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A history of doom - 69%

we hope you die, July 21st, 2021

What do you get when you cross a stoner doom guitar tone with classic melodic doom riffs that bookmark sluggish hardcore punk outbreaks, accompanied by black metal style vocals? Well, you get another bloody sludge album. But the latest offering from Russia’s Remote in the form of ‘Дым’ (smoke), far from being a typical modern sludge affair of basic as fuck riffs and monotone rhythms, is actually one of those “history of riffs” albums.

Although sticking with a broadly doom framework, each track jumps from style to style and era to era with little concern for the linking infrastructure required to make these tonal shifts work. Before we get too critical thought, it’s important to note the strengths of this album.

Despite the thick, Conanesque guitar tone that greets the ear in mono, with no lead or rhythm sections to open out the mix and split apart the riffs a little, Remote are energetic, moving from one idea to the next without remorse. They are also happy to shift tempos frequently, deploying any number of rhythmic tricks to keep things moving along. Their intent seems to be to create a battering ram of riffs as opposed to the usual droning of chords and slow rhythms favoured by modern stoner doom, usually intended to build a vibe but so often inducing sleep.

The distorted black metal vocals – which sometimes revert to low-end death growls – whilst blocking off a potential melodic avenue, are consistently aggressive, meeting the moment of these heavy, often punky riffs, and serve to further ‘Дым’ as an aggressive battering ram of sound.

The strong definition to the guitar tone maintains a fixed aesthetic throughout the album, but at times it is unclear where Remote stand. Making explicit and multiple tightly packed references to specific riff traditions can work as a compositional tool, but without a clear underlying thread of identity, it can often fall out of focus, leaving nothing but a series of nods to various eras of history. And for the most part Remote avoid this particular pitfall, as in the ten-minute title track for instance. The opener ‘Шлюха’ may be a little unfocused, opening with a nicely crafted melodic doom riff worthy of Pentagram, only to break into a shifting template of lacklustre stoner doom and sludge metal barrage. Whether intentional or not, the temporal whiplash this induces is a little jarring.

But as the album progresses, and competing vibes and melodic or atonal traditions surface and are settled on for longer periods the album’s underlying structure begins to take shape. The feedback drenched interlude of ‘Пепел’ is a nice way to segment the first and second half of the album, dragging out the mid-section and emphasising the re-emergence of bludgeoning energy that is ‘Гореть’, which even sees some black metal riffs make an appearance.

That being said, by the time closer ‘Гравитация’ rolls around we are back to energetic but generic sludge metal riffing which brings nothing to the table. Such moments are frequent throughout the album, but Remote usually get away with it by sandwiching these riffs between quirkier moments. Cutting this album down to thirty-minutes’ worth of material as opposed to the forty-five we get – whilst a fairly generic criticism – would have gone a long way to elevating ‘Дым’ from eyebrow raising to a genuinely fun slab of sludge metal.

Originally published at Hate Meditations