Meadows – Meadows (sludge metal)

self released, 2011, CD EP, 20m 1s


Meadows play some pretty extreme music. You could make all sorts of comparisons: The Melvins are an obvious point of reference; they also put me in mind of Bongzilla, although they have some fast thrashy passages to go with the slow stoner doom, and a turgidly saturated bass distortion that makes everything as thick as treacle. Although this is full of riff and incident, there’s something about it that almost crosses over into ambient territory: early attempts at earthquake heaviness (i.e. thrash metal) tended to be focussed on riffs so brutally kinetic your fingers would fall off just thinking about them, but little of Meadows’ material is punishingly technical. This is a brand of extreme metal that has outgrown the need to show off, and is about the sound rather than the technique. As such, it can be almost impossible to distinguish the details of the playing, although there is more clarity on this recording than when they perform live.

This music really needs to be listened to loud: it’s only then that the sheer fuck-off-ness of it can be appreciated, when it hits your ears like an artillery shockwave. To be honest, you’re not likely to have many opportunities to listen to this properly, if you want to carry on living in your present abode.

To be clear, for those unfamiliar with this style of metal, Meadows’ sound consists of the following things: riffs, rolling, funky and brutal, but generally pretty straightforward, and more bluesy than dissonant; shouted vocals, hoarse and punky rather than growly or screamy; clattering, thunderous drums, skilfully driven, but with old school intensity rather than mechanistic dual kick precision; and distortion. Lots of it. Layers of thick, heavy, rasping fuzz, on two guitars and the bass; so much distortion that it’s disorientating; so much distortion that you feel like you’re moving through a thick, enveloping morass of… well, sludge.

To play music like this, you have to mean it. You can’t call a session musician and say ‘I’d like thirty-two bars of bossanova followed by twelve bars of sludge metal’: this is music you have to live. It is willed into existence by those unwilling to go to their graves knowing they could, in any way, have been heavier. Meadows pull this off superbly: when they get on a riff, they groove with the momentum of a container ship; their performances are as out-there as anything you’ll hear; and they have the sonic craftsmanship to maximise the depth and viscosity of their instrumental sounds. This music is as much about the well tweaked tone as it is about the well played riff, although it has both. Very few people will have a neutral reaction to this EP: you will either take it as a deliberate act of violence, or you’ll love it. I’m in the latter camp.

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