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Trudger
Dormivelgia Dean Brown , July 21st, 2014 06:58

It has been bemusing to witness the tides of support begin to turn against once-heralded saviours of modern metal like Mastodon. Where metal fans once stood mouth agape, drooling at the fret-mangling might of their early 00s albums Remission and Leviathan, the purists and the curmudgeons now flap around, foaming at the gills in a ridiculous rage because Mastodon have followed their muse beyond the bounds of underground metal. (See: the divisive response afforded to Mastodon's recently released sixth studio album, Once More 'Round The Sun).  

The same can be said of fans of Baroness' earlier music, who came out en masse confused as to why Radiohead, Built To Spill, and The Beatles were being bandied about by critics as a couple of clear influences for the band's delightfully daring 2012 double disc, Yellow & Green. But while the evolution of both Mastodon and Baroness has brought us some wonderful pieces of work that have explored the outer limits of prog rock, alt. rock and a dozen (sub)genres in between, it has to be recognised that a chasm remains to be filled in the post-Leviathan, post-Red Album landscape. It's become particularly evident since Capricorns split up and Kylesa followed their fellow Georgians by evolving past their primordial beginnings, although to a lower level of artistic self-realisation on the downbeat follow-up to Spiral Shadow, Ultraviolet, which fell short of achieving its aims.

At this moment in time, no band has managed to bring the barbarism to the brand of progressive sludge metal that Mastodon and Baroness mastered in the past. But notably, red-hot hopes come from different ends of the earth, with Canada's Pyres and New Zealand's Beastwars both showing plenty of promise with their respective 2013 records, Year Of Sleep and Blood Becomes Fire. This year, joining the likes of Pyres and Beastwars in their love for Crusher Destroyer riffs and Rays Of Pinion rhythms, are Barnsley's Trudger. This young five-piece: guitarists Richard Matheson and Jack Kavanagh, bassist Michael Parkinson, drummer Chris Leak and vocalist Chris Parkinson – have been honing their craft quietly, with those with their ear to the UK underground metal scene whispering the band's near-onomatopoeic name in shadowy nooks since their 2012 Motionless In Dirt EP. The upshot of their toils is their full-length debut for Church Of Fuck/Sell Your Soul Records, Dormiveglia, a record rife with primeval potential.

It's true that Trudger wear their influences on their tattered sleeves, as unmistakably there are ear-perking stylistic similarities to early-day Mastodon and Baroness throughout Dormiveglia's deeply dark 45-minutes. The comparisons are noticeably felt from the moment second song 'Become Joyless' begins: a martial snare assault is pitted against the rumblings of subterranean basslines, as those signature squealing licks Mastodon perfected on Leviathan materialise, giving the song an immediate air of familiarity. This familiarity continues through to the raging riffs, rapid drums turns, and the bellicose bellows of Chris Parkinson, which comprise most of the song's running time, though swathes of post-metal swallow such comparisons before the song ends. 'Become Joyless' is an impressive interpretation, although, artistically, such a part-homage is treading already well-trampled ground.

However, outside of that song, Trudger rarely sound as derivative. This is because the music of Dormiveglia has a decidedly British slant to it, which shrouds the album in the kind of murk and malevolence that doesn't grow in the fertile soil of Georgia, or many other places outside of the United Kingdom. Trudger breathe in the drudgery of modern British life, turning the bane of disappointment into the ever-shifting blackened riff progressions of 'Into The Abysmal Future' and the unwavering rhythmic force of 'Thickening Fog'; the latter lacing the tribalism of Neurosis with an ample amount of British hardcore.

As with most debuts, however, there is a naiveté that goes hand-in-hand with the songwriting. The bleak feedback and washes of cymbals of 'Tilikum' and 'Devoid' provide rather tepid respites from the relentlessness of Parkinson's perma-growls and the music that underpins his unshakeable delivery. The power held by 'Barren Grey' dissipates as the song slows down and finishes languidly rather than empathetically – and it's this weakness for adding unnecessary sections to songs which takes the intensity down somewhat, instead of creating the intended atmosphere.

Nevertheless, issues like these are just teething problems that should disappear as the band tightens the songcraft going forward. Interestingly, it's the last two songs that sound the most self-assured and, consequentially, the most impactful. 'State Of Constant Slumber' thrives off its methodical pace (the stalking approach of the guitars and drums beat a singular path) and its capacity to conjure tragedy through cascading waves of sludge riffs and semi-blasting beats that coalesce into a series of crushing grooves once the tempo thunders ahead. Subsequently, the Capricorns-esque 'Morgued' displays a level of raw energy, vocally and musically not felt before on this record; the first half of the song battering you from every angle with unexpected rhythms and riffs set on total destruction mode. In fact, the early passages of this song are so positively draining that there really is no need to punish the listener with its doom-laden second half; another example of the songwriting naiveté of Trudger.

Granted, a few slight songwriting issues do need to be ironed out, but regardless of this, the biggest compliment that can be bestowed upon Trudger at this early stage of their development is that they have begun to fill the void left in the British progressive metal scene since Capricorns called it a day. Dormiveglia is proof positive that if Trudger continue to build upon the monolith they've now created, they may just become the natural heirs to the progressive sludge throne, upon which only the ghosts of Mastodon, Baroness and Capricorns past sit.

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