In which we sift the sands of Bandcamp for nuggets of dark gold.

— Aaron Maltz

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It’s difficult to carve a unique identity in the somewhat homogenous world of sludge but France’s Mudbath have achieved just that with their 3-song EP, Red Desert Orgy. There are the familiar nods to the heralded triumvirate of the genre (Sleep, Eyehategod, and Neurosis) but Mudbath expands upon those influences with elements of blues-rock, heard particularly during the guitar solos, and a dose of heavy grunge. Incorporating those palette expanders, coupled with the group’s fantastic use of harmony, gives their compositions a compelling richness that speaks to the listener’s musical intellect. They’re able to avoid the trappings of redundancy from which many sludge and stoner acts suffer with thoughtful and distinguishing note choices. Vocalist Felix also projects quite the curdling scream. For fans of the slow, hard and heavy.

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Between the barreling assault of Big Business and the eastern sensibilities of Secret Chiefs 3, between the clandestine sounds of obscure' 60s psych rock and the overwhelming tonality of Lightning Bolt, lies the unmistakable marker of Russian noise-rockers uSSSy. For those unfamiliar with the group’s discography, brace for a rattling truckload of LOUD to a sometimes inaudible yet satisfying degree. While still undeniably piercing, Karpet Birch, the band’s sixth release in three years, finds the experimental rockers easing on the volume and incorporating more Indian and Middle Eastern rhythms into their fold, best heard during “A Jarai Melancholic Love Song”. Naturally, that leveling is balanced by some absolute mammoths, such as closer “Sacral War,” and “Ai leili leili leleh,” a track best described as Middle Eastern black metal. An absolute blessing for fans of the loud and experimental.

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Before listening to Enemies, I was prepared to write the Finnish group off as yet another D-beat clone based upon their search engine tags. Thankfully, I listened properly to Framing Choices to Silence Our Voices and was instead blown away by their sophisticated songwriting and fresh interpretation of the metallic hardcore genre. It’s perhaps easy to cite the Converge influence, or even the best of Darkest Hour’s thrashy hardcore, but there’s also a heavy influence from Swedish experimental hardcore act Breach, particularly during slow rocker “Set Back”, that adds tremendous depth to their music. Additionally, Enemies play with some severe and impressive death metal riffing during “Hate Speech”, authentically pummeling grind during “Victim” and avant garde chord structures used on the title track, before concluding on the assaulting finale, “In Ruins”. Highly recommended.

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With influences ranging from the Dillinger Escape Plan, King Crimson, Mike Patton, and Miles Davis, you’d be right to peg DaCast as pursuers of the unusual and abstract. With all those sounds compressed into one album, the resulting Dédale ambitiously embraces both heavy and progressive music, concluding in what is essentially a grindcore jam album. While that sounds somewhat unpleasant on paper, the French group succeeds in presenting a non-traditional take on hardcore, filled with free-jazz interludes, an abstract yet consistent sense of structure and a slew of discordant chords reminiscent of Curl Up and Die and Daughters. Their extended jams can be a little aimless and there’s a bit of saturation from the discordant hardcore genre from which they borrow but the two connected and continuous tracks feature plenty of unique and well-played sections to compensate. Oddly compelling and very cool.

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At times reminiscent of Helms Alee, at other points Keelhaul and occasionally some weirdo noodling sections ala Guapo, Chicago via Minneapolis transplants Guzzlemug display a beautiful form of restrained chaos and Frank Zappa/Captain Beefheart influenced prog-metal on their single-track, 26-minute long EP, Nervously Counting Rosary Beads. If it wasn’t already apparent, Guzzlemug definitively fall into the experimental category but most certainly promote metallic elements. The album plays heavily with the concept of structure and weaves in and out of developed sections to string together a formidable and cohesive narrative. Those segments fluctuate from a sullen yet beautiful choir passage that could very well introduce a dark fairy tale to a slow and discordant groove that dominates the first half of the album. The narrative eventually reaches a Mastodon level of thrash that endures before culminating into a slower discordant finale. Very ambitious but definitely worth the listening effort.