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Sludgefist by sludgefist (album Review)

Sludgefist by sludgefist (album Review)

Ladies, Gentlemen, and Sludge-Appendages! I’ve gathered you all here today to talk
about an album called “Sludgefist” by a band called Sludgefist. Sludgefist hail from
the depths of the Humber Valley, A.K.A. Corner Brook. Now let me tell you about
Sludgefist, Sludgefist are the self proclaimed “Alpha and Omega of Western NL
Metal”. And you know what? They may be right. Sludgefist released their debut
album “Sludgefist” on January 17 2020 and I strongly encourage you to listen to
“Sludgefist” (by Sludgefist) right now while you read my review about “Sludgefist” by
Sludgefist (links below). Sludgefist – “Sludgefist” can be found on Spotify, Itunes, and
most major streaming services or you can download a copy of “Sludgefist” by
Sludgefist off of bandcamp for only $5. You can also stream the album off of the
heavyNFLD youtube account. Alright let’s do this. Sludgefist.
16 times, in case you were curious.
Album credits as according to bandcamp are as follows:
All song written by:
Criss Rogers – Bass/Vocals
Chris Lake – Drums
Ryan Martin – Guitar
Daniel Altdorff – Guitar
Produced, Engineered and Mixed by Luc Desrochers at 11 Studios in Corner Brook
NL
Artwork by Caleb Gillet at Cruel Ambitions Tattoo

Sludgefist’s self titled debut is 7 songs at just over 25 minutes of Thrash,
Death, and groove. You could also accurately qualify them as Sludge Metal, though
they’re subbing out the Hardcore punk component for death metal and I’m totally
okay with that. I also find there’s a slight nu-metal tinge to a few songs like dogfight
and Boss Battle.

I’ll quickly give you my take on individual instruments here, if you’re just here
for a review of the songs skip down a bit.
I found the Drums in “Sludgefist” to be really consistent, blistering fast and
heavy hitting. Fast feet, with good bell work as prescribed. The drums definitely keep
up the momentum for the thrash and black metal. I especially like the main two drum
parts of Boss Battle. The first part builds momentum and the second part just
stampedes over you. The beat in Venomous with overlapping paradiddles was also
pretty solid. Hat’s off Chris Lake, definitely showing versatility, dynamics and chops.
On to the bass. The playing is super clean, the tone is soft and dark which
gives it a bit less attack and makes it play more of a supporting role. As such it may
not grab your attention but it’s definitely there filling out the sound. The bass parts
were well crafted, sticking to the basic progression when needed and adding its own
embellishments tastefully and frequently. It’s fast and clean on the thrash / black
metal parts but still definitely has a groove as you can hear in songs like the Asylum.
Very clean, very clean.
I found the vocals to be hit or miss. The lyrics walk the line of being badass
and being really appropriate for the vocal tone, and being a bit cringey. In the same
songs there will be lines that are lyrically powerful and fit the tone of voice like a
glove but there’s parts where the vocals break up and give a weaker tone that
betrays the content of the lyric – I find this happens a bit in dogfight but I found it
happening occasionally throughout. I also found the range, tone and melodic content
of the vocals to be a bit limited and repetitive. There were phrases that would have
benefited greatly from pushing just a bit outside of the comfort zone, where going
just a bit lower or higher in the phrase, or intensifying the vocal tone would make all
the difference. Obviously that’s a little easier said than done but that’s my take away.
Overall a solid effort but with everything else being so technically solid I find the
vocals come off lacking in comparison.
The guitar work on “Sludgefist” is excellent. My favourite part of this album by
far is the solo section of Dog Fight where there are some Opeth / Animals as leaders
– esque guitar solos that use sweep picking really tastefully. This deserves as
acknowledgement as most guitarists that have put in the practice to learn to sweep
pick do it so much that it comes off as more of a crutch than a skill. Using sweep
picking sparingly and appropriately in conjunction with careful note choice and target
tones can push a song to new levels and that’s what happens in the second half of
Dog fight. The guitar work in Sludgefist primarily consists of melodic leads and
crunchy power chords with some atmospheric parts punched in through the tunes.
From a technical standpoint the playing in Sludgefist is great but I found the
songwriting a bit lacking at times. There were many good parts but the transitions
between them could be a bit abrupt, starting stopping and changing in ways that
seemed to tug the song in directions that didn’t always compliment the song. There
were a couple times where I found this killed the flow of a song. Though this very
well may be an artistic decision I wasn’t personally a fan. An example of this is the
end of Dogfight – the solo of Dogfight is probably my favourite part of the album,
great big sweep picking parts that were beautifully planned out and executed – I’d
listen to it for hours, and then seemingly out of obligation to form they force the intro
of the song back in without any discernible rhyme, or reason.
Onto the tunes!

