Belfast’s SLOMATICS have been at it for over a decade now, and as is the desired trajectory for hardworking, underground metal bands their profile has steadily been increasing. In the latter half of that decade the success of their contemporaries in CONAN has given them something of a boost, with Jon Davis of that band doing his best to get their name out in as many interviews possible as a band who have been an essential influence on CONAN’s existence as well as releasing a split together. That’s not to say SLOMATICS have not been working themselves; new album Future Echo Returns is their fifth as they continue to slog away at bringing the most brutish and monolithic riffs they can come up with.
Unsurprisingly, that turns out to be quite a few. Right out of the gate we’re greeted with an instrumental opener in Estronomicon which makes very clear the kind of experience the listener is in for with Future Echo Returns, driven by a deep hypnotic rumble of a riff which does not let up. The production is superb, boasting that Skyhammer Studio sound which has become something of a hallmark within the UK underground as of late. The vocals are comparatively clean when placed against the plethora of vocalists content to grunt, bellow and shriek their way through doom records of this nature, but that’s not to say they are in any way soft or nice. There’s an almost Lee Dorrian-esque yowl on tracks like Rat Chariot, and elsewhere when they are more melodic they maintain the harsh and desolate atmosphere.
This album does a fine job of proving that not only can less be more, but that with a few limited ideas you can actually arrange them in some creative manners. Very few of the riffs on display contain more than a small handful of notes (the main riff in Electric Breath contains exactly one for the majority of its duration), but they manage to be continuously effective. “Dexterity” seems like an odd word to apply to the caveman pummelling of CONAN, but compared to parts of what Slomatics do they’re downright virtuosos, everything here as intentionally blunt as possible. The one exception is Ritual Beginnings, an interlude which lasts longer than most of the more conventional songs that almost sounds like something that could be on a recent WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM album, allowing the spacey notes to ring out in a way which is not typically psychedelic but instead contemplative and explorative. One downside is that it can be somewhat easy to fall into the repetitive groove and lose track of where one song begins and another ends, and the compositions here while bulky never truly go over the edge into being impossible to ignore in their strength and power.
There’s a familiarity here which makes it clear that SLOMATICS have indeed permeated the doom landscape around them. Others have taken what is done here to more barbaric and ruinous heights, but SLOMATICS have been doing this longer and they’ve not lost their spark. This particular release is not going to massively alter their standing, but for the kind of people who lap up every band on at Desertfest this is a treat.
Future Echo Returns is set for release on September 2nd via Black Bow Records.
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