At a Loss
rating icon 6.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Smile
02. Cut a Hand
03. Beguiling Comer
04. Burst
05. The Black Caped Man
06. Masamune
07. Stigma
08. Slaughterhouse
09. Moving Ground
10. Confutatis

It is almost always a good day when promotional CDs from super cool label At a Loss Recordings arrive in my mailbox, even if BLUTCH's "Materia" will not end up as one of my favorite releases from the Maryland operation. BLUTCH has been around the doom/sludge/noise-terror underground (KHANATE, BORIS, etc.) for some time now, but its last release was back in 2003, the well-received sophomore effort "Fra Diavolo" on Delboy Records. The new long-player is the act's first formal North American release and works fairly well as a smoke-billowing crust crawler and big-footed rumble beast.

Must of what is heard on "Materia" consists of mammoth amalgamations of feedback-choked riffing, reverberating bass tones, and thundering drumming. The vocals range from a kind of mid-range decipherable style to a classic sludge scream/shout. Songs like "Stigma" and "Slaughterhouse" are tough as leather, the drumming of Paske Storme colorfully percussive and always earth-shaking; more often than not, it is his deft accents that slice though the suffocating drone and bring out a tad more dynamics in the arrangements. Other songs, particularly "Moving Ground", are noticeably abrasive, tense, and even a little frantic in approach. The humming of a well-known lullaby by vocalist/guitarist Djinn Alaimo during the first portion of "Masamune" is creepy as hell and unlike anything I've heard from an album of this type. Closing the album is a lengthy epic called "Confutatis". By far the most experimental and epic of the bunch, the nearly 10-minute cut consists mainly of drone and sound effects with moments of chanting and what sounds like a female vocal. In fact, the track reminds to some degree of the more atmospheric, style-expanding portions of the new MINSK album, "The Ritual Fires of Abandonment".

If you have been paying attention to the music of At a Loss, or even Southern Lord (not counting the black metal releases) for that matter, over the years you will have a fairly good idea of the general feel of an album like "Materia". For whatever reason, the disc seems to be missing a few, albeit indefinable, small parts in its overall construction, which is the primary reason it remains a better than average, but less than stellar, release. Or maybe it is just that the overall impact is significant, but not as forceful as it could be. There are better examples of subsonic tremor metal, but "Materia" will more than likely satisfy most fans of the style.

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