Starting with a song titled “Tales of a Romanian Horse Whisperer,” UK mood-ruiners Sealclubber immediately bludgeon the listener with noisy sludge. Based on the prevailing sense of dread and hostility in the scabrous songs on Stoical, I’m guessing this horse whisperer has more in common with the deranged theatrics and animal mutilation of Equus than that Robert Redford snooze-fest.
Speaking of animal mutilation, you might have frowned at that band name already. If it’s any solace, the violent intentions of these songs don’t stop at aquatic mammals, and humans are very much in danger once pressing play. With their barbed riffs and the pitch-black ugliness of Drunk Dad and Trap Them, Sealclubber feel like Deadguy if they lasted long enough to have an experimental sludge phase. Like the bands mentioned, Sealclubber’s songs aren’t just sutured opiate-abusing crusty gutterpunk riffs tuned to the brown note. Even in a furious barnburner like “Haima,” the song scavenges elements of hardcore and stoner metal to create a richly textured soundtrack for giving and receiving shit news.
Despite a three-plus minute atmospheric interlude frustratingly murdering momentum, the album quickly regains its footing with “Vows of Silence.” Between suckerpunches of distortion, the reverb of callused fingers scraping over guitar strings leads to a foreboding bass tone that floats above the song like a storm cloud ready to empty apocalyptic rainfall.
It’s a fitting prelude to the disarmingly pensive epic “I Only Desire the Things That Will Destroy Me in the End.” That title likely applies to most fans of heavy music, whether it be regarding their bad habits, currently undiscovered crimes, or the headbanging riffs that will eventually snap their necks. The song proceeds patiently, feeling its way along desolate corridors. Two-thirds of the way through its almost twelve-minute runtime, the song confronts the bloody aftermath it was seeimngly trying to avoid. While the climax isn’t as destructive as hinted by the album’s first half, it still feels like the inevitable victory of baser instincts, where volume rules and subtlety burns away like bong resin. It’s a nuanced track that lingers in the listener’s mind long after it gently fades out.
While their two-song EP Sticky River was impressive, this is a definite leap forward for Sealclubber. While retaining their nihilistic bite, they also build soundscapes that reflect a rotting metropolis in a puddle of mud, blood, and petrol. Looking out my window right now, the view sure as hell sounds familiar.
Follow Sealclubber over on Facebook and check for news on a Stoical pre-order, available from Medusa Crush Recordings on February 5th.