Hombre Malo
Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath

The cover art attracted me to this album; a man hung from his neck holding a harp while vultures anxiously await a go at his bones.  Pretty cool shit.  Sometimes you can get burnt going in on the cover art theory alone, but that’s not the case here.  Hombre Malo is a quartet of bad dudes from Oslo, Norway, who have several releases under their belt.  Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath (say it three times really fast while juggling), is my introduction and it sure doesn’t play by any rules.

The 90s Am-Rep sound is in full swing but a sense of rock n’ roll groove manifests itself in the form of that scumbag riff fuzz straight from Man’s Ruin Records and the Cali stoner scene.  There’s hardcore punk/thrash speed bursts, watery psychedelic FX culled from Satan’s pedal board and a whole truckload of big Sabbath slug riffs.  They manage to manage to fuck with a well-worn blueprint, and build a few extra rooms on the house.

Opener, “L’étranger” is a real mess, but a good one; bass lines right out of a dumpster in a NYC alley, a killer 70s riff that kicks things off but doesn’t bother staying the same for very long, pissed-off raging mad vocals screamed through 50 feet of sandpaper and a drummer who can handle everything from taut fills to hard rock pounding to crazed polyrhythmic structuring.  It’s very hard to call out all of the time changes and riff permutations going on; there’s definitely some math-rock calculus happening, but the groove is more palatable than say Dazzling Killmen.  I’m not sure of contemporaries honestly…maybe, just maybe Today is the Day’s Willpower mixed with Sabbath, Kyuss, His Hero is Gone, Hammerhead, Systral, Fistula, Cavity and High on Fire?  Don’t forget the partridge and the pear tree.  And that’s just this song…  The production by Ruben Willem is detailed in its density with a big hat tip to both Boris’ guitar and Tom’s low-end.  Joakim’s kit is mountainous sounding without overtaking the other instruments, and vocalist Muerto’s acerbic caterwaul is front n’ center and complimented with some light phasing effects and a natural sincerity to his voice while he also works in a few brief spoken/sung passages.

The song ends with a sample of militantly motivated feet that appropriately seep into, “Crosses and Marching Feet.”  Groove is bartered on the black market for grind, punk and hardcore tendencies apparent in the murderous blast beats, gang vocals, vicious d-beat riffs and old school punk breakdowns where the guitar and bass keep the rhythm sedated enough for schizophrenic noise-guitar lacerations to really split you into a couple of different personalities.  Fred, meet Joe, Joe, Fred.  Over driven tones from amps so in the red they might start bleeding highlight the monstrous hate-sludge riffs of, “Golden Calf,” which also possesses more stops n’ starts than a Monday morning, parkway traffic stall that’s highlighted with the added fireworks of a Sunoco tanker blowing up in the lane next to you.  Warbling, double-tracked clean vocals occasionally called to mind the hallowed Reverend Steven Austin from TITD (“Golden Calf” is also a TITD tune), though despite certain similarities the temple cleansing sludge lumber, nose in the dirt mid-tempo punk shuffle at 1:35 and overall more Sabbath ready sensibilities swish this around for some different flavors…but liking Austin and co. will get you in the mood for this type of heathen prayer.  Strangulated lead guitar is scathed in the key of Chris Spencer, and the ending sample is a fuckin’ slice of genius augmented by feedback that I won’t ruin for you.

Easily best in show, “Vladislav” allows a bruising, brazen riff informed by equal parts Maryland doom and Eyehategod/Cavity/Bongzilla to dig for soul dirt amidst an angry swarm of lava lamp FX heavy on echo, delay, phase, wah and reverb.  Tom’s bass is thicker, and more clogged up than a set of constipated bowels; a chunking, Geezer Butler lard carver perfectly complimented with plods of gravity centric percussion which is tried n’ true, damned n’ loaded southern sludge all the way.  Everything is driven in like rivets into girders with the riffs having all the essential changes, force and hook-y bright spots right where you need ‘em most.  Not until after the 5 minute mark does the tempo kick into a frenzy, the twang-y Camaro chordage of Josh Homme pile-driven into the rampant, bloated beatings of His Hero is Gone or some other doom-y crust lot.  Vocally, Muerto is shouting one second, screaming bloody murder the next and blowing out a lung with death-y vomit when you think he wouldn’t dare.  “Reaching the Shore” is spastic n’ punk rockin’ with minor key riff weirdness cropping up in bursts but it can’t seem to avoid hitting up the IV for liberal sludge injections which takes the riffs to such scalding plateaus that it feels like the climax happens several times mid-song before a garbage dump bass solo spruced with psychedelic guitar accents chills the mood before the movement goes into an oil slick of 4/4 ultra-doom which barely disguises the freak-out, circle pit mosh about to ensue.

“Elena” puts a slight blemish on the pacing, taking a little too long on its drone setup and self-indulgent Mastodon twinkling.  The overall result is a lot heavier than the mammoth boys, but lacks in memorable riffs with a lot of volume substituting for interesting arrangements, and the gutter hooks the prior songs possessed are in short supply.  It eventually settles into a Bunyan sized stride, yet takes too much time to reach the summit.  The sprawling, 11+ minute closer, “Deathbed Conversion” rights this wrong employing post-rock, crust-covered melodies with the girthy riffs of doom erupting like Vesuvius in July, the flesh removing magma offset and kept buoyant in a volley of cleanly plucked, distortion free bass lines.  An expansive midsection pumped full of more meditative psychedelic drugs than my college years really delivers the desired dosage, even teasing at a bad trip as instigated by the croaking vocals, melting guitar ambiance and wandering brown notes.  Joakim keeps the pounding toms introspective, yet forewarning of the impending, end of the world sludge apocalypse.

I apologize if this review is a tad on the disjointed, I did too many drugs side of the hesher journalism spectrum.  Persistent Murmur of Words of Wrath doesn’t lend itself to concrete analysis, and that’s one of the many appeals to be found within its nightmarish breathing walls.  Though what could have ended up an off-putting shovel load of horse manure turns into a testament to psychotically experimental rock/extreme metal with the kind of riffs I could let play for hours on end.  Aside from a singular throwaway track, there’s plenty to come back to on this one, and hopefully I’ll get some time to explore the remainder of Hombre Malo’s back catalog in the near future.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
December 18th, 2014


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