From the wettest, deepest holes of the Earth emerges Slugdge, with their latest release, Esoteric Malacology, through Willowtip Records. This is the band’s fourth full-length release in their mere six years of existence, and it proves to be the slimiest offering to date.
If you are not familiar with Slugdge, just look at an album cover and you’ll be able to glean a bit of what they’re about. Yes, the moniker is a punny combination of “Slug” and “Sludge,” and yes, all of their music is about slugs and slimy things in one form or another. However, their sound is much less sludge metal than it is progressive, technical death, with a little blackened seasoning.
The word play doesn’t end with the name, either. A veteran of metal music should be able to decipher the code of the tracklists on their albums. Each song title is a sluggy bastardization of a famous song. For instant, track one of Esoteric Malacology is “War Squids,” which I think is a reference to a track from some obscure British band…Earth, was it? Track two is “Crop Killer,” a play off “Cop Killer,” etc. You get the messagdge.
Don’t jugdge them off their goofy aesthetics alone. The music is damn good. Up until recently, Slugdge has always been a duo, Matt Moss and Kev Pearson. Following the release of Esoteric Malacology, however, they were joined by drummer Alan Cassidy and bassist Matt Lowe of Black Dahlia Murder. This is a band to be taken seriously. There is a maturity and complexity to the music that one might not expect from such a playful duo. In fact, this is the most complete, most thorough and consistent merging of comedy and death metal I can think of. They egdge out any competition.
“War Squids” begins with a lumbering, trugdging introduction that immediately estableshes the epicness of the moistened journey the album is about to take you on. We are introduced to the classic death metal vocals of Matt Moss, but as quickly as 1:10 into the opening track, we get a taste of the depth of the vocals—a layered, echoing, chant-like verse appears, as though a band of slug-worshiping cultists are practicing their rituals within the giant gastropods’ cavernous lair. This style of vocals repeats throughout the album, and really gives Slugdge their signature, ominous sound. Fans of Septic Flesh will feel right at home, here. Less than a minute later, the sound changes again, to an almost Djenty, mathy guitar riff, more reminiscent of Obsidian. They return to this sound in track six, “Putrid Fairytale.”
Esoteric Malacology is quite complex, and diverse in it’s sound. Track two, “Crop Killer,” opens with a funky, proggy riff in the lower registers leading into our first taste of clean vocals, smooth and silky as fugdge. So, by nine minutes into the album, we’ve been treated to a plethera of sounds, all of which intrigue and excite. “Crop Killer” is a highlight on the album for me. It’s original, heavy, funky, proggy—all things that are good. And the transition into “The Spectral Burrows” is exceptional—a soft, melodic outro building to a crescendo as the track turns over. I also enjoy the subtle, emphasized, sustained vocal at the end of the verses at 2:11 and again at 4:51. Deep, throaty, and again, chant-like. Nice touch.
Track four, “Slave Goo World,” is a pretty classic death metal song. Brutal chugging riffs, and relentless, blugdgeoning blast beats. This one hits you like a cugdgel.
Just when you were thinking they forgot to put the sludge in “Slugdge,” track five, “Transilvanian Fungus,” opens with a thick and juicy dollop of it. This track is quite doomy, actually. It also has some interesting harmonized vocal parts, a fun guitar solo, and a good amount of blast beats.
Another stand out section is the epic outro to “Putrid Fairytale.” There is a sudden, and exciting beat change at the six minute mark, accompanied by long, choral chords. You can really feel the weight of the moment (see lyrics for reference).
The next track, “Salt Thrower,” contains some low, harmonized, droning vocals that remind me of parts of Gojira’s newest album, “Magma.” This track again plays like more of a doom metal track than death metal. It’s slow, solemn, and emotive. “Salt Thrower” also has some fun, unpredictable riffs and plays with key change as well. These are the types of details that make Slugdge fall into the prog category for me. There is such innovation and diversity of sound. They display all the excitement and technical proclivities of the great death metal bands without the drugdgery of being repetitious. “Limo Vincit Omnia” rounds off the album nicely, leaving the listener to wonder, “Where did this journey take me?” and “Why am I so glisteny and sticky?”
In conclusion, I defy anyone to besmugdge the musical (and comedic) brilliance of this band, though, I’m not one to hold a grugdge. I expect Esoteric Malacology to slither into my top five albums of the year. If you haven’t checked them out, hopefully this review will nugdge you in the right direction. And, if you really like Esoteric Malacology, do these fellows a favor and buy a copy, if it’s in your bugdget.
FAVORITE TRACK: “Crop Killer”
RELEASE DATE: 3/2/2018
FOR FANS OF: Septic Flesh, Rivers of Nihil