Track 1 – In this Death
“In this Death” is the first song on the album and it doesn’t waste any time getting
down to business. Grinding out the gate like some kind of demonic powertool “In this
Death” kicks things off fast and trash with occasional black metal tendencies (straight
16th note kicks, the odd tremolo picked guitar part). The song balances between
sections where the band is just going blitzkrieg and sections that leave a bit more
negative space allowing for a bit more variety in rhythmic cadence. Solid start.

Track 2 – Down Ft. Elli Reihl
Tune 2 is “Down ft. Elli Reihl”. This song reminds me of what Deathklok would do if
they covered “too many puppies” by Primus. About 20 seconds into the song they’d
decide it was lame and blast your ear holes with Righteous metal. For real though
the chorus “just go deeper down” had me thinking I had heard it in a Dethklok tune.
The lyrics of this one are actually pretty sweet but there are a few places where the
subject matter is betrayed by it’s execution. Now a lot of people that don’t sing don’t
get how difficult it can be to not only phrase things properly but also control the pitch,
tone, articulation AND how your throat is behaving (especially important in any kind
of screaming/growls) so I’m not trying to come down on Criss, I’m a fan. That being
said, throwing away the end of a stanza – like at the end of the 1st verse – kind of
kills my willful suspension of disbelief that the song and band are as badass and evil
as they seem. I like the way Sludgefist plays with the descending motif throughout
the song. Not only is it a good riff to revisit but they move it around and harmonize it
tastefully. The motif also lends to word painting in the chorus as Criss sings “just go
deeper down”. At about 2 minutes in the song takes a turn for the atmospheric and
about 30 seconds later Elli Reihl starts sternly speaking at you in German. Now
when I first heard this, like you maybe, I was curious – What is this man shouting at
me in German? I couldn’t get over it so I contacted the band and it turns out it’s a
German fairy tale! Its super rad and I’ve included a direct transcription and a google
translation of the passage in case you’re curious. I’ll attach it at the end of this
review.

Track 3 – Dog Fight
Next up – “Dog Fight”. This is my favourite song on the album because of its solo
section. The intro riff in the song is a somewhat thrash seasoned, nu-metal sounding
riff that functions as the call to the verse’s response. The part later evolves into a
bridge section that adds some creepy atmosphere and creates a sense of
progression to the tune. The bridge part ends with a build that leads,
anticlimactically, back into the intro riff. The verse is now repurposed as a solo
section that continues back into that bridge. This is where shit really gets good. I was
beyond thrilled by the playing, the curated use of sweeps and note choice that even
Opeth would approve of. I can be quite demanding when it comes to music but I
couldn’t have asked for more when I first heard this. I’m sorry to say that I was,
unfortunately, as disappointed as I was impressed when this section ended again by
returning to the intro riff. It’s hard for me to understand how the same ears and
hands that crafted the solo section, that I’m still swooning over, decided it would
make sense to just force the intro part back in. It strikes me as lazy songwriting or an
obligation to structure. Frankly and I don’t mind being harsh on this since this is the
kind of stuff that can ruin a masterpiece, and a masterpiece that solo section was.

Track 4 – Boss Battle
Song number 4. Boss Battle. There’s a formula emerging in these songs. This song
starts off vaguely nu-metal sounding with a bit more rhythmic cadence in the
drumming and playing, then that progression is expressed in a thrash context where
everyone is just going flat out. Around a third of the way through the song a 3rd
section appears that sounds a bit more exotic and adds depth to the tune. I think the
lads in Sludgefist are quite technically talented, and if this tune came on while I was
playing Smash Bros or some kind of intense video game it would actually be a top
class choice. Sitting here focusing on it I’ve got a different take though. I find the
bridge section to be the least satisfying we’ve heard yet, largely because the vocals
in this section are singing about passive accomplishment and reflection on “get(ing)
this far” which is also mirrored in the music but the shouting tone of the vocals betray
it. I do like the way Criss says “again and again and again…” it reminds me a lot of
Wayne Static from Static X if any of you remember him. To contrast my issues with
matching lyrical content to musical context – the last lyric sung at 2:41 is a great
example of how it should be done. The song has run its course, listeners can
anticipate the ending and this final warcry “finish him” totally captures the intensity of
the song while acknowledging the end is near.

