Featuring Michael Gilpatrick on bass and Chadd Beverlin on drums (both of Ohio solar sludge titans Mockingbird), Enhailer’s debut LP Grisaille is a bad trip through the bad lands full of psychedelic tonalities, dry heaving riffs and shattering rhythmic shifts that break Tectonic plates like teeth. To keep my own personal record straight, Mockingbird didn’t quite hit me on record until I got out and caught the live show (which was fantastic), then I went back and that vinyl LP made a lot more sense. This is feeling more immediate right from the get go and is a great companion for spacing out with music as a focal point or hanging one particular record on a night of altered states.
Opener “Psalms for the Downtrodden” is drenched in reverb, delay and gross metric tonnage. Ghostly cymbal taps, tidal swells of low-end and Mike Lorenzen’s alternating clean jangles/distorted dive bombs give this tune the kinda weight that tramples mortal men beneath cloven hooves. As the intro is carried away to sea, an oceanic storm of crushing toms and throbbing doom riffs wash to the forefront. This is THE Ohio sludge sound just done up with more melody and layered intricacies than usual. It’s got the forward thinking, beyond the horizon sludge trudge of bands like Deadbird, Shitfire, Rwake and the fellas’ own Mockingbird cross-pollinated mid-period Neurosis, Isis circa Oceanic, Pink Floyd and Husky/Watch Husky Burn.
The title track is a freakfuck ride of Eastern modes interpreted via acoustic guitars and psychedelic leads that are swallowed by a sinkhole of growly Entwhistle-leaned bass clarity and Beverlin’s acerbic and violent battery. I’m really appreciating the crisp cleanliness of the instrumentation and how it’s dabbed in a sea of blood red ink for an eerie, foreboding assault constantly building upon each previous measure. Massive, regal Sabbath riffs punctuate much of the tune’s second half as Chadd lays into his snare with fill after fill for an ending charge that shows no mercy in terms of delivering a true climax. Chugging, thrash-y riffs split open some gnarly power chords during “Templars Calling” and lets all of the goo drip out upon the rhythm section’s staccato lurches and lunges. This piece has more precision cuts n’ sinewy stops n’ starts than a butcher’s hand. It rampages its way across the plague stricken lands of old school psychedelic rock with a doom-y hardcore wrath that turns cattle to bones and crops to dust. The second half highlights Enhailer’s agility in the form of some molten hardcore sludge riffing that’s hobbled and swinging like a combination of Fistula and 16. Blink n’ you’ll miss ‘em death metal vocals are one of the few verbal accoutrements on the entire record and are so secretly threaded into the mix that you might easily mistake them for a weird instrumental effect. Iron-handed doom riffs close this beast out in more dire straits than a hooded walk to the gallows.
“Hallowtide” is an awesome title for a song and it’s up next. A warped, hallucinatory ride of progressive wayfaring where vibrant, melodic guitar licks are given a suffocating wraparound by Gilpatrick’s bass as Enhailer continues to work on a framework of deliberately gradual build-ups where intensity is constantly ratcheted up by the second. Melodies dissipate into cavernous sludge riffs which are open enough for some uplifting aeration because of trippy minor key bends and breaks. It’s the perfect mixture of prog rock’s grandeur with doom/sludge’s hard as nails heft. Clicking rimshots, endlessly cycling bass pulsations and a hypnotic guitar dirge lends “Beaten Path” an off-kilter syncopation where repetition is the band’s best friend; allowing the listener to get eaten alive by the groove. Lorenzen’s guitar leads again conjure the imagery of Far East mysticism and the incorporation of strings/synth fx lure the listener into a subtle calm only to be smashed to pieces against a craggy rockslide of hard ass, hogslop riffs.
Closer “Darkness and Dust” opens with an ominous sample to weird you out (“You suck ass long enough pretty soon you start choking on shit?” Ha ha, nice!), and soon the trio launches into the record’s heaviest riff procession with an overload of textbook Ohio sludgecore downturns. Melancholic lead guitar is full of dusty Americana that gloriously juxtaposes the night black riffage alongside the return of vomiting, sleaze-ridden vocal carnage. 3:18 hails the entrance of a King Kong killin’ Sab/Cathedral/Cavity groove capable of crushing entire solar systems in its bare hands. It’s the stuff of legend and a fuckin’ monstrous finale to the album.
I’m looking forward to catching Enhailer live because these guys are behemoths onstage. Grisaille is some super heady, freaky stuff with a great song arc that practically commands listening to the album from start to finish. It’s available as a limited CD edition that I need to grab up as soon as I can and can also be had digitally. Sludge/doom fans with an affinity for the instrumental as well as music both filthy and gorgeous should find a lot to love about Enhailer’s flagship offering.[Visit the band's website]