Dirge
Ah Puch

I’m hearing tons of sick underground music from India lately which is often brought to my attention from the fellas at Qabar PR (cheers Hassan and Zoheb) as well the madman Kunal from Transcending Obscurity’s main HQ.  All I can say is keep ‘em coming guys because I’m getting turned onto a metric fuckton of great heavy music.  On the table tonight is the debut from soul-sawing sludge carpenters, Dirge.  Pissed beyond pissed, reminding me of a lethal dose of Fleshpress, Grief, Dystopia, Graves at Sea, Cavity, Bongzilla and Goatsblood, Dirge is obsessed with psychedelic and overdriven instrumentation, distortion so enraged it sounds like a country-sized bee swarm and riff after riff of decimation domination.  They aren’t limited specifically to Sabbath, so there are some varying tempos and structures to be discovered throughout Ah Puch’s 6 lecherous tracks.  You can tell these lunatics probably have an affinity for 80s thrash, hardcore punk, classical music and NWOBHM stand setters such as Judas Priest and Iron Maiden.     

“Invoking the Demigod” is a rancid 10+ minute lead-off that summons some wispy, gallows bound atmosphere in the form of humming amps, flame-scorched drones and soundtrack-weened textures that soak up an S & M dungeon floor with a sponge.  The double-guitar terror puts these guys in the red from the get-go; dueling axemen Varun Patil and Ashish Dharkar erecting a vague groove into a temple of Grief-stricken sickness.  Vineet Nair’s drum strikes come from way, way back as he unleashes frustration beyond his years upon the toms that creates a lusty interplay with Harshad Bagwat’s Lyme-infected bass plods.  Everything is the sound of a Cronenberg flesh terror film set to the violently abscessed, tooth spittin’ of sludge played as it should be.  Tabish Khidir’s screams are hostile to say the fuckin’ least and he’s joined by two of the members providing backing shouts and screams.  The song tries to pick up and run into some shambling hardcore surges propelled by a sternum-shattering kick drum and neck-snapping snare fills but the tune’s prosthetic leg comes off and the boys double back into a filthy doom life/death struggle.  For being a 10 minute opener the band switches things up a decent amount, adding some molasses mired guitar harmonies and even a couple overly engorged thrash riffs towards the track’s labyrinth lost ending charge. 

I hope “Montezuma’s Revenge” was named for severe stomach illness.  My grandfolks passed on that howler at a young age and it’s a great sludge song title.  An acrobatic, polyrhythmic shuffle beat comprised of steady double-bass and caustic snares give the song a sprint runner with a smoker’s lung onslaught that is juxtaposed nicely by chunking, palm-muted sludgy thrash riffs that sound as if Slayer got a snoot full from dad’s liquor cabinet.  Mystic doom grooves enter the fray and thanks to the dual guitars the end result sounds like Crowbar wandering the Sahara in search of an oasis that doesn’t exist.  The classic reverse-time tempo setting by the rhythm section is pure sludge through and through while the vocals never waver from their sneering conviction.  I hate coming off as cheesy but you can really feel the Eastern influence in this.  Even when the band is launching grooves like a submarine torpedoing the shit out of a battleship’s hull, there’s a distinctly different feel here that gives Dirge a unique identity when stacked up against a crowded pack of peers.  This classiness even seeps out of the extensive lead and solo bits as they sound distinctly different from say American or UK based sludge lords. “Swamp of Blood” embellishes its title with NOLA-fried Eyehategod carnage pumping its veins to the popping point on a fatal mixture of downers and anabolic steroids.  This is the most blatantly blues-bloodied jam on the record as it devilishly repeats its main riffs.  Slobbering screams narrate this septic sermon; the whole affair greased in grime via barrel-chested bass grooves applying tectonic pressure while the drumming throws in some tricky fill/roll flashes that keep things busy even when the music is at its most belligerently dogged.  The grooves change-up just when you need it most and beyond the 5 minute marker washes of feedback-addled, heavily treated guitars emit signals from the deepest cavern that wind around in a Blood Farmers’ 70s psychedelic, FX-pedal saturated fashion     

“The Dilemma” is a melancholic mood break of acoustic guitars that conjures a multi-faceted instrumental respite overflowing with baroquely classical beauty.  There couldn’t be a better set-up for the malignant, rat-mouthed reproach of “La Malinche” with its hallucinatory, God dwarfing riffs, and transcendental yet brief harmony guitars (think Rwake circa Hell is a Door to the Sun when they’d hit those fucked up Maiden/Priest dashes).  The biggest slug slop guitars are turned into far more than just basic “groove” or “swing” as they construct their own private Tower of Babel to the heavens made entirely from human bones.  Back-breaking stops/starts on the drums know when to keep a beat and know when to lay into the hot stuff; stepping out of the slime pocket with reckless fills as the bass sews every unsavory piece together.  It feels as if there’s a harrowing keyboard hum lingering in the distance here and whether or not it’s another track of guitar hidden deep in the background or the genuine article it enhances the hammering combination of forked-tongue vocal screams, mesmerizing leads/solos (especially see the fireball lick at 5:50 for some real deal metal mayhem) and ironclad riffs to an entirely higher consciousness.  The album ends on an incendiary note thanks to the scurrying rush of “Corpse of Cortez.”  Most sludge bands would place a crawling monster at the end of a record but Dirge surprises with their fastest thrasher yet.  Don’t get me wrong, this song does plenty of crawlin’ but it isn’t afraid to chainsaw your ass in two with its cutting speed-ups.  A tsunami of sledgehammer thrash riffs, crusty punk attitude (especially coming out in the bass lines and vocals) and dizzying double-bass patterns kick your soul into a pit of human waste before the music twists into a writhing mass of slow decay guitars that once again harness those astral harmony licks to great effect.  Showcasing their impressive range the music sinks off into a placid pasture of clean spacious guitar-work, restrained leads that slowly rise in distortion/intensity and cautious rhythm work.  The guitars eventually reach a peak of soaring majesty hellbent on taking you to the top of the tallest mountain, then throwing you mercilessly to the ground with a death rattle ending of sheer sludgy, thrashin’ might. 

Ah Puch is a must have for diehard sludge/doom mavens and the exciting, innovative touches stitched into the music might have some appeal to extreme metal fans all over the map as well.  I came for the sludgy heaviness and got more than I bargained for but I didn’t expect my journey to have segments that reminded me of Ride the Lightning alongside some serious texture/tempo shifts in general.  I can say that if you’re a fan of this kind of stuff and can get your jollies wrapped around on the experimental side of the style, Dirge is going to be a really welcome band to add to your archives.           

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
January 30th, 2019

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