Track 5- Venomous
The 5th song on the album is “Venomous”. It starts off with one of the cooler drum
beats on the album. It’s basically two paradiddles stacked ontop of eachother, one
played on with the feet on the kick and one with the hands split between a bell and
snare. This transitions into the Chorus which is instrumentally solid, though again I’m
not a huge fan of the tone vs lyrical content here. The post chorus, however, is
badass and more fitting to the vocals. The main riff in Venomous is also a really cool
part, overall a good song. In songs like Dogfight I question their attachment to more
pop structure, in this song however I find that same kind of structure to compliment
the parts and transitions.

Track 6: Asylum
Asylum is the 6th song on “Sludgefist” and it’s my second favourite song on the
album. Now I’ll start off by pointing out that I’m biased to riff rock and I’m a sucker for
groove and this song definitely brings it. I can’t get enough of the intro, great part, I
love the way it unravels and grows and I especially love the way everything drops
but the bass before they boys kick on their distortion. Now I’m not crazy about the
direction the next part takes the song but it is a solid transition, it is super sludge
metal and I could see how the two parts contrast. This next part is a lot busier on the
drums and its kind of that same quasi nu-metal sound that’s still very thrash. Asylum
has some of the most ambience you’ll find on the album.

Track 7 – The Worst
The final song of the album is “The Worst”. It’s probably one of the most aggressive
and cohesive tunes on the album. The transitions all work great AND the lyrical
content matches execution the whole way through. At around 1:30 you get a little
bridge / “solo section” that leads to a false end which leads back to the full-sprint the
song started with. The tune carries back around beautifully and closes strong with a
80’s style blow out / big finish.

Final Thoughts:
Corner Brook isn’t the most musically accomplished city in the world so it’s great
seeing any new music coming from there let alone musicians that are as heavy and
technically proficient as those in Sludgefist. They’re fast, tight and they have clearly
put a lot of work into what they’re doing. I found the songs in “Sludgefist” generally
adhered to Nu-metal, Thrash, and some Riff rock, with the odd black metal accent
here and there. I found the band’s strength to be their technical ability. Overall a
better effort than most are capable of. I’m excited to see what they come up with
next.

Favourite songs:
1. Dogfight (for the solo section)
2. Asylum (for the main riff)
3. The worst (for the aesthetic consistency in songwriting)

Down Ft. Elli Reihl Fairy Tale passage
German
Riesen sind Daemonen des kalten und naechtlichen Winters,
des ewigen Eises,
des unwirtlichen Sturmgebirges,
(der sengenden Hitze – not sure if I used this in the recording)
und danach sind sie auch benannt.
Zurueckgedraengt oder gebunden
ruetteln sie unablaessig an ihren Schranken und Fesseln.
Eines Tages wird es ihnen auch gelingen, alle Bande zu zerreissen
und die weisse Welt mit ihrer Dunkelheit zu ueberziehn!
English
Giants are daemons of cold and nocturnal winter,
of eternal ice,
of the inhospitable storm mountains,
(the scorching heat – not sure if I used this in the recording)
and that’s what they’re named after.
Pushed back or bound
keep shaking their barriers and shackles.
One day they will also be able to tear all ties apart
and to cover the white world with its darkness!

Links:
Sludgefist facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/sludgefistofficial/
Sludgefist Bandcamp
https://sludgefistofficial.bandcamp.com/album/sludgefist-2?fbclid=IwAR3h8e_hLzwo
03X6l6QxVNXq599vvxz477N1uZ5XRswiF7asTCPYBw9AJBw
Sludgefist – “Sludgefist” youtube playlist
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtPlUpCxza8&list=PLaA7V5zufINuHNA8beqxje2
TZ0x1kUwli
11 studio facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/11studiorecording/
Cruel Ambitions Tattoos
https://www.facebook.com/cruelambition/

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About The Author

Ben Chapman-Smith

Ben Chapman-Smith is a musician, a music educator, and a loud - occasionally cantankerous, frequently opinionated - music critic. He worked as a music teacher, event organizer/booker/promoter, and performing musician in Toronto's music scene from around 2005 - 2017. He is currently living in St John's NL where he continues to teach, create, and review music.

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