Razorcake Press

One Punk’s Guide to Sludge Metal

$2.00

Razorcake Press

One Punk’s Guide to Sludge Metal

$2.00
  • Description

SLUDGE MANIFESTO

One of the really lovely things about discovering sludge bands like Crowbar, Neurosis, and Iron Monkey as a teen in the ’90s was they were unhealthy, scruffy, and unglamorous, like myself. These bands’ onstage demeanor also appealed to me. The slow music lent itself to a downbeat presentation—not many sludge musicians jumping off PAs. Also, no tight vests, leather trousers, or bullet belts; a general lack of the flamboyance and grandstanding you find in thrash and macho hardcore. As a salty, self-deprecating type, I didn’t miss the gang shouts, skanking, or the windmills at all. I did once see Kirk Windstein of Crowbar, swinging his mic round by the lead like a despondent Roger Daltry while his guitar was being fixed mid-gig, but this was a special (and boozy) occasion. The devil makes work for idle hands. To borrow another phrase from the Catholic church: a gig should be a hospital, not a museum. It’s not like a museum where perfectly crafted artworks go to be displayed; it’s a place people with flaws can go to feel better.

For anyone who doesn’t know what sludge is, it’s a metal subgenre based around playing slowly. Sludge is an onomatopoeia for the sound of very distorted, down-tuned guitars. The term has become somewhat interchangeable with the more commonly used doom metal. But, for me, sludge implies something grittier and less retro. The incessant wall of bassy power chords that Black Sabbath brought to the table in the ’70s is the aspect that holds together the doom and sludge genres. Sabbath had some good lyrics as well, burning blim holes in the backdrop of the Vietnam war and the hippy movement.

The current sprawl of Sabbath-worshipping bands tend to rely on Hammer horror film vibes and a lot of stuff about witches and wizards. When I’m trawling the internet looking for new stuff to listen to, I have a policy of skipping anything with “witch” in the title. I’m more interested in the down-to-earth-ness of sludge as opposed to weed-wizard-word-salad. At the chirpiest end of the doom spectrum, the amp settings are pretty much the same as sludge, but the “lyrics” and “attitude” knobs are turned right down. Stoner rock/stoner metal is basically a happy genre. There is no call to action, no worries about human decline, but a relaxing retreat to the riff-filled land. Even the smear of illegality is all but gone. Sludge bands use distortion pedals. Distortion means harsh, industrial, destructive. Stoner bands use fuzz pedals, which means warm and cuddly.

Originally appeared in Razorcake 120, Feb./March 2021.

Author: Angus Wonder Of It All
Publisher: Razorcake Press
Page Count: 24pp
Size: 5.5 x 8.5
Notes: saddle-stitched, b/w
Date of Publication: 2023