When it comes to sludge metal, there a handful of bands that first come to mind, from the violent feedback and incoherent, vile, putrid rambling of Eyehategod to the blues-soaked, laid-back, and dense riffs of Crowbar. But going down the rabbit hole of finding fresh noise to cleanse the doom palate often feels like a dark and peculiar path to take, like entering the Paris catacombs – falling deeper and deeper into the unfathomable walls of feedback and noise. I’ve been a great admirer of this form of extreme music for some time now and the more I listen, the more I find myself plunging further into this catacombic void in search of something new and interesting. My latest expedition has led me to the suburbs of Chicago to discover the maliciously driven noise machine of Geneva, Illinois’ Stomach. A recent addition to the harsh sludge metal/noise music landscape, Stomach possess a similar ear-splitting grandeur to that of their noisy comrades like Primitive Man and Body Void, with the unbearable sonic excessiveness of Eyehategod and Solient Green. Their debut album Parasite, released in October, expands on these already crumbling walls of noise-drenched overflow to introduce a callous and menacingly nihilistic worldview.
The album opens with the track “Crawlspace (Loom Ext.)” and instantly offers a taste into the sludge metal gaze of overdriven guitars swamped in a chamber of overbearing noise and feedback-laden textures. Whilst these noisescapes command the atmosphere, a build-up of densely driven riffs are executed at a lingering pace. Shifting to track two, “Midnight in Pain”, and these constant, spiteful riffs trudge along to the dwelling beat of the drums, whilst the vocals bellow an agonising wail of incoherent torment.
“Double Lung Transplant”, on the other hand, changes gear on this extreme delivery through an opening grindcore passage. It utilises blast beats and vicious amplifier manipulation to perpetuate total confusion before tuning back the tempo by an extreme amount so it can keep you grounded within this sonic realm of confused anguish. This amplifier worship appears to be a common theme throughout this record, as the relentless pursuit for the artists to push the limits of distortion and feedback reach their peak on the fourth track, “Tooth Decay” – a nasty drone metal-inspired track that regains momentum midway through the album and displays no signs of remorse for the anxious mind of the listener.
As the record passes its halfway mark, the message is clear Stomach are prepared to stop at nothing to release the most gut-wrenching and baneful sounds in their arsenal. “Ocular Migraine” is a much more stripped-back track that resembles the album’s most evident sludge and doom traits, a fitting track that seems well-placed on the album. The next track, “Train Track Argument”, reverts back to the faster-paced grind/powerviolence rhetoric that was teased earlier. This time, in a shorter embrace of only 50 seconds, it toys with your mind and keeps you engaged.
Going from an extremely short track to the album’s longest, “Bathwater” throws the towel on everything that inspires hope and optimism, and replaces it for decayed, noise-driven despair and a cruel vocal delivery accentuating everything awful, delving into the negative aspects of human creation through damningly snail-paced tempos that refuse to let the listener off easy. The final track is the self-titled “Stomach”, a fitting way to send this callously heavy piece of filth off in an effective way. A mounting wave of feedback enters the frame as it creates an apprehensive feeling of angst, the slow, minimalistic percussive sounds add layers of tension to the bleak atmosphere, and once the band feel ready (which isn’t until over half of the track is complete), a release of antagonism, wrath, despair, grievance, and anything remotely demoralising you can think of is unleashed in this auditory attack on the senses.
Sludge metal is far from being just a passing fad, and the endless possibilities that many bands in the underground are conjuring up is proof of just that. Stomach are holding their own with their debut release and they make good reference to a range of bands as inspiration. The likes of Boris, Eyehategod, Primitive Man, and Sunn 0))) are all projected through certain sonic characteristics on Parasite, yet the band aim to go further with this unique brand of amplifier worship in which they push the limits of their sound into excessiveness and play with several other stylistic traits such as grindcore, powerviolence, and drone in order to elevate the extremity of their sound.