Our Slow Decay (Small Stone, 2010) begins all in: full band plus vocals. The lack of introductory niceties is bold. Even bolder are the vocals - sung, forward, melodic. What American sludge metal has worked towards for the past decade has crested and broken.

"There Is Nothing"

Singing is just part of it. The whole picture is that American bands have learned that tuning down and playing slow need not be an abject endeavor. I used to think that Eyehategod were the be-all and end-all of sludge metal. And they still are, if sludge means (a) channeling Black Flag, Black Sabbath, and Melvins; and (b) being miserable. But so many bands have chipped away at this definition that it's now incomplete. Their names are familiar: Mastodon, Kylesa, Baroness, Torche, Isis. They've taken once-miserable (in a good way) music, and added colors and textures so that it's no longer miserable.

This is not to say that sludge is now happy-land. Kylesa's Static Tensions, for example, is musically bright but lyrically dark. Our Slow Decay quivers with mortality; it states that not only is there "no happily ever after", "Death is the only moment we are fated for". But it's far removed from Eyehategod, who often sound like they're either diving into coffins or clawing their way out of them. Black Sleep of Kali have their feet on the ground. They're just men making their way in this world.

"The Great Destroyer"

They're also self-aware men. Our Slow Decay lacks the exploratory quality of Isis' and Kylesa's careers, which have occurred via incremental change. This record is crisp, catchy, and so neatly wrapped, it's paced for vinyl, four songs to a side. I'd guess that these guys listened to Kylesa and Torche records, learned their lessons, and thus avoided whatever growing pains those bands underwent.

Which is fine. Too many bands put out too many releases now; it's refreshing to hear a band whose songwriting skills match its business acumen. Black Sleep of Kali know what they're doing. They're taking sludge metal into the next decade. Our Slow Decay is a smart summation of where it's at now.

— Cosmo Lee

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