With a name like The Ditch and the Delta my expectation was to hear the blues; born from Mississippi, paying homage to the great blues artists while swigging from a bottle of moonshine. That expectation was rather misguided, as the band bearing the name plays ultra-heavy sludgy doom and hails from Salt Lake City, Utah. Their 2017 debut Hives in Decline was a raw affair and, as good as that album was, this self-titled is a vast improvement in every department. The production is now crystal clear, the rough edges have been removed, the vocals are more prominent in the mix and they have a monumentally colossal sound. From the first second the listener is greeted with a huge slap in the face, like opening the front door and being met with a tidal wave of sludge.
Take ‘Maimed’, it’s a corking opening track, an absolute belter and sets the tone for a rollercoaster forty minutes. Kicking off with a wall of noise and Elliot Secrist’s ferocious scream, it contains fuzzy guitars that stutter and chug, and unpredictable staccato riffing that is impossibly catchy. The listener is bamboozled by the constant barrage of riffs and the mammoth sized bass groove that rattles bones and loosens bowels. I really didn’t want the track to end, four minutes was too short, but end it did. No matter, there is six more tracks and every one of them a cracker. ‘Exile’ features a whiff of melodic post hard-core guitars hiding beneath the surface, while the drumming from new recruit Brian Fell, as on every track, is simply awesome, at times sounding like he is playing while falling down a flight of stairs (in this instance a compliment).
The lyrics are similarly heavy, making for some melancholy reading; ‘you fed on my filth and baptized me in banal boredom’ (Maimed) being a particular jovial favourite. The band describing the content of their lyrics as ‘absolute depression and desperation with hints of lucid clarity and awe’, no doubt Mormonism’s tight grip on the local society a particular source of frustration. It is surprising then that this doesn’t feel like a depressing listen; possibly relating to the variety of music on display and the gratifying nature. There’s an element of the experimental on ‘Molt’; the timing is odd, but it’s heavy as hell and has a jazzy feel to it, bringing to mind alternative metal influences such as Helmet when they threw jazz segments into tracks on Betty. The album closes proceedings with a sense of optimism in the form of ‘Tectonic Selves’, featuring a futuristic guitar riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on a Muse record. The melody enables the track to soar, albeit briefly, before crashing and burning, melody being replaced by the more accustomed heavy groove.
This self-titled release from The Ditch and the Delta is an unexpected treat. The band takes a myriad of influences from different genres and melds them together with sludge and doom to create their sound. It has the sludge of Eyehategod at its core, but it’s progressive, pushing it beyond the limits of the genre. Every spin seems to throw up something new that the listener didn’t notice previously and all three musicians are impressive, technically at the top of their game. It’s undoubtedly a heavy album, but not just for the sake of it; it’s as heavy as bands that currently take the plaudits in extreme music like Code Orange, but tellingly it does have actual songs. The Ditch and the Delta is something of a paradox; it’s depressingly dark and heavy, yet immensely enjoyable at the same time. It confounds the senses; compelling the listener to fully immerse themselves while cranking up the volume and wallowing in the filth.
(9/10 James Jackson)