After a seething introductory EP (Vol. 1), sick and slithering Arizona sludgelords Gale called it quits in 2017 but as a favor to all devoted riff-heads they’ve decided to release their debut full-length follow up this past January (of 2019) before disappearing into the void for good.  It’s a damn nice thing of them because this fucking 6 track mountain eater of an album is too goddamn great to have been left languishing in some forgotten cavern never to see the light of day.  With its soul-stealing barrage of gargantuan guitar tones, Christ crushing drums, horrific vocal screams and an emphasis on musical forward motion, there’s plenty to like here for both dedicated and casual sludge fans alike.  Sludge fans that happen to enjoy their sleaze with a bit of trippy yet purely corrosive atmospheres mixing into the white-out blizzards of sonic precipitation should be awed by the band’s constantly subtle shifts in might and melody.

The ripping, tearing tones and over the top riffing n’ screams of kick-off jam, “Quietus” is a fully loaded blast of audio shotgun shells straight to the spinal column.  Twin guitars dish out thrash-y, slow motion death rattles on one hand and scraggly noise signatures on the other while the drumming possesses enough power to crack railroad ties in half with a flick of its pinky finger.  Bass lines thicker and heavier than Satan’s thigh bone keep the chording simple; wrapping around the nihilistic anti-grooves with a suffocating squeeze that never allows for a moment’s breath.  From start to finish the concrete thick density never lets up as Gale treats every passage like a climax, with deafening impact achieved throughout each well-measured riff and bottomless vibration.  Detuned downer sludge, with some catchier elements and blistering post-punk melodicism, oozes from the open wound abandon of “We could have been gods” and its jagged, brute force, plate tectonic movements.  Saliva drips n’ sprays from the violent higher-pitched screams and mid-range roars as the Staph-infected distortion chews and gnaws its way to a rippling, watery, surprisingly musical infection that takes a second to indulge in some clean Floyidian psychedelic meditation.  Enjoy the spaciousness because the grimy walls close in and crush your head when the sludge gavel drops for a final sentence of life in prison riffage during the song’s tense finish.

Cities fall into sinkholes on the canyon creating quake of “The Great Gorge,” perhaps my favorite track on the release.  Booming toms lead in a druggy death march of hazy, phase-y free-form chord repetitions.  Harmonized, Eastern-tinged drudges give way to capsized open melodies whose vague prettiness is a biting juxtaposition to the criminally heavy rhythmic dirges and heathen verbal abuse.  Scab tickling minor key guitar work provides some tonal differentiation from all of the low slung, bottom-leaned bludgeon with a few of the licks having this warped, 70s prog sound pouring out of their demented demeanors.  The lavish, quick-handed tom/snare fill whooshes and slappin’ cymbal sprinkles bolster the track and its doom groovin’, dual guitar interplay into the next stratosphere for a song that truly ends with a bang.   At 3:41 in length the confrontational attitude and pushy sludge eruptions of the volcanic “Of Growth & Insignificance” conjure up one of the album’s most straightforward rumblers.  The riffing never goes full on Sabbath but couples the brass-knuckle, punk sludge battery of bands like 16 and Ringwurm’s Domesticate It to the girders of the as far as the eye can see ethereal doom expansion of YOB and Deadbird.

It’s on “Kingdom Come” that Gale finally says fuck the cosmos and go off into the kind of big, blues-burnt riffs and Sabbathisms that can be identified as pure sludge/doom and nothing else.  There’s still some inventive intertwining of the crystalline twin guitars that adds progressive, spacey flair to the mostly human slaying, swine slopping power chords, vile and sometimes doubled-up vocal carnage and putrid rhythmic toxicity.  An extensive, droning solo trades in complexity for pared down melody in the song’s second half with some undistorted guitar/bass melodies adding further little tricks and offshoots to the band’s unique desert half pipe.  The rolling snare entrance and gleaming, nearly King Crimson/Rush toned guitars that entrance “Harvest” conjure a 70s thinking cap journey that’s paint-peeled into oblivion when burly, roid-pumped riffs and whale munching vocal hollers bring the heaviness and nothing but.  Trembling, paranoia-packed, blackened noise guitar interludes and gracious melodic trip-outs interject musicality and variety into the outfit’s frequent brushes with death’s finality in this tune, as the band ups the acerbic fury on their way to a lengthy instrumental/outro jamfest that head nods its way into the sun via a hypnotic riff/rhythm shakedown that rides all the way past Hell’s horizon line.

It’s a shame Gale are calling it quits with this album but they say if you’re going to go out with one last statement, make it a masterpiece.  This Self-Titled is truly a modern sludge masterpiece that manages to merge the genre’s necessary filth with more tuneful aspects while somehow avoiding the sometimes cheesy, same-y “We all sound exactly like Baroness/Mastodon” sludge/prog traits of every similar minded band since the aforementioned pair’s respective inceptions.  I actually don’t dislike either band but if you’re going to call yourself a sludge band, go for the fuckin’ gusto somewhere at least.  I’m thoroughly fucking thrilled with this record and I think fans of early Neurosis, Rwake, Deadbird, YOB, Brainoil, Samothrace, Asunder, The Iron Tongue, Shitfire and Black Hell’s Deformers of the Universe will get more than their money’s worth here.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
June 6th, 2019


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