The name says it all really. Slabdragger. Immediately, weight and might spring to mind. We couple this with the words “Rise Of The Dawncrusher” and it’s hard not to salivate. Let us be under no false illusion, Slabdragger’s new offering is indeed weighty, mighty and crushing on a large scale. Since their debut album, 2011’s “Regress”, the band have had to overcome numerous challenges but fans have been rewarded with an epic kaleidoscope of sounds from the Croydon lads. Bass man Yusuf Tary and guitarist Sam Thredder share vocal duties while Jack Newnham is now the man behind the kit.
The effect is immediate on “Mercenary Blues” with its’ laconic introduction that crashes into an unbridled rawness. This is a twisting, turning, crusty behemoth. There is a full spectrum of vocals moving from clean through screams and growls creating a menace before a propulsive mid-section with snarling riffs. The opener is a monster that whets the appetite very nicely before the aptly entitled “Evacuate!” which explodes, full of fury. Completely unrelenting, this aggressive piece is the only short track on the album and is a potent moment.
With a fuzz fuelled, feedback drenched build up, “Shrine Of Debauchery” simmers into life. There’s a droning haze before brute force is unleashed. There are so many textures with moments of tranquillity punctuating the heavier passages. Deft, proggy time changes pull you in at every turn while the angsty vocals provide an aura of chaos reflective of the track’s title. This is a proper soundscape with moments of grandeur building towards the climaxing sea of gargantuan riffs and a returned wall of fuzz and feedback. Throughout, the underlying tone has an exotic, melodramatic feel which adds to the atmosphere and complexity.
“Dawncrusher Rising”, with its claustrophobic start, feels like it wants to break free but it’s irresistible, inescapable doom keeps you firmly anchored in the earth’s crust before the pace does indeed quicken into an outright cranking riff-fest full of aggression and bite. This has breadth and a rich production that captures the sense of an unstoppable force.
The closing 17 minute journey of “Implosion Rites”, in the tradition of Sleep’s “Dopesmoker”, is the grooving, hypnotic final voyage. Slabdragger are always exploring and reaching before elements of desperation come through. The frantic riffing gives it a psychedelic twist with Blue Cheer moments of primitive fury before this sonic adventure fades away.
There’s so much going on in these tracks but it all feels very natural and never too busy. Each is like a journey within itself on an album that, as a whole, is truly epic and keeps on rewarding with each listen. Couple this with eye-popping sci-fi artwork that brilliantly reflects the contents and Slabdragger have indeed delivered a mighty beast.
(8/10 Johnny Zed)