I was pleased to see this crop up in the review lists as a friend had highlighted the name Blacklab a while back and for once it has lodged in my tiny brain. Blacklab are a guitar/vocals and drum duo from Osaka and the 2.0 at the end of the album title signifies this is a reproduction of the limited Japan only album now unleashed onto a wider world.
From the beginning of ‘Black Moon’ it’s clear that this is a fair mix of heavy fuzzed and sludged styles with a bit of the stoner to the doom pace and riff style. It’s got a real heft and wallop to it and the vocals shift nearly from the almost ethereal to a real death snarl without sounding forced. It’s also apparent that Yuko Morino and Chia Shiraishi have a real feel for groove. The even better news is that the sludge and dirt in here never allows it to slide into the mediocre swamp that is ‘occult rock’. ‘Hidden Garden’ ramps up the gnarly side even more with distorted and harsh edges to the riffs. And yes I mean riffs. The duo are certainly not of the ‘one riff for ten minutes brigade either. ‘Spoon’ then comes along and reminds me a little or Darkher or even Undersmile in less self-indulgent mode – it’s slow and creepy and not bad at all.
Now I have to say here that I’m not sure how this translates live (I’ve avoided YouTube) as I’m sure I detect more than just drum and one guitar here. Maybe not and the playing is excellent, and when they really let rip at the end of Spoon who cares anyway. They do, it should be added, have that nice sparse sound that kind of comes across as a sludge version of Bolzer; no bad thing at all.
The amusingly titled ‘Symptom Of The Blacklab’ pours the Sabbath onto a warm fuzzed out base before ‘Warm Death’ creeps back to the eerie sparse sounds and howling bursts of pure sludge violence. And then.
‘His Name Is.’ Jeez, if you thought Blacklab showed a thunderous heavy groove before then this will kill you, crush you, bring you back to life and have you headbanging like a possessed zombie. It’s just brilliant. Sludge with a High On Fire thump, a large time of Electric Wizard dirt and a groove deeper than the Marianan Trench. Guaranteed earworm and skullcracker.
Ok they clear off with ‘Big Muff’, which is nine minutes of fizz, fuzz and feedback that would have me searching for another pint live but, hey, I guess it’s all just cementing their credentials.
This is hugely impressive as a debut; sludge doom that manages groove without falling into the occult rock trap. Some great song writing and wonderful weight to the sound. If they can keep the sparseness of the duo sound, the aggressive soul and the sense of dynamics that can have them flow from ethereal Darkher to pounding sludge they have a glowing future.
And I doubt much will get the dandruff flying this year quite like ‘His Name Is’.