Into the Storm
Where the Merfalo Roam

It’s a goddamn shame when you just lose track of a great band.  I’ve got a pretty sweet, silver-screened, fancy dancy version of Seattle’s crusty sludgers Into the Storm’s debut LP Amidst a Sea of Chaos that still gets playtime in 2016.  In the meantime, it looks like my blind eye missed at least two EPs and another full-length.  I’ll blame the moonshine I drank for about 6 months straight in 2014 for losing my vision of this band’s story-driven lyrics, squathouse speed bursts, caterwauling vocals and depth-charging, torpedoes away doom riffs.

Doomed to be compared to Mastodon for eternity, this quartet’s latest endeavor Where the Merfalo Roam is planted in the thick, forward-thinking, dirty sludge/crust of His Hero is Gone, Dead Bird, Rwake, Phantom Glue and Cursed, the diamond-cutting guitar melodies of Voivod and that overbearing, on-top of you from the get go assault of Neurosis.  No disrespect to Mastodon meant, but these guys are just dirtier and far less poppy.  The opening innards of “Truck Van Trailer” wandering in with dissonant, sludgy notes that mimic the icecap atmosphere of Everest.  It’s a Curious George build-up, leaving you unsure as to what direction the band will take but soon the destination is clear; cold, thrash-y blackened riffs are driven to avalanche by technically pulverizing fill patterns/semi blasts and phlegmy crust vocals.  A diseased black metal atmosphere aligns Into the Storm’s castle courtyard with bodies on stakes as the frenzied tempos give way to slower, minor key melodic guitar breaks that morph into drippy solos.  Shifting gears completely a broken, hardcore lurch riff yields a burly breakdown battered into place thanks to some spine-adjusting snare fills and an aromatic huff of the Am-Rep glue can (with pretty, blink n’ you’ll miss ‘em guitar licks spilling out beneath the din when you least expect ‘em).

“Ghostmaker” materializes like a magician on LSA with a shit-kicked, twang-y riff that calls to mind fields full of rusted tractors and long derelict farm equipment.  This early atmosphere mutates to pure hobbled sludge with dusky howled vocals and a decisive, funeral procession on the drums.  The bass punches through the landfill stench with an identifiable sway before melodic lead guitar adds some progressive shadings to the iron-fisted dirge riffing.  These guys plod but they know how to limber up and move ground too.  The tempos thrash their way up to a thick, mid-tempo crust that’s on the more thoughtful side of genre.  It gets heavier than a 1,000 elephants drowning in their own shit but there’s always a harmonic lick to catch the ear or a mountain snuffing percussive shift on hand to keep things interesting.  Sickened, vomit-sprayed vocals, cum on the fretboard sludge riffs and rhythms denser than fortress walls give way to a climax that makes Remission sound rather restrained by comparison.  Again, not dissing because I’m still a big fan of Remission, just trying to paint a picture for your mind to suck in like a black hole.  Distant drum tones and doom-y, sparse power chords swallowed by bass swells lend “Seduced and Disappointed” a very eerie feel from the first note.  It reminds me of that building, unrelenting sludge that Arkansas and Oregon does so well and my point is proven when godless, brain in a vat slimebucket riffs really morph this song into an ugly sludgefucker before it fades off into an endlessly falling funeral abyss.  Amen.

Eliminating atmospherics from the equation “I Gotta Get the Bees Outta my Teeth” is pure, d-beat swerve with death throe sludge collapses that are the soundtrack to people being nailed to crosses and left to bleed out for the buzzards.  Atonal, melody-intensive guitar solos give momentary respite that is eaten alive by blackened blasting and so much sludgy damnation in the riffing department that you’d need a pope and twenty preachers to save any souls here.  Bluesy, country-suckled acoustic guitars yield “Wellwisher” an altogether different aura than any of the album’s other tracks.  The chord patterns are hefty yet melodic with the screams coming across as completely desperate when taken as a counterpoint.  They raise the volume when needed with heroic, tuneful dirge riffs, caustic snare fills and an almost Thin Lizzy-esque ear for guitar melody without directly coping the legendary band’s twin axe antics.  While listening to this track, especially as the stop/start Cavity styled sludge riffing reaches a breaking point, you feel like you’re chained to an anvil…forced to drag it across an endless desert with an oasis or more likely a mirage your only reward.  For my dough, this is the album’s absolute standout.  Don’t miss it.  It’s equally vulnerable and harder than a jar of nails to the face with guitar-work that balances tasteful, infectious melodies with the broken-knuckle sludge grooves in effortless perpetual motion.

“Maturin” further pushes the avant-garde ideals with old west guitar licks (both acoustic and electric) as well as some mariachi obliqueness provided courtesy of Alexis Tahiri’s trumpet melancholy.  The interplay between the layered horns and the rising tide of taut guitar chords is a sight to behold and soon takes a swerve into freaky Coltrane fuck you jazz.  Then these sickos follow up such an oddball moment with a fatal pile-driver of hopeless, grinding sludge that’s as tough as they come.  It SHOULDN’T work but it does.  Major props to the late game segment with rifling, jazz-out drum fills and cresting guitar spires that again, shouldn’t belong but somehow do…additionally, producer/mixer/engineer Derek Moree deserves major credit because he doesn’t allow any of the bite of this shit to go by the wayside.

The remainder of the album is filled with numerous highlights; for example “Maths” begins as a hexed amalgamation of accursed sludge and filthy crust but instead of staying loud Into the Storm drops into an almost Earth-inflected sparsity that really conjures up images of long dead Dodge City…tumbleweeds and all.  They somehow manage to push pure aggression (screams, echoing sludgy riffs, soaring melodies, punishing drums) even when they slip into these moments where it sounds like they are playing 10 rooms away from the studio that they are actually in.  The minute long “Fell off a Horse” is a blinding, line blurring, blackout drunk take on thrash, grind and crust that creates the visual impact of the hobbling scene of Misery…you know, when you first see the movie as a 5 year old kid.  Slobbering n’ piss stained “Jobbernaut” utilizes an extensive, trotting guitar melody that takes a lengthy and dedicated time building the song up to its main meat locker sludge slop, then the fuckin’ thing shifts to furious black metal to make sure you die and stay dead.  The title track rounds the album off and it immediately takes shape as a choppy, cutthroat sludge with roaring vocals and granite heavy percussive slams mingling with throbbing bass lines.  They blow things wide open though with a super slow, super eerie slimy doom crawl with pained vocal howls and the beautifully dueling violins of Kim Pack and Sarah Pendleton.  Glorious ambience hangs on for quite a bit of time, until these sickos just eviscerate the beauty with evil tempo changes ranging from sludge to crust to black metal without a good goddamn given.

I loved Into the Storm way back when but Where the Merfalo Roam is a storytelling record that is on an entirely different plane than anything this band has done in the past.  They manage to nail the melodies, the ravenous heaviness and the daring experimentalism without sounding like a pretentious ball of bullshit and for that reason this album goes into my highly recommended pile.  Check it out!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
October 4th, 2016

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