There’s always time here at SonicAbuse for sludge/doom/noise bands, especially those which release their work on limited, hand-screened vinyl. In this case, what we have is a split release from two talented bands: Arson around the sea and Stolen Kidneys. The music is available as a pay what you want download and as a limited, handcrafted vinyl, the production of which was funded by the bands themselves, and if you like your music vicious, uncompromising and fuelled by a dark passion, then this EP could well be for you.
Unlike some split Eps, the divide here is straight down the middle, with Arson under the sea offering up the first four tracks (whilst Stolen Kidneys, who deal in longer tracks, offer up three). Arson under the sea are not a band for the timid. Dealing in a devilishly murky brew, the band sound like Neurosis on a death trip, all grinding guitars and guttural roars subsumed to the colossal power of the drums. The first track on offer is ‘kneel’, a scabbed-knee crawl through the depths of hell, and a perfect introduction to the band’s potent brand of misanthropy. ‘Man of filth’ is no less brutal with the music arcing out from under a pall of sulphurous smoke. It packs a vicious punch and it is doom with the rage turned white hot and focused outwards, the vocals taking on a punk edge as the guitars wind and curl around the track. ‘Chains of oblivion’ is similarly minded, but the music takes a darker turn as the guitars are stripped away leaving the bass to rattle and hum as if the strings are sagging off the fret board as the instrument burns. It’s unerringly brutal and as the music scratches and claws its way into your consciousness there’s a genuine sense of danger and unpredictability that accompanies the band’s raw sound. Arson under the sea’s set ends with ‘the observing self’, another lengthy track that offers up a surprising sense of dynamic, opening with a voice roaring out from the dark as the guitars ripple in the background only for a dramatic burst of feedback to tear the mood apart and draw the hapless singer ever deeper into his own existential abyss.
After so powerful a start, Stolen Kidneys, you would imagine, have a tough act to follow. As it transpires, the band are entirely unperturbed by the maelstrom of noise conjured by Arson under the sea and open with a quiet guitar passage that suddenly explodes into life, proving to be an unhinged mix of black metal grind and noise rock percussive mayhem. Those expecting an easy ride will undoubtedly find it a daunting mix and, with a rawer production than Arson under the sea, Stolen Kidneys are grittily contrary. However, if you can stomach the initial barrage, the band indulge in some wilfully psychedelic instrumental interplay that recalls the likes of Botch at their most experimental. ‘Dethrone the fear’ is similarly awash with a sense that the whole thing could fall apart as the band thrash away at their instruments creating a merciless noise as they go. It is a feral assault that slowly unravels into a dark, trippy jam that captivates the listener before devolving further into a lake of feedback that segues into the lengthy closer ‘crooked tongues’. At nearly eight minutes, ‘crooked tongues’ does a fine job of rounding out this brooding split EP with huge banks of sludgy guitars given a slight shimmer of light via echo-soaked leads. It marks a fitting conclusion to a difficult yet ultimately rewarding EP.
Both Arson Under the sea and Stolen Kidneys do an admirable job on this split EP. The bands’ style and sound is similar enough to be complimentary and yet different enough for each side to offer up its own unique listening experience. Both bands offer little quarter, although the particularly raw and bloody production of Stolen Kidneys gives the band an extra edge when it comes to delivering truly obnoxious sludge rock. Fans of Buzzov*en, the Melvins at their least approachable, Neurosis and Botch are most likely to find solace here, as the increasingly agitated riffs pile up and the vocals tear through the distortion to scarify the soul with their scorched earth fury. Not for the faint of heart, then, but highly recommended for those whose tastes run to the dark and claustrophobic.