When: Mon., June 13, 8 p.m. 2011
I used to be pretty dense when it came to sludge metal. In my mind it just meant trudging, Vicodin-laced riffs, sluggishly bludgeoning their victims into a coma—I didn't think it had any room for urgency or adrenaline. If I were able to travel back in time a decade or so, I'd smack myself upside the head and hand off a copy of the new Tombs album, Path of Totality (Relapse), to show myself what sludge could be. Produced by John Congleton, who's also done records with Explosions in the Sky and Baroness, the Brooklyn trio's sophomore full-length starts with the thick and muddy pillars of guitar that Neurosis made into an archetype, but often branches out into tense ambience or buzzing, frenzied black metal. The album pushes and pulls throughout, juxtaposing Isis-like moments of atmospheric intricacy with barrages of chugging hardcore ferocity—and guitarist Mike Hill keeps the intensity redlined with his guttural, commanding vocals, even when the songs aren't hammering you with body blows. Totality exemplifies everything that sludge can do right, from hypnotizing guitar dissonance that swallows you whole to drum blasts that beat you into submission.
Fronted by Neurosis visual collaborator and former Red Sparowes guitarist Josh Graham, A Storm of Light dabbles extensively in atmospheric postrock on its third full-length, As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade (Profound Lore)—way more than Tombs does. Most of the songs are longer than they have to be (only one lasts less than five minutes), but the band's sound—the heavy swing of Baroness and the Melvins wedded to the grandiosity and austerity of Isis or Jesu—is at least a fine place to spend some time. —Kevin Warwick 18+.