Sep 10, 2011

Phantom Glue – S/T ...

I have such dysfunctional relationships with such awesome albums all the time that it’s a wonder I can write reviews or even keep everything in line, seriously. Take this, Phantom Glue’s self-titled debut; I’ve been at them for a while and can never get enough. That it’s taken me this long to even comment on it is a wonder, but, come hell or high water, here I am. Oh, and before anything, thanks to DoomGrinder for pointing me in the direction of this miserable beauty.

Now, Phantom Glue is a curveball doomsludge band from Boston, Massachusetts. What is ‘doomsludge’ you might ask? Well, these miserable doomsters play a blend of doom and sludge. Imagine taking doom’s groove-laden soundscape, wedding it to sludge’s nasty, filthy, swampy tones and fat basses and shouted vocals (which I normally despise with a passion, but here, they make it work somehow) and taking the offspring to raise it in some swamp where they play lots of doom, stoner rock, sludge metal and Southern style grooves. Add nice, droning solos and you get the essence of the beast that is Phantom Glue, and doomsludge, no slash or dash needed, is a term I’m coining right here and right now.

The album starts with the oddly-named “Ross the Boss” which is not a very promising start – it introduces us to the shouted vocalizations of Phantom Glue, but is otherwise a very cliché track that is built around a riff you’ve heard on several other places. The riffing, raging monster and thunderous drumming welcome you and you maintain a sense of familiarity while getting into the style. It has a nice solo to spice things up, but that’s about it. Second is the slower and doomsludgier “Pilgrim” which kicks off with this harsh bass line – like the bassist was chewing on the string, seriously. It’s a sludge line if I ever heard one, and the down-tuned guitars quickly bring you the actual song, alternating between breakdown-ish chugging passages and the grumbling, head-circling main riff before hitting a slower bridge section, marked with more of those raw vocals. Gotta love it.

Then, the band brings us the full-blown doomsludge with the groovin’, slow-building, miserable, wounded-beast type title track, “Phantom Glue.” The main riff is incredible, and it’s punctuated with slow drumming and the blend is marvelous. The verses are sludgier, slower and more clenched-teeth, but the main riff, whenever it kicks in, brings you doomy delights, mark my words. And the solo, drenched in wahwah, is easy on the ears. This is, in its purest form, doomsludge. That they follow it up with the more action-oriented “Gog and Magog” is where the record gains enough thrill. It features the Southern groove portion I mentioned: the track is usually trapped between hard-hitting, drum-oriented lumbering (feels like tossing a large sack of corpses down a hill), churning riffs and then moves on via a chugging passage to a heavy metal part before bringing it back. Ease, finesse, continuity, cohesion, all there.

Now, here’s where I usually get the tracks a bit muddled, but a quick listen clears that up as “Black Tar”s (not to be confused with Watertank’s “Sweet Hot Tar”, heh) riff is an interesting blend: with sludgy vocals and minimal drumming, it’s a technical passage that devolves into power chords every last two bars and drags the ground. It’s an amazing track that features the band’s strengths – hard-hitting, heavy metal influenced passages married to doom and Southern-style grooves. Then comes “Brainbow” and it becomes obvious that the band takes the time to warm up at first, earlier in the album, and then gets to getting things in order. If this track was any fuzzier and had rock-style vocals, it could easily be taken for a stoner rock song, it’s got all the trappings of it: rockin’ riffs intercut with sludgier, hard-hitting, grumbling passages and the doom-laced bridge with introduces continuity with the bass.

The album comes to a close with “Scabman” and yes, I did think “Scatman” too. It’s natural. But the song itself, is the band deciding to go all out on their doom. That’s what it is, and when it’s not slowly groovin’, it takes to groovin’ and movin’ upper mid-tempo. I mean, the song feels like a summary of the album itself, starting out slow and crawling on until it gets faster, polishes off near-stoner rock-ish riffing with a blazing, burning, mouth-watering solo. It’s just… this is Phantom Glue. To the core.

SO, WHAT’S THE DEAL? Easy – doomsludge. No, it’s not me trying to push my ‘term’ in your face, it’s me making a point. It’s doom, it’s sludge, it’s both and neither, and Phantom Glue are one awesome, thrilling, chilling, grooving, dooming bunch. The album itself, is effortlessly beautiful, positively addictive and quite easy to get settled into, is a hefty fine offering. My one objection is that the album takes a while to warm up at first, and the first track, good but just done to death in too many instances, might make people think this is just another run-of-the-mill, doom-influenced sludge band. They are not, and they have enough to keep you interesting. The album’s curve (always accelerating until the tipping point and ending very near the top), flow and the harmony of the band is incredible. So, yeah, it’s dangerous to go alone, take this. 8.5/10.

(NOTE: The 1 point I reduced for the cliché of “Ross the Boss” was upped to a 1.5 point reduction due to the fact that it’s the first song you hear and it can really, REALLY throw you off.)

Review Written By Sarp Esin

Phantom Glue @ Bandcamp

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