From the late 60s carrying through into modern times, Germany, has been a hotbed for hard-edge experimental music. Be it the throttling Hammond organs and aggressive soul vocals of Birth Control’s Sabbath meets Doors styled subsonics, the snarling post-punk of Neu!, Spancer’s twin bassed sludge sprawl or Black Wasteland’s roaring thrash doom…let’s put it this way, I’m never not excited to hear new music from the land of my descendants. Up to bat for this review we’ve got the dissonant crusty metal/rock of Blacksmoker; their namesake a possible reference to underrated mates of state Systral’s rabies nipped, swansong LP. In terms of recording and production Rupture (Blacksmoker’s 2nd full-length) has a similar taste for warped tones, twitchy riffage and raggedy crust kindred to Systral’s rotten filth while the stylistic vibes are more rooted in thrash, classic 70s metal and doom with a Swedish gruffness honing the material to a thick, chugging damnation batter.
The title track lays the band’s cards on the table with the trio slamming down a winning hand of sludgy grooves, ravaged melodic leads, low-tuned riffs dabbed in death metal (mid-paced, dense as concrete and backed by insistent double-bass), double-tracked harmonized licks and phlegmy vocals that narrate the action with a decipherable shout. It’s catchy stuff while eschewing typical Sabbathisms for a sort of Wolverine Blues’ chiseled drive. Those who were into Spanish heavies Moksha’s solid mash-up of genres on Supersilver Haze should be pretty pleased with what’s happening here. “Herorizer” is erected from pillars of taut, traditional 70s riffs overdriven with thrash-y timekeeping and speedier runs crumbling into shack-shaking blues breakdowns. Some cool vocal duality comes into play as the dirty roars trade with melodic cleans as the music follows the same footsteps including touches of drippy psychedelic rock flooding the senses in delayed, echoing waves that soon rip across wastelands of infectious, molten thrash where Tobi’s quaking concussion patterns churn out sinewy pulverization full of punchy kick, cracking snare fills and pocket swing. A noisy solo furthers the Jekyll/Hyde personality of anthemic and antisocial.
“Ouroboros 68” bustles like a Roman market place, employing a Mastodon circa Remission level of busyness (actually Black Hell’s Deformers of the Universe might be a more accurate call). Murderous polyrhythms race across metal subgenres and every piece of the kit while the guitar picking goes in progg-y twists and burly death metal grumbles. Where Mastodon stripped away any speck of dirt on their castle floors with Christ’s cosmic sweeper, Blacksmoker leaves the warts on which I always appreciate. Riffs tremble in the aftershock of doom and death n’ roll though Marco’s polished lead guitar runs maintain a smooth finish. Sven’s gritty, angular bass lines reek of a NYC noise-rock alleyway where bums sift the trash of life and the entire affair comes off intricately arranged but purified in street smarts. Detuned doom riffs piped into the amps directly from Sunlight Studios are the order of the day on the haunted house creep of “Huntress.” The biting power chords dissipate into resonate, spatial minor key licks with the half shouted/half spoken vocal incantations borrowing a few ideals from the Internal Void playbook. Its droning, soundscape outro loop crosses immediately over into “Neglect” which drills another thrash-y pounding into your skull before delegating the guitar to sharp noisy sustains that glue together the twitchy Am-Rep rhythmic jabs and the metallic prophesizing. Eventually a riff-rape of downtuned penetration piles on the thrash-y death n’ roll overdrive where the mayhem is only punctuated by some deft hard rock upheaval and a stick of dynamite soloing.
Rupture’s second leg doesn’t diminish in quality; “Undefeated” making an impact thanks to a few brass knuckle-fulls of “fuck you.” That lead-in bassline is pure crust punk goodness as are the throaty gang vocals. Jackhammering double-bass vaults over a wall of gutsy thrash/crossover goodness for a fully formed attack. Heroic metal licks are interjected at random and the doom-addled hardcore break at the 2:20 mark absolutely suffocates airways thanks to well-defined tones/musicianship. It’s nice to see a sludgy band in this vein mix up the groove without following High on Fire or Mastodon note for note and thusly calling it a day. This is an easy pick for album standout. “Dark Harvest” drowns in a swampy, murky NOLA blues showcasing equal parts Crowbar, COC and Morning Star era Entombed…heavy and catchy from start to finish with big bright riffs and harmonized licks juxtaposing the brooding, gnarled by the ages rhythms. Lots of wah and slide are in tow so the darkness remains plenty upbeat.
Melding the distinct, differing tastes of the two aforementioned tracks “Pariah” is a 50/50 split of afflicted melodic thrash and hard rockin’ heavy blues. Layered demonic vocals are direct nods to both Down and Earthride. They only make one noticeable appearance which enforces homage over blatant copycatting. Without question “Ghost” is the album’s most intense cut. Quirky, quicksilver outbursts of scattershot prog-thrash capsize Moby Dick in a tempest of nautical fury that schizophrenically changes the forecast into monster 70s boogie. A clean midsection enriches the heady atmosphere only to be overturned by a piercing scream and anchor dropping doom riffs; they pack a lot into 5 minutes n’ change without sounding unfocused or unbalanced. Closer “Room 101” swaps vocals for samples (or vocals that sound like samples), teetering on a foundation of skronk-y, mid-tempo noise-rock with screaming whitewash guitars and Unsane-kissed rhythms. That nervous feel is always in the band’s songs somewhere along the line but here it jumps out of the shadows into the foreground to cut you open and put your innards on display in a storefront.
Blacksmoker hold nothing back on their sophomore album Rupture. It’s modern crossover without the cash-in and the Germans always know what they’re doing. This is just a damn fine metal album. I felt like I could pick out their influences without ever wanting to turn the record off to listen to one of their for-bearers. If you dig 70s rooted heaviness that’s not afraid to explore the farthest reaches of the map, this should be a good pick.[Visit the band's website]