford

As I reflect incredulously upon 2016 so far, the first six months has seen writers and contributors come and go, there have been marriages, house extensions and new children, so it continues to confound my expectations that The Sludgelord exists at all, let alone being able to reflect upon six months worth of albums.
2016 is like any other, we predict this year’s releases will not top the last, but invariably we are proven wrong,  there have been highlights and disappointments, shocks and surprises, and as we approach the second week of July, we’ll continue to separate the good, from the bad and the ugly.  But today we reflect upon the 16 most popular records at The Sludgelord so far in 2016.  
This list does not reflect the contributors own tastes, rather they are articles that have received the most clicks, therefore by virtue of that, you could argue they’re the most popular (it’s a pretty loose hypotheses I know, but we wanted the list to reflect your tastes not ours).  The fact that the albums cover a variety of genres is indicative of how the site has grown and is central to the philosophy we promote, which is to review albums we like, not solely on the basis of genre.
The albums compiled in this list may not specifically be doom or sludge, but they are great albums nonetheless.  The results are compiled based on page views alone and all reviews can be viewed by clicking the artwork and we have included album streams wherever possible. (Total views since their publication are highlighted in red)

16). Bedowyn – “Blood of the Fall” (922)

While the overall sound is pretty weighty, this is not as aggressive as the likes of the High on Fire; Bedowyn cover more of a middle ground. This is eminently listenable and surprisingly accessible stuff. “Cotards Blade” is a good example of the overall sound; riffs, elements of traditional metal, some time changes and definitely metal drumming (not rock, as it were) but it won't take your head off. “Blood Of The Fall” is a fine independent release by Bedowyn and a worthy addition to the stoner doom/heavy metal canon. Support the band and check it out.

15). Oranssi Pazuzu – “Värähtelijä’” (932)
Taking the album “as is”, ‘Värähtelijä’ contains flashes of brilliance, plenty of greatness, but a general need to be a bit more concise and efficient. It’s not every idea that deserves five minutes of exploration. In fact, very few ideas deserve that kind of focused repetition. Still, there’s no doubting that Oranssi Pazuzu are one of the few truly unique metal bands going in 2016, and that counts for a lot

14). Churchburn & Opium Lord - “Churchburn/Opium Lord” (937)

Like a swift punch to the throat, this split by Pawtucket,Rhode Island crushers Churchburn and Midlandsfilth mongers Opium Lord is both unexpected and completely disabling. Released in Europe through the fantastic F H E D and on the other side of the Atlantic by DG Records, this release packs enough of a wallop to take down a herd of elephants.
13). Goya – “The Enemy” (977)
The buzz saw grind that so powerfully embodies Goya is, on this four track EP, infested with a horripulation that sees the Arizona three-piece sounding creepier and more terrifying than ever before.
12). Lord Mantis – “NTW” (999)
'NTW' or 'Nice Teeth Whore' is classic Lord Mantis.

11). The Body – “No One Deserves Happiness” (1147)
Horns swell as dim, low riffs wash over your mind, drums vacillate between cold sweetness and strong blows and the stage of chaos is set by the high screaming voice of unreason, formless yet voluminous and constant. Static whispers through grating frequencies and primal percussion, augmented by surprising claps and snaps, urges the dance of a readied, warring people. The Body’s latest is an opus to ecstatic agony redolent of SWANS and Neurosis’ output. If no one deserves happiness, I suggest here that it is earned.
10). Borknagar – “Winter Thrice" (1151)
Even though ‘Winter Thrice’ is firmly rooted in the present sound, I’d strongly argue that this is the best iteration of their established prog rock-obsessed extreme metal sound to date. The songwriting is the strongest it’s been since ‘Empiricism’, and the album sounds absolutely fantastic from a production standpoint. Vintersorg should also be commended for turning in his best vocal performance to date, which comes from someone who has been a diehard ICS Vortex devotee when it comes to Borknagar’s vocalists. It helps that the music behind him lends itself to his strengths, driven by big, ringing chords and some delicious guitar leads.
09). Its Not Night: Its Space “Our Birth Is But A Sleep And A Forgetting” (1304)

