Vol. 1 EP

Seeking to take the classic sludge sound into busier, high traffic avenues, Arizonians Gale spare no expense and leave no boulder uncrushed in their mission to plow eardrums under six feet of sediment in the name of their mission.  They’re atmospherically heavy like before Neurosis went all soft on us, heavy and ugly like an orgy between Rwake, Buzzove*n and Dead Bird and I daresay they have some of the complexities Yob and Today is the Day in their bag of tricks as well.  Every song is a litmus test of the listener’s pain threshold to see exactly how much damage the ears can take before the band drops down and graces you with a melody that offers respite from the biting winter cold.

“To be Free” kicks off with quiet, ascendant chords obviously transcendentally setting the scene for the torture session to come.  Every strum of the guitar sounds more harried and Helter Skelter than the last, until feedback signifies the entrance of drummer Marcus’ wall of fill-intensive beats that relish a combat-ready, tribal drum flair exploding into crashing fills of snare/tom surgery.  When the dual guitar dissonance lifts just enough for one to catch a breath, the doubled-up doom riffs of Brandon and Wilson either go on a full on battle rampage stomp to see how many skulls they can collect before sinking into melodic doom riffing with surprisingly strong clean vocals engaged in a life or death duel with the eviscerated screams.  Forget about Mastodon…this is the real deal here…it’s got the melody, the tectonic riffs and acidic scald to make sure you won’t forget a damn thing after the torture is over.

Introducing itself with depth-charging bass plunges from Nick, it isn’t long before “The Counseled” takes to the sky on wounded wings with riff after mountain scaling riff of head-nodding sludge/doom played a great deal faster than most doom dealers are willing to take a chance on.  As each player joins in on the vocals, there is a Phil Spector like wall of screaming built from the very get go and tangible grooves often dissipate into menacing phantoms of house haunting noise guitar.  This song eventually settles into one of the biggest, balliest Sabbath grooves on the album; a real half-speed hallucination fest topped off to perfection thanks to eerie guitar leads that seem like their sole purpose is to lose the psyche in the pits of Hell itself.  Just when you think the song is over in a cum-bath of squealing feedback, Gale launches into one of the doomiest, skullduggin’ thrash riffs you’ll hear on the entire EP.

Blackened, Norwegian atmosphere creeps into the American Midwest on the opening, atonal peel n’ scrape chords of “To Build a Fire.”  It’s that haunting heathen worship that the underrated Slave Traitor often toyed with.  The build-up here is a lengthy one; the bubbling, acid-blasted tom drums creating a melody to follow underneath the formless, Northern Lights’ born guitar noise until midway through Gale unleashes a riff that could swallow centuries in a single gulp.  They continue to flirt with the acerbic, frost-bitten darkness but launch the guitar work like SCUD missiles one last time into that unholy doom groove that was teased at earlier.  For an instrumental it sure knows how to keep the attention span on high throughout.

Opening up with a soft, urgent strum “Unsung” plays it clean and melodic for several measures, allowing mood to take precedence over immediate heaviness.  This ideal does not last long as the band sees fit to nuke it to pieces with a wall of screechy, scream-y dual guitar work that begins as post-rock bliss, yet shows its true face in the mirror thanks to a doom riff so decisive it’ll cut your throat with a rusty barbed-wire fence.  They keep their passages moving from pseudo-black metal melody to forceful, knife-at-the-throat catchy doom grooves which gravitate far above traditional Sabbath flair.  Marcus even reaches a point of blast beat fury, paving the way for the song to go back into its descending, decimating downward pointed melody that thankfully brings that noxious groove back to the forefront one last time.

Closer “Burn your Person” sacrifices none of the complexity heard on the rest of the EP as it careens like a comet into the Atlantic with one fallen star, thunder blasted doom riff after another.  Don’t think Gale will make your time an easy one, because they blast, toy with anti-melody and just general “fuck you’s” throughout, but there is a coherent return to riff-y sludge throughout this track with some exceptionally drugged-out, melancholic lead work incorporated in all of the right places.

Although I made some comparisons to Gale’s sound earlier in this review, the more I play this record, the more I find it hard to pin this quartet down to any one particular sound.  They are fuckin’ sludgy as a landfill, make no mistake about it but there are an unheralded amount of influences at work here, giving Gale a sound that I can’t directly liken to anyone else.  If you are looking for original sludge/doom in 2015, your prayers have been answered!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
November 16th, 2015


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