Dead Ranch

Sometimes when reading reviews of more unusual, angular “sludge” records, I swear the only two bands people have heard and can use as points of reference are Baroness and Mastodon (High on Fire a close but distant third).  Hey, call a spade a spade if that’s what you hear but sometimes I feel that writers these days go for the easy money shot nod and then go off n’ quickly wipe up.

Done deal…  This brings me to Brumination; the 2nd long-player from psychotic Winnipeg riff merchants Dead Ranch.  I think the first four reviews that I brought up simply said this sounds like Mastodon/Baroness and that’s about that.  Yeah, there’s plenty of sludgy thickness happening throughout, the drumming is all over the fuckin’ place, the tempo changes are jarring as fuck and there’s a certain degree of groove but this is way more Am-Rep, frenetic punk/hardcore, Craw, Breadwinner, Keelhaul, Cursed, Shallow North Dakota, HAG, Uphill Battle, certain qualities of the last trio of 16 records and Dazzling Killmen influenced to me than just another modern not really sludge band being labelled “Mastodon and Baroness informed sludge!”  For the record I’m a Mastodon fan up to Blood Mountain and I dig Baroness too (especially live), so there you go…I’m just not hearing it in abundance on Brumination.

“An Awkward Moan” sleazes in with an atonal, searing noise-rock riff splintered and splattered by piercing minor keys that are suddenly jackhammered into place thanks to some godless cymbal crashes and deeply pulsating bass groove.  Ryley Devine whips up a crescendo in a stick-breaking onslaught of crusty snare surgery and away Dead Ranch goes into stop/start noise-spires.  Pummeling, caged sloth d-beat style drumming furthers the crust undertones (even if it’s a bit more mid-tempo than strict crust punk bands) as do the bone-dry, punk-addled screams.  Dual guitarists Chad Alsop and Andre Cornejo catapult themselves outside of the boundaries of the song-structure in flurries of jagged sludgy grooves, squalls of feedback shriek, galloping thrash riffs, drive by shooting noise-rock runs and killer melodic interplay channeled via harmonized mayhem.  Sounds like Remission on paper, huh?  But when you get down to the nitty gritty this stuff is more all over the place, less concerned with smooth precision, dirtier to the core and downright unafraid of unleashing ear-bleeding walls upon walls of frenetic, padded room anxiety (check the scuzzy, Killmen inspired lunacy from 3:56 till the endnote).

That jagged intro riff kicking off “Blood Staff” is voraciously craggy n’ crunchy ala Craw’s last two monumental statements (Map, Monitor, Surge and Bodies for Strontium 90).  Hell, once the fluid, nimbly plucked bass lines undercut the full speed ahead Voivod-ian prog/metal riffing I could have sworn Dead Ranch listened to “Caught my Tell” on repeat the entire week before laying this cut down.  Pace-wise we’re talking pure punk rock with ruthless metallic riffing spoonfed on sludge and plenty of brake-slamming, high-end noise guitar wheel jerks.  Vocally, ¾ members contribute on most of the tracks and here we’ve got a smattering of decipherable gang shouts congealing atop effervescent riff/tempo changes.  Chugging staccato and wildly unpredictable syncopation could help the current incarnation of Helmet figure out where they lost the point and Devine isn’t afraid to keep a straight punk beat going or fragment off into some of the most hard-hitting, insane rolls/fills known to man.  Deeper, slightly death metal burnt vocal growls enter the mix much later as the riffing doubles the speed limit of traditional sludge with sweltering heatstroke noise embracing the caustic atmosphere of Today is the Day, Unsane, Taint’s The Ruin of Roma Nova and Hammerhead.  “Tarred and Feathered” is piss n’ vinegar crust punk with a lecherous Motörhead-bent aimed at the dark underbelly of rock n’ roll.  It’s more than a hair reminiscent of Dead Ranch’s slice n’ dice countrymen Cursed until Alana Mercer drops a bottomless bass depth-charge molded after Dave Curran’s ruthless grime with a semi-melodic yet no less scathing guitar lead nodding to Chris Spencer.  When the 2nd guitar enters the mix on this segment, the resulting balance of melody and insanity is a snapshot of pure, crystalline perfection.  Lung-scraped vocals are a sickening, pavement dragging scream and just when you think you’ve got the song figured out it goes fuckin’ bonkers from complex acerbic NYC skronk fuck to lumbering, bass-anchored drum n’ bass sludge that allows the guitars to run roughshod over everything…all the way to a climactic cacophony that’s about as final as climaxes get (sorry, move over Tool).

