Slomatics’ fifth full-length, Future Echo Returns, brings the three-part narrative began by the band on 2012’s A Hocht to its neutron-star-heavy conclusion. Over seven songs, the Belfast trio riffs in two directions, somehow emphasizing heft and melody. This is no happy accident. Guitarists Chris and David have an old hand feel for wrangling riffs, and drummer/vocalist Marty stamps sections with true hooks. So, fear not: Though tagged as sludge/doom, a genre with a glut growing larger with every newly issued weed card, Slomatics stand with a small cadre of likeminded bands that are still rising above the ruin.
“[W]e do put a lot of effort into being as melodic as possible, although I’m sure to the casual listener that may not be the case,” David told me in 2014, then fresh off the release of Estron. Yet, if a casual listener wanted to explore sludge/doom, Slomatics is a great place to start. Yes, the band is blessed with the ability to fletch big riffs that shoot smoothly into your ear. But, it’s not like the tracks they inhabit are forgettable and simplistic. Quite the opposite. In fact, the depth and variance is what ultimately keep your attention, whether you’re new to stonery, sludgy doom or a vet.
True to form, “Electric Breath,” Returns’s first single, isn’t just guitars, but kitchen-sink synths; a diverse zoo of timbres unifying into one rattling hum. The enormity of the sound is impressive, the way it burns the melodic as fuel to propel the crunch more so. However, it’s all about how the band controls and tempers their onslaught. David, again: “The Part Chimp guitar players said they felt they played their amps rather than their guitars, and I think that maybe applies to us too.” Other bands would hold desperately on to the soundwave reins, praying for Sabbath or Sleep when the dust settled. Slomatics actively shape their own sound, a quality best evidenced by the song lengths. Red-eyed meandering is traded in for a comparative tightness. Songs do stretch and expand in the third-eye sense, but there’s a destination in mind.
Of course, well-composed doesn’t always equal catchy. That’s where Marty comes in. “For us the difference between bands like Melvins, or even Electric Wizard, and the other more generic doom bands are the vocals, so we try to get something in there which adds to the songs and gives it a lift,” David said. “Who doesn’t like a song they can sing along to?” Maybe taking pointers from Fugazi, Slomatics obsesses over partnering the aggressive with the anthemic. Album closer “Into The Eternal,” for instance, has an earworm vocal melody that will carry you through chores and workouts. That said, Marty’s finest performance on Returns, appears on this crusher and its engagingly strange, spacey, and literally head warping video; a visual highlight in a genre that has too few of them. Ears, meet eyes.
If you’re new to sludge/doom, welcome. If you thought you were over it, welcome back.
Future Echo Returns is out 9/2 via Black Bow Records.