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It's a popular pastime among music writers to complain about the number of quality releases that they're obligated to sift through every week. Personally, I'd prefer to deal with an excess of awesome new music flying at my head all the time over most work-related problems, but it remains a problem nonetheless. Even if you listen to new music for every hour of every day, there are hard temporal limits on how much you can ingest, and fuzzier cognitive limits on how much you can process well enough to discuss cogently.

I bring this tired conversation up because it explains why we have such incredibly finicky taste. If you sample five-plus promos every day for years, you will develop incredibly specific heuristics for determining which are worth your time and which deserve the delete button. I cannot emphasize enough how incredibly arbitrary these qualifications can get. Here's an example:

This Servants of the Mist EP caught my attention almost exclusively because of their vocals. They play sludge — a style that I like but that has produced diminishing returns for me over the years. If vocalist Richard Smyth had delivered his lyrics in the dull bellow common to the niche, I probably would've bailed on Suicide Sex Pact before its first spin finished. Instead, Smyth's voice crackles with grainy delay and distortion; on the opener "Absence", he rasps and grumbles like Wrest on Massive Conspiracy Against All Life. This tactic is on the implicit list of musical traits that instantly catches my attention, so I started listening closely. Like I said: arbitrary. (His vox do totally rule, though.)

Good thing I did, because the material on Suicide Sex Pact requires some patience. This band is from Tampa, but the music they play is not "Southern sludge"; there are few blues notes and fewer good-times vibes. This stuff has more in common both spiritually and harmonically with the bottom-feeding negativity of bands like Coffinworm and Lord Mantis, though Servants of the Mist ditch the dense death/black metal rhythms in favor of endless slow-motion chugs. The riffs feel a little directionless at first, but if you emotionally sink down to their level, they start to make sense. Smyth's vocals catch the ear; the chewy tones and hard-fought grooves carry the weight.

The word "ignorant" keeps popping into my head when I listen to Suicide Sex Pact, but not in the gleefully-ignorant sense associated with bands like Xibalba or Emmure. Servants of the Mist convey ignorant bitterness instead. I can imagine a brain injury victim who's just cognizant enough to resent his loss of functionality feeling this way. Spot-on sounds for cold weather and dark skies.

Suicide Sex Pact comes out on December 10; it will be available for pay-what-you-want download via Servants of the Mist's Bandcamp.

— Doug Moore

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