At this point in heavy music, it goes without saying that there has been a consistent trend in bands who are dialing down the tempo of their music to make room for earth-rattling, fuzzed-out riffs that borrow just as much from Black Flag as they do from Black Sabbath. The sludge metal scene, which was once treated as the redheaded stepchild of metal – too slow for thrashers and punks, too raw and grimy for those who have grown accustomed to the polished sheen of more mainstream acts – has become the underground’s darling in the past few years and has spawned its own particular niches.
Iced Out, hailing from the UK, have a sound firmly rooted in a traditional sludge sound with a relentless hardcore ethos behind it. Their newest EP Man’s Ruin, released through Witch Hunter Records, sees them trimming some excess in their sound from previous releases while becoming even more primal in the process. It’s less polished than last year’s Jukai, and frankly, is all the better for it.
This three-song EP opens with “For the Coven” as a drone of feedback and spacy guitars fade in before the drums slam in and introduce a riff so groovy and dirty that you’ll grow ten mustaches. Man’s Ruin’s production aids in projecting a massive amount of low-end dirt, the guitars and bass distorted to high heaven, but each instrument still being absolutely distinct. Vocally, it’s not hard to draw comparisons to classic sludge acts like Eyehategod and Buzzov*en; the pained yelps and screams add a visceral edge to what might otherwise be interpreted as feel-good stoner metal. The EP’s title track brings a slightly different dynamic with rolling tribal toms propelling the band forward before alternating to a swaggering Southern-styled riff and a simple but psychedelic lead guitar part, the vocals taking the helm toward the end of the song with exhausted, desperate screams over a riff that seems to collapse under its own weight. Man’s Ruin ends with the short “Space Mountain,” in which the band’s hardcore roots shine through most clearly, but it doesn’t carry the same weight or craft as the previous two songs.
While enjoyable, Man’s Ruin doesn’t bring anything new to an already over-saturated doom/sludge scene. I do commend the band for keeping it simple with their execution and for having an outstanding production job, though; if you’re a fan of tried-and-true sludge metal with some Southern bits and occasional dips into hardcore, you’ll dig this. Otherwise, there’s not much to see here apart from a massive guitar tone and some decent if slightly uniform and unmemorable riffs.
Man’s Ruin is available digitally and on a limited CD pressing of 150 copies.
Dustin is an educator, musician, and writer based out of northeastern Kentucky. He’s the angry young gentleman behind the sounds of Old Thunder and has an infatuation with the works of Cormac McCarthy. Coffee loves him, and he loves coffee.