Warped, oscillating guitar FX and a twangy countrified ending lend “Garrulous” a spaghetti-western feel that bookends a wind-whipped, metal-centric, noise-rock freakfuckout.  Sludgy, nail-biting nervousness could use a few handfuls of Ritalin and Adderall with bludgeoning heavy rock density smashed to smithereens by manic snare abuse, punk rock riff snarl, roaring mid-range vocal vomit and occasional Northern darkness in the form of icy blasts of atonal chord-patterning that cuts its way across a storm of psychosis.  Melody turns to thrash, thrash turns to sludge, sludge turns to noise-rock and noise-rock turns to unrelenting metal gravitas that’ll kick your testicles (or vagina) out your asshole.  The mighty KEN Mode’s Jesse Mathewson adds his patented spoken/shouted/screamed ranting to the crust/grind/d-beat dementia of “False Negative.”  This is easily the most unhinged composition on Brumination.  There’s a catchiness, groove and immaculate arrangement to every movement here but it’s played so fuckin’ fast and fuckin’ enraged there’s not a goddamn thing I can do to accurately describe it.

“The Skinning” treads a similar path though it slows down often enough for some mouth-watering lead melodies, ringing black metal chord pinches and dirty punk/sludge grooves.  Closer “Maple Ape” is really the only place I can detect a noticeable Mastodon/Baroness influence.  Those twin axe licks mess with some of the fleet-footed, dancing harmonics of “Ol’ Nessie” or something like that, although the vocals are sharper and more pissed off, the time changes are even more explosive and the dastardly, up-tempo sludge riffs are more Black Flag influenced than Mastodon’s outright Thin Lizzy gone to hell worship.  At the 2 minute mark a dive-bombing, battleship sinking doom riff completely obliterates the entire universe, reckoning of the days when Floor were all sonic drops and less pop (though my fanship rests in both eras pretty equally).  Winding solos work their way up and down the riffs as Ryley tears his kit apart with manic fills.  A free-form noise workout also allows for a stream of conscious spoken/shouted element that only plants the band’s roots deeper into the Am-Rep soil.

Brumination is a damn fine slice of sonic debauchery that (to my ears, anyway) yields way more intricacies than standard Mastodon/Baroness/High on Fire cloning technology.  This is an angry fuckin’ noise/punk/hardcore record that just so happens to incorporate a shitload of metal extremities as well.  If you’ve dug recent releases that I’ve reviewed by Into the Storm, HAG, Hombre Malo, etc., then you should certainly have a place in your heart for Dead Ranch.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
June 21st, 2017


  1. Commented by: Grindymcgrinder

    Never heard of baroness until today and were surprised they’re on relapse.they suck.this band however is not too bad at all.

  2. Commented by: M Budziszewski

    This is interesting because my bandmate just discovered them about 2 weeks ago and introduced me. He was pretty hyped and bought all their shit on bandcamp. Unfortunately the guitar died within the last week and per the address by the band he was the driving force and handled all of the administration. Bummertown

  3. Commented by: Jay

    Kick ass Grindy brother (what’s your name so I’m not always broing and yoing)!

    I like Dead Ranch’s songwriting style a lot. It’s just a good, pissed off album with a lot of stop n’ go change-ups. Not sure why they are getting some of the comparisons that I’ve seen popping up. They’ve got way more piss n’ vinegar than some similar stuff. The more I listen to it, I’m feeling some His Hero is Gone too and American Heritage.

    Almost done with a review of that Nostrum album. That’s some fuckin’ killer shit. There’s melody going down for sure but their tones are goddamn punishing. Love it!

  4. Commented by: Jay

    Whoa, the guitar player died? That’s fuckin’ awful news.

  5. Commented by: Jay

    By the way, in the first paragraph I was NOT talking about anyone at TOTD. We got class over here. He he.

  6. Commented by: Jay

    Was reading about their guitarist last week. That whole thing is some horrible news. Damn shame, I really like the writing on this. Wish these guys well for whatever they choose to do in the future.

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