This week’s edition of Girls That Grind shifts the focus over to another side of the extreme music spectrum, as we pay tribute to some of the finest oestrogen fuelled vibrations from the vast, murky caverns of sludge metal. When Alex asked me to pick three examples from the depths of doom, I was pretty much spoilt for choice, but the following three sprung to mind almost instantly…
New York’s short-lived 4-piece 13 are some of sludge metal’s great unsung heroines, with an abundance of pummelling, swampy riffs and a truly menacing low-end presence. The gruff, throat-scraping vocals of the inimitable Alicia Morgan are not only highly distinctive, but also a good deal lower than many of her male contemporaries’ higher registers. Like a lot of early sludge, there’s a definite punk influence in some of the band’s more up-tempo sections, before we come crashing back down to Earth via one of their pulverising displays of Iommi worship, the kind that speaks directly to the long dormant Neanderthal portion of your brain. 13 also marks the debut appearance of doom queen Liz Buckingham on guitar, who would later go on to summon even more apocalyptic doom with Sourvein and, of course, the mighty Electric Wizard.
The band’s discography is sparse, consisting of a handful of demos and singles, as well as splits with fellow sludge legends Eyehategod and Grief. 13 were even featured on the first of the fondly remembered ‘Cry Now, Cry Later’ compilation series alongside Spazz, Despise You, and Crom (amongst others), and contributed a suitably evil cover of ‘Triumph Of Death’ to the Hellhammer / Celtic Frost tribute album, ‘In Memory Of…’ which is well worth tracking down! Good luck finding all this however, because in addition to having the most un-Googleable name ever, pretty much all of the band’s releases are out of print, and in dire need of a reissue!
Do Noothgrush even need an introduction? The band were undoubtedly one of the highlights of the absolutely stellar explosion of primordial sludge in the early 90’s, which also gave us such luminaries as Sleep and Dystopia, and a series of killer EPs (including splits with Agents of Satan, Black Army Jacket and Sloth) firmly cemented the band in the minds and hearts of bong huffin’ riff devotees the world over. Noothgrush were a power trio for a burnt out generation, burying their colossal grooves in punishing slabs of negativity, yet always retaining that sarcastic sense of humour you’d expect from a band named after a tiny toothbrush dwelling monster from Dr. Seuss’ book 'There’s A Wocket In My Pocket’. Russ Kent’s inventive riffs and Gary Niederhoff’s skull rattling bass are anchored together by Chiyo Nukaga’s positively crushing drumming, bathing the listener in vast waves of cymbal crashes before pounding them into submission with a hard hitting, almost primal rhythmic assault.
After a few years of relative inactivity (in which Chiyo pounded the skins for sorely under-rated Burning Witch enthusiasts Graves At Sea), Noothgrush have returned with a new live album on Southern Lord, and at long last a release of their very first album, which was very nearly doomed to be buried by time and dust. And as if this wasn’t awesome enough, the band are touring again, with legendary Dystopia frontman Dino lending his instantly recognisable shriek to the proceedings, a prospect that should have any sludge fan drooling with delight!
Plymouth’s Ishmael may be relative newcomers, but they’ve already made quite an impression with some of the nastiest, hate filled sludge this side of Khanate. The band’s leaden invocations lurch out of your speakers with murderous intent, like a funeral march of sullen, sloth-like riffs, occasionally veering into some lumbering grooves that sound like Eyehategod after a near lethal opium dosage. Frontwoman Dani Hawkins’ tortured vocals are fairly low in the mix, but this only seems to enhance their creepy, unsettling vibe. Ranging from low growls to larynx wearying howls, her voice seems to lurk just behind the thick aural fog of the rest of the band; it’s like the music’s snarling, bitter subconscious calling out from beneath the depths, occupying a menacing position that gives the band a very sinister atmosphere.
An unmastered preview of the track ‘Little Bones’ from their forthcoming debut full-length, ‘Hell Is Empty And All The Devils Are Here’ is currently streaming on their Bandcamp page, and it’s an ominous storm cloud of a tune, a dense, black mire that will slowly suck you in until there’s no escape. This definitely bodes well for the band’s future output, and means that Ishmael are certainly one to keep an eye on. You can also download their excellent 2010 demo for the paltry sum of a single English pound, so if you’ve been on the hunt for a fresh new slab of sludgy goodness to sink your teeth into, you could do much worse than this one!