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Heavy, non-weak, modern sludge. - 68%

MosquitoControl, November 30th, 2008

The Body are an enigmatic two piece sludge band from Rhode Island and have managed only this single full length in almost ten years of existence. In an age where bands shit out albums like babies with diarrhea, it's almost refreshing to see a band that doesn't feel the need to record for release every half-assed song or bit of a song they come up with; and that's probably part of what makes The Body's self-titled album better than many similar sludge offerings of the past few years.

This has only a few things in common with the first wave of sludge bands that started in the late 80s and early 90s (Eyehategod, Grief, Cavity), and the second wave that started in the mid to late 90s (Iron Monkey, Greenmachine). One of those things it does have in common with the first wave and second wave bands is the super-high pitched screaming vocalist that is almost black metal in his ferocity; like Eyehategod, though, there is not a single understandable word sung on the entire album. But unlike some of their contemporaries (the horrible monotony of Thou comes to mind), the vocalist varies his delivery just enough so that every line doesn't sound the same. About the only other things it has in common with its sludge antecedents is the use of feedback to frame so much of the music, and the liveliness of the production; there hasn't been sludge this drenched in feedback since Cavity's On the Lam or a production this live-sounding since Corrupted's Paso Inferior. The lyrical department is the last in which they hew closest to the originators; these are not artsy abstractions (who the fuck needs to hear supposed metal bands singing about heartbreak and homesickness and shit like that?) that have come to define modern sludge, and while they don't read like the acid-induced ramblings of Buzzov*en or EHG, they aren't to far from the complete misanthropy of Grief or Noothgrush.

Where The Body differs markedly from most other sludge bands is in both their riffs and drum patterns. With few exceptions, there is nothing blues-base on this self-titled album; at the same time though, neither is there anything resembling three chord punk. The riffs themselves are slightly more complex than in most sludge, but they never reach the serpentine tortuousness of Mastodon and their more progressive ilk; their closest contemporary would be Deadbird, but without the tinges of Southern groove. The only unfortunate thing about the riffs is they don't usually carry a song; rather the drummer seems to steer and propel the music, making this more of a drum-heavy rhythm exercise than a true guitar-driven sludge-fest. "The City of the Magnificent Jewel" being the perfect example of the guitars and drums in lock step, where at first it's difficult to tell who is leading whom, but the drums end up driving the music much more than the guitars. These are not boring songs though, even if they are primarily rhythm beasts; there is enough variety in the guitar riffs to make repeated listenings enjoyable; likewise for the songs themselves.

If anything, this draws a certain amount of influence from mid-period Neurosis (Enemy of the Sun/Through Silver in Blood), but without the overtly epic pretensions and the compositional complexity. The Body does write long songs (sometimes), but for the most part they forego the, by now, cliche entire-song-crescendos that make so much modern sludge so worthlessly predictable; instead, they opt for a more straight forward constant bludgeoning, like what Neurosis has long supplied on their shorter songs. There is also a bit of early Isis influence (we're talking all the way back to the Mosquito Control E.P. and Celestial L.P.) in the use of very short clean passages to emphasize downstrummed heavy passages; but these are not the lengthy measures of ringing clean-picked guitar notes that have come to define so much modern sludge (and make it not much different than modern alternative rock), because there is nothing open about these short moments. These are gasped breaths taken when your head is pulled from under the water, only to be thrust back in again. The Body never lets up on the suffocating atmosphere long enough for it to actually qualify as melodic or tuneful, and they never approach "beautiful," or "airy," something so many of the weak modern sludge bands seem to aim for (usually at the expense of their heaviness).

The Body's self-titled album is a worthy addition to the sludge subgenre, if only because it subverts so much of what is ruining sludge metal. It dispatches with the sublimity that makes Cult of Luna, Pelican, and the like so weak and uninteresting and replaces it with a muscular heaviness that's more in line with extreme metal aesthetics. This doesn't rely on the same song writing cliches that have infected other modern sludge bands; The Body is content to pound away, putting variety in the heaviness instead of variety without the heaviness. While this isn't a great record, it's definitely more than listenable if you've been craving something heavy, loud and mean; The Body isn't rewriting the definition of sludge, but neither have they forgotten what the definition of sludge actually was in the first place.