It’s early 2024 and we’re already pointing our noses towards fresh blood flowing from the unending stream of album releases, or better yet moaning to the announced juggernauts’ upcoming descent upon us puny mortals. After all, it is only natural for music nerds and enthusiasts to get caught in the ever-accelerating euphoria cycles, and to vibe to the seasons’ ritual dances.
Yet while I quite enjoy winter’s grand waltz of AOTY lists, yearly retrospectives, and sometimes of topster charts flown around like peacock tails, I did not engage in it this time. Now that this blizzard has passed and before we hop on the release hype train again, let’s keep our feet on the ground for a moment and have a look at what stands out amidst the snowdust.
For in 2023, some extremely cool stuff happened that might have flown under your radar. For starters, Melancholia released their first full-length album.
Melancholia is a duo hailing from the rainy shores of Bellingham, on the very last edge of the US Pacific Northwest. Simply put, Noah Burns (drums) and Gage Lindsey (guitar & screams) deliver the nastiest, stompiest, most goddamn satisfying Sludge Metal you’ve heard in years.
Their first couple of EPs Agony in the Garden I and II came out between 2019 and 2020 and already boasted riffs that could level mountains to the ground, gnarly breakdowns and bestial vocals all wrapped up in a rusty production, leaving us interested to hear more. But their 2021 follow-up Static Church propelled them from “new ones to watch” to “new ones to beat”, then straight to “actually you can’t top that you just can’t don’t even try dude”, and cast a spell of infinite repeat in my streaming apps.
Static Church is only three songs, more focused and structured than the eclectic and no-time-to-waste first shots who meddled Crust with Hardcore with Sludge with Black/Death Metal. This one is more centered on buildups, on finding the right grooves and the heaviest possible payoffs, with – and this is where it completely got me – a common spine of motifs coming back and forth, responding to one another.
Having duly hooked myself up to every possible update stream from these two fellas, I also feared the “un-matchable expectations” effect ; how could they ever surpass these perfect grooves ? Well, fortunately they did. They extended them, actually.
Book of Ruination retains the surgical timing of grooves and drops and reinstates the whole range of faster blasters they got from Hardcore, Crust Punk and Black Metal. The result is monstrous ; it infuses the potency, the empowering anger of a basement Hardcore show into utter bleakness. The fluency between grinding steamrollers and huge headbanging moments, the constant tension-and-release dynamic amount to over half an hour of untamed power, both raw and refined, cunning and brutally direct in a way only a selected few achieved in modern metal history – names like Cobalt, Cult Leader or recent Napalm Death come to mind.
As we all are spiralling towards an increasingly dystopian world, we are slowly learning to recognize that anger, spite and dread are complex and intersecting feelings, ripe with contradictions. But we experience these contradictions all at once nonetheless ; finding ways to embrace or figure these out is why we need artists to narrate, embody, give form and matter to what the rational mind cannot model. Melancholia shape out all these contradictions into a totemic, in-your-face, gloriously desperate, primal and sophisticated, vitriolic statement to confront and throw this anger back at the darkness gnawing our humanity away.
So treat yourself and give their whole discography a go, and catch these beautiful vinyl editions of Static Church and Book of Ruination at Brutal Panda Records before they’re gone. I sure as hell got mine.