It took New York’s sludge metal heroes False Gods a full two years to release a follow up for their ‘Reports From Oblivion’ EP. In that time, fans probably suspected the band to re-emerge, all guns blazing with a devastatingly heavy full length album…but it wasn’t to be. It may still verge upon being devastatingly heavy in a few places, but their 2019 EP ‘The Serpent & The Ladder’ presents just two new songs.
Whether this is an EP – as advertised – or a single that unleashes two lengthy workouts is something very much up for debate. The band’s commitment to a riff, on the other hand goes without question. A concept piece, of sorts, the two numbers concern both of the titular objects, but a gruff vocal and very intense sound means that the finer points of the narrative are lost behind some weighty riffs. Let’s be fair, though, if you’re drawn to a band like False Gods for anything other than those riffs, you’ve sort of missed the point.
Before exploring any of the music on this release, let’s get one of the only negatives out of the way first: Plastic is not a very good band name. It’s a nightmare for search engine effectiveness and not especially memorable. Thankfully, Plastic are a great band and their 2019 EP ‘Drink Sensibly’ is an aural tour-de-force that fuses grungy elements with a punky sharpness, resulting in three tracks that sometimes sound like the work of a band fit to burst.
In some ways, the idea of grunge as a musical umbrella was a myth; a media invention borne from a lazy journalistic need to pigeonhole everything. Most of the bands that broke through in the early 90s actually had little in common aside from a geographic locale: Nirvana’s Pixies and Wipers obsessions bore little resemblance to Soundgarden’s updating of Black Sabbath’s monolithic riffery, just as that had absolutely nothing in common with Mudhoney’s desire to be Iggy & The Stooges. Yet, they were often lumped together. Also primarily thought of as a “grunge band”, from their inception in the mid-80s right through to their quiet demise approximately fifteen years later, Screaming Trees honed retro sounds of yet a different kind. Here was a band that drew influence from heavy psychedelia. Like the other more popular Washington State bands, their only obvious link came from a love of khaki kecks and heavy plaid shirts.
Between the release of First Signal’s 2016 album ‘One Step Over The Line’ and 2019’s ‘Line of Fire’, the band’s core members kept themselves very busy. Vocalist Harry Hess recorded another album with his “day job” band, Harem Scarem (2017’s ‘United’); guitarist Michael Palace released his second band album with Palace – the appropriately named ‘Binary’ – and Daniel Flores returned to The Murder of My Sweet, releasing ‘Echoes of the Aftermath’ on Frontiers Records in 2017. In addition during those intervening three years, Flores and Palace scored themselves jobs as invaluable members of the Frontiers “house band”, lending their talents to releases by Toby Hitchcock, Find Me and Code Red. There’s almost been no time for them to sleep.
A collection of songs that melded jazz melodies with swathes of contemporary soul, Eleni Drake’s debut EP ‘Blue’ had a lot of crossover potential and was a release that lent itself well to evening listening. With a lot of the music straddling the kind of sounds you might find during the softer parts of a Solange Knowles record and the laid-back electronica of Zero 7, it seemed so contemporary for the time of release and promised well enough for a potential follow up.