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I've loved female-fronted metal bands going all the way back to the early days of Karyn Crisis and Alicia 13. Those bands broke ground, pioneering the idea of women in metal as more than mere novelty. They faced hostile crowds, indifferent promoters, misogyny and sexism at all turns. They made headway, however, opening a door that many other women have successfully come through. The idea of a female-fronted metal band is no longer unthinkable, odd, or unique. Unfortunately, the negative responses have mostly remained. Women in metal are still continually seen by many as a gimmick, a novelty, eye-candy, a cheap short cut to easy press. And in some instances that is true, but in the case of Salome, it certainly isn't. Like Crisis and 13 before them, Salome are the real deal, an authentically heavy and disturbing sludge metal band determined to rip your face off.
The first thing that sets Salome apart from their peers is atmosphere, a difficult thing to acquire in this age of digital production. The sound is lo-fi, mysterious, filled with tension. It is unbearably heavy, saturated with a harsh, almost buzzing distortion. The riffs are utterly primitive, almost deceptively simple. They move at a startlingly languid pace, akin to Sleep or The Melvins. It would be sloppy, lazy even, if weren't so precisely designed. The drums bash away in eager acquirement of a rhythm and tone. They push the music along, accentuating, accusing, pulsating, interrogating the music. With a lesser drummer, the music would truly plod and lose its hypnotic throb.
The only issue I have with the music is that, despite the praises above, it lacks a fully-formed cohesion. That will come with time. Their latest split EP confirms it. The band is only just starting to gel here. Some songs go on too long without the variation necessary to make them truly compelling. "The Vivification of Ker," on the other hand, at just under six minutes, and with a kick-ass tempo change in the middle, is the opposite. A nearly perfect song.
I've left Kat's vocals for last. No one else on earth sounds quite like her. She is the first female vocalist since Karyn and Alicia to really blow me away, conjuring a stunning array of demented sounds from within her tiny frame. She can shriek with a pitch like razors, growl with a depth that scares Satan.
That her vocals aren't perfectly recorded here is unfortunate. They are buried too far back in the mix and sound thin, nowhere near as powerful as live or on their more current recordings. Not a total detriment however. As an early document of her progress, this is totally worth hearing.