Remote as New Zealand is, that fact doesn't mean that it isn't home to some impressively industrious and successful bands. Beastwars are one such band, and, despite my perception of New Zealand as an inhospitable habitat for music, especially something on the fringe, like metal, the band seem to be thriving, touring, and generally doing quite reasonably. Their music quality, I hasten to add, reflects this nicely.
Sludge metal is slightly unfamiliar me - I have to say, there are definitely subgenres that I've listened to with greater frequency, but in contrast, the style has been one I've frequently fallen back upon when a little overdosed on thrash or black metal, and is also one I feel I like a lot more than my limited collection of albums in the genre testifies. Beastwars give a very solid impression of said genre, capturing many, if not the majority, of the features which make it good - a huge lower-end, diverse vocals, deep guitar, and the occasional psychedelic, stoner influenced section, in an album which is solid and pleasingly diverse in it's approaches. Like doom metal, I find sludge metal to set a soundscape in which the listener can wonder, as opposed to being a direct drip-feed of sound, and the soundscape Beastwars generate is a hazy, twangy-guitar filled slightly slow-motion head-nodding extravaganza, which is precisely what the doctor ordered, and will clear your head in moments.
The serene intensity which the band bring forth in their music seems to be nicely brought forward in the production, which has got a nice balance, with the low, muffled sound typical of sludge metal not being so extreme as to spoil the guitar tone, and the prescence of the bass and drums, with enough treble to add emphasis on the multiple dimensions in the music. It's not just intensity, either - just about everything in the bands arsenal of sounds seems to be on a grand scale. The songs may not be twelve-minute behemoths, but you'd be wrong to assume that the band would produce cheeky, attitude-laden sludge metal, what the band make is an odd, almost trippy sound, which feels as unfathomable as it is difficult to describe. It's not quite "epic" in the conventional sense, but the atmosphere and mid-tempo intensity give it something which is definitely difficult to place. All I know is that this music, crushing rhythms, and almost primal, pounding drums, would be my soundtrack of choice for a Lovecraftian apocalypse.
I glanced over the album, what must have been only a few months after it was released. I enjoyed it, but at that time, It didn't appeal to my tastes as much as it does now. A couple of music-taste developments later, and I'm thoroughly enjoying the album - It's what I like about sludge-metal, nicely distilled into one handy album, and I'm damn glad that I spent the time to re-visit it today.
Some albums leave a lasting impression after the closing seconds of the last song snap into silence. This is one of those albums. 10/10.
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