It’s always worth keeping a close eye on the furtive black metal scenes of countries such as Belgium and Holland; there is no escaping the fact they put much of what is going on in the UK underground to shame. So here we have Kludde from East Flanders who take their name from a water spirit and are enthused by folk legends. Sounds interesting, especially when we are informed that this is a band “more than ready to spit out its black metal filth upon humanity.” Also we are told Kludde are for fans of Immortal, Gorgoroth, Behemoth & Watain. Parameters are fairly wide there and this could go any way from the weirdness of Lugubrum to the recent orthodoxy of Enthroned or maybe the scathing virulence of Wiegedood? Between the lines it appears Kludde have been around since 2001 but have taken considerable time out since their last album was released in 2008. They have been regrouped with new members by founder Snoodaert and apparently this is a throwback to the raw earlier days of the band. Sounds good?

Well it could be if it were actually black metal in the first place!

I’m not going into translations of song titles much here, they are all in native tongue and as the first track rumbles in and hits a leaden groove with foul rasps from the vocals somewhat muted in the background I am already starting to scratch my head. Apparently the band’s first concerts were “drenched in blood, lots of chaos, fire, worms and maggots” but I’m definitely not hearing that here. It’s not caustic particularly, or that violent, the vocals would perfectly fit in with other genres rather than black metal and the groove laden parts are far too accessible. There’s nothing remotely Satanic sounding here which is surely the main focus and principle of a group practicing black metal and being compared to the bands mentioned above? Things become clearer as we move along and are written in spades by the second number. This is much more common to sludge than it is black metal and I fail to see why a band who owe more to Eyehategod or even a violent Crowbar are being compared to Gorgoroth? Quite honestly it just beggars belief. That said this isn’t particularly bad even if we have heard it a million time before. It packs a certain punch and the band seem more confident going down this route than attempting to do something stylistically and fitting into a scene which they clearly are not part of. It’s not long before they are throwing out some punky tumult which is fairly energetic if you want to bounce around. Then there’s some distinctly Southern styled guitar licks and music that’s just a bit too doom and stoner for comfort. Disappointingly I found the rigid, completely unchangeable vocal stance gets stale all too quick and the music formulaic in the extreme. They try something a bit different on the last 10 minute number but it strikes as a song complicated with totally unnecessary padding (some atmospheric gloom at beginning, standard sludge in middle albeit with a bit of speed and thrust and some noise at end rather than wrap things up and let it die like it really needs to).

I’m not sure who is to blame here, the band or the marketing hype. Perhaps and I have not gone and listened to the early stuff, they did resemble what we were promised at the start of their career, before 9 or so members passed through their gates but Kludde are not helping themselves when even their album art and logo are doing their best to prove they are black metal. It’s seriously a case of sheep in wolves clothing here though I’m afraid.

(5/10 Pete Woods)