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I really wanted to love this record. I preordered it to get the special super-limited clear vinyl version. I waited patiently for the shipping day to be announced and then waited in anticipation for the record to arrive. Slights And Abuse came in a plain brown box, but opening the box and pulling the record out, I was so fucking happy. The artwork is amazing, about as metal as anything I've seen in a long, long time. My initial joy was quickly tempered when I saw the release came with no insert, meaning no lyrics or information about the band (but the first record is the same way, so I figured they've got some kind of schtick going about that). When I put the record on though, whatever tempered joy I still had disappeared almost instantly.
My first thought? What the fuck did they do to their sound?1?! Gone are the washes of heavy, thick guitar, gone is the viscous, dense bass, gone are the warm, perfectly-mixed drums that made their debut, The Unquiet Sky, so good. Instead, there's an overly loud kick drum that dominates the mix, even at low volume; there's a guitar buried in there somewhere, but since the drums are so fucking loud, I can hardly hear it, and when it is heard, it's a barely-black-metal guitar tone; the bass guitar is probably in there too, but again the drums make it appear non-existent. And who the fuck thought it would be a good idea to tune the snare so that it clanks like a garbage can lid? Not a good decision. In fact, not a single good decision was made concerning the sound and production of this album; what's especially distressing is that I usually really like analogue sound and I usuualy like "recorded live in the studio" sound, but in this case it's fuck up so badly, listening to this is difficult and almost painful.
My second thought? Where are the fucking riffs? Who tries to play doom or sludge without writing riffs for each song first? This sounds like the band got together to play and instead of starting with some riffs, they started with some annoying drum fills. The drummer pulls some of same shit that Brann Dailor pulls, but Dailor is interesting and his playing is in the service of the song, and his busy drumming fits Mastodon's music. The drumming here seems all out of whack with what the band is doing; the guitarist is playing ("probably playing" would be a better phrase as it really is almost impossible to identify a single riff on the entire album, and the guitar sound is so fucking weak it couldn't even outlift the guitar sound on a bedroom black metal record) in Khanate-style and the drummer is playing in The Fucking Champs-style. Terrible combination. It might be rectified by a good strong bass presence, but since the bass doesn't really seem to be present on this album, there is nothing to tie these songs together.
My third thought? Uptempo Indian (primarily side A, the first three songs, but showing up again on side B, the other song) makes no sense to me. These are vaguely punk influenced songs, but without quality riffs or driving rhythms they are just noisy and instantly forgettable. During the thirteen minutes that make up Side A, there isn't one memorable fucking second of music, not one measure that demands multiple listenings. Couple that with the incongruous uptempo section in "Fatal Lack," and you have an album that spins its wheels, because the fast sections are not intense, they are not urgent: the slow sections are not heavy, they are not menacing and they are not surely not mean.
My fourth thought? Downtempo Indian isn't all that bad, but the ten or twelve minutes of slow doom that makes up the majority of "Fatal Lack" is not nearly enough to redeem this album. Because even these parts aren't anywhere close to the debut in terms of heaviness, and even worse, the entire song has an unfortunately hollow, ringing quality to it: the song (well, really, the whole album) sounds like it was recorded in a fucking hallway. Doom and sludge do not benefit in anyway from sounding hollow; density is their hallmark. Without the requisite density, they're as weak as bad black metal. "Fatal Lack" almost works as a song: a little Buried At Sea dronedoom, a little Melvins grunge rock workout. That is until you realize how poorly those two go together; if it had just been the Buried At Sea homage, the song would crush, but it isn't, so it doesn't.
My fifth thought? Slights And Abuse is a total waste of money and a huge disappointment given how good the debut was. This has no repeat playability, unless you like listening to hollow, drum-heavy, riff-less, near-sludge, weak-doom metal. I guess maybe it's originality might be a reason to listen more than once, but originality that sucks is worse than copycatting that doesn't. Sure this sounds like nothing out there, but there's a damn good reason why it doesn't: nobody wants to! Fuck off weak doom, so many others kane harder!