There’s no other way of putting it, but this album from Coffin Torture is absolutely brutal. By blending sludge metal production values with doom laden riffs, a swathe of death metal and several retching vocals that convey an almost demonic presence, the South Carolina noise makers have reached an early peak on this set of songs. Following a string of self-released EP’s, this longer workout really allows them to wield their sledgehammer sound with a much greater power, but it’s entirely likely that a lot of people won’t actually make it past the third track…

Straight from the opening of ‘Ukhsen Uul’, there’s an uncompromising approach at the heart of the recording that could smother the material, but it’s immediately obvious that Coffin Torture are really good players. A fantastic intro where tribal tinged drumming collides with a sludge oriented sound makes it feel as if the band are tackling the opening of an old Sepultura number at a fraction of the speed. With that, you get the feeling that Coffin Torture really mean business. As the tune gains traction and the heaviness continues, any suspicions are confirmed as the doom/death metal hybrid presents a decent head-crushing, slow-ish dirge. By now, those who feel that there’ll be something of even greater worth here will be further intrigued. Approaching the number’s mid point, the tempo increases, very much accentuating the band’s old school death metal interests, and it’s here that the teased elements all start to really gel. The drumming is tight and the slightly reverbed sound on the snare adds an extra dimension to a really great sludge metal refrain, and the gravelly voice actually sounds more natural. Despite this shift into something greater, it isn’t long before the band revert to a funereal pace and hefty chug, but an interesting use of percussion giving off an industrial sound and guitar effects that sound like samples of Formula 1 cars being mistreated stoke up interest beyond the usual doom/sludge sound.

A strong start, certainly, but Coffin Torture have plenty more to give, and ‘Budo’ increases the intensity on almost every level. By first mixing Brazilian percussion with an even slower doom riff, the track expands on the Sepultura influenced elements from the opener, but there’s absolutely no interest in using these for anything too accessible. After a minute or so of something that makes Electric Wizard sound like Boney M, the average listener will probably be ready to bail, but for the committed sludge fiend, the marriage of a swampy riff – played with maximum force – and a growling vocal might just serve up the ultimate in doom. By the time the band cheekily adds a strange, lop-sided groove metal riff to their universe of noise, this riff-heavy workout begins to sound a little more user friendly, but not necessarily lighter. It’s another great example of how brilliantly this band commands a heavy riff, but as if to placate those who might feel things have got a little too commercial somehow, the groove-laden elements never stay put for long. In their place comes a painfully slow, frighteningly heavy doom riff, played repeatedly whilst a melodic death metal growl adds further tension. There’s almost certainly a lyric within the garbled noise, but it doesn’t matter; this is chiefly about heaviness, and for extreme doom lovers, the half speed, sledgehammer heavy sound will bring the ultimate in quick and intense thrills.

Kicking off with more tribal drums, ‘Confessor’ showcases a superb band who appear to be blending the excesses of Conan and Byzantian Neckbeard with a really brutal take on world music, and in doing so, cast themselves as a great vehicle for inventive doom. As with the dalliance with groove metal previously, though, there’s a weighty core that wins out over everything else and after two or three minutes worth of heavy but rhythmic noise, Coffin Torture reach within themselves for the ultimate in gothic doom when heavily distorted guitars begin to throw out terrifying riffs at a snail’s pace. An unrestrained and uncluttered approach always allows the swampy and distorted sound to be experienced with an unsettling clarity, and if previous riffs felt as if they were aiming for pure sludge, then this is surely the ultimate in doom-oriented scariness. For most, one or two cursory listens will be enough before moving on to something more palatable, but this is not something you’ll forget in a hurry – and that alone makes it brilliant.

A tea break is strongly advised before exploring the second half of this record, since it really doesn’t lighten up. Those willing to have their internal organs absolutely decimated by sludge will have their wish granted when ‘Crawling Spleen’ mixes death metal vocals with unsettling sludge riffs, eventually taking the slow sound and using it to create strange riffs where string bent sounds evoke the “blues” of Weird Tales. As before, the best moments come when the band decide to speed up (relatively speaking) and there’s some superb bass pedal work from drummer Blind Samson as he pummels a rhythm into oblivion whilst frontman Thorfin continues to mutilate his guitar, dropping riffs in a devastatingly slow and heavy manner. There isn’t much of a variation on anything that’s gone before, but there doesn’t need to be: in terms of showing prowess with the heaviest riffs ever, Coffin Break come up trumps here.

The title cut is by far the release’s highlight, since there’s a great mix of sludge and groove metal to be found. The opening sounds like a Lamb of God track played through broken amps and the marriage of a superb riff with crashing drums supplies the most melodic moments of the entire release, albeit without caring for obvious melodies. Moving into the second verse, it’s a surprise that the groove stays firm, but by increasing the bass and, typically, the distortion, things are shaken up nicely. These Tuskar-esque moments suggest that Coffin Torture do care for melodies in their own way, eventually arriving in a place were a few classic Sabbath derived riffs meet melodic death metal abrasiveness. By contrast, the closing number ‘Yateveo’ isn’t so much of a strong climax, but by opening with some speed driven hardcore they grab the listener’s attention before switching back to a mid tempo sludge workout that’s almost interchangeable with a couple of other tracks. In fairness, this would sound much better if sequenced elsewhere: the heavy blues at the heart of the main riff sounds great when underpinned by crashing cymbals, and the unexpected descent into ugly space rock and later introduction of deep post metal droning between the typical riffs shows how Coffin Torture are far from the one trick pony that a cursory listen might suggest. In terms of purely heavy and dark metal, there’s a lot to like; it just takes a lot longer to sink in than ‘Blennoid’ and the perversely fascinating ‘Budo’.

With riff after extremely heavy riff augmented by an unforgiving production sound, Coffin Torture’s angry mix of melodic death metal, well played sludge and classic doom is one of the most intense things to crawl from the metal underground since Tuskar brutalised everyone with ‘The Tide. Beneath. The Wall’ at the end of 2018. Granted, it’s almost impossible to get through in one sitting and the vocals make it much harder going than it ever needed to be – a good doomy croon is often preferable to the weird retching sound often deployed here – but nevertheless, in terms of extreme metal, this has a strange and fearsome charm of its own. It’s really not for the faint of heart, and certainly to be avoided by those not wanting to be challenged, but sludge fans who find a way into such a broad noise will absolutely love what they find.

August/September 2022