No vocals, just a lot of stoned, smoky repetition that is equally spiritual as it is absolutely mind blowing.
08). Boss Keloid - “Herb Your Enthusiasm” (1490)
Herb Your Enthusiasm” is a powerfully elegant dirge. It’s masterfully produced with guitar tones that have their own suffocating gravitational pull, a comatose rhythm section that rumbles like the uneasy shifting of tectonic plates and Alex Hurst’s air raid siren howls all coming together to sound simply imperious. There’s an elevation to it, an otherworldliness and a freshness that wrestles with the aesthetics of the influences that shape their wide open sound that reeks of individualism. And it is upon that identity that they are forging their way to becoming something far greater than just another sludge band. Stand up. Pay attention. Boss Keloid are the pinnacle of the sludge movement right now.

07). Budgie – “The MCA Albums 173 - 1975” (1502)
These reissues should be picked up by anyone with an interest in the era, the growth of the“heavy” genre and by anyone looking for some quality hard rock, played well, by great musicians. Lars Ulrich is no Pete Boot or Steve Williams (who play solidly and professionally on the albums re-packaged here), but he knew a tune when he heard one, all those years ago
06). Criminal – “Fear Itself” (1556)
Quite simply, this is the best thrash record I have heard yet this year and may well remain so. It edges towards death metal (in the same manner that the Seps' early work does) but this is just vicious stuff. This type of album is why I first started listening to thrash and extreme metal. The sound and the fury. Dios mio! What a fantastic album from a band playing with fire and passion.
05). Dunsmuir – “Dunsmuir” (1637)
Dunsmuir, manages the uncanny trick of amounting to the sum of its parts. The record's players have some serious pedigree and none if it is wasted. Vinny Appice is as powerful as ever, with a beastly snare sound, while Bone and Davis are a formidable strings team. Fallon puts in a hardworking and uniformly stellar shift as per usual. Simply put, if you like Clutch and Dio-era Sabbath, you will be right at home here. If you are a fan of Fu Manchu, there are sounds for you here as well. This album rocks, it’s that simple
04). Conan  - “Revengeance” (1700)
The song 'Every Man Is An Enemy' has one of the most metal sounding titles I've ever heard and the violent intentions inherent in the brooding, bruising riffs put the bands money where its snarling mouth is. 'Earthenguard', the final track of the 6 on offer, is a song so heavy it has its own gravitational pull. Its 12 minutes of neanderthalic doom which also swims and swirls thanks to the phased guitars. It's an odyssey, a massive trek through mountainous chops and pounding beats that are designed to systematically cave your head in. Have Conan outdone themselves? Quite possibly.

03). Gojira – “Magma” (2030)
‘Magma’ is a record that envelopes you with its overtly dark drama, but within its haze, its crushing catharcism makes it one of the most special metal records to be released in some time. It may not be the relentless assault many fans wanted from the album – and that’s not to say it is barren of those moments – yet, as a vehicle for emotional cleansing, as a eulogy and an obituary for a woman who shaped the personalities that drive this act, it is staggering.
02). Blood Ceremony – “Lord of Misrule” (3722)
If you are new to Blood Ceremony, this album is as fine a place to start as any. If you have heard any of their previous albums and enjoyed them, your enjoyment of this one is guaranteed. This is as good an example as any of a band looking to the past both in terms of musical and folklore tradition to create fantastical and occult inspired music.
01). Megadeth - "Dystopia" (5903)
This line-up has introduced itself with a battering ram of thrash utopia; the riffs, the fury and the sizzling lead playing present here stands toe-to-toe with the bands best 21st century output. It’s a record which accentuates the bands relevancy in 2016. Masters of their trade just listen to ‘Lying In State’ and tell me they can’t smash shit up with the best of them. They continue to release music and make the effort to give more content for their fans to consume. Not many other bands their age can say that.