As we explored in a piece on Admiral Angry for our third issue, discovering a great album only to learn that the band have since split is a disheartening experience; what should be a joyous occasion is disappointingly infiltrated by a tinge of bittersweet unfulfilment. But, at least from there you can still dive into their back catalogue – having a band split up after having been a fan for some time, on the other hand, is perhaps even more distressing. The realisation that there will never be a follow-up to a beloved album, or that the band will never grow into what you, as a fan, knew they could, is a tough one to swallow.
With that in mind, we delved back into our CD collections, Spotify Time Capsules and old iPods to shine a light on some the bands who we felt left us too soon. From sludge maniacs to mid-90s emo, these are the artists we wish had had more time to develop and flourish. Check it out, then let us know who you miss!
Originally just another American ’00s hardcore band, producing a variety of releases from 2010 to 2012, Xerxes unexpectedly and beautifully matured into a band pulling influences from a variety of places – post-punk, vocalist Calvin Philley’s interest in literature, and a variety of life experiences, all stacked dangerously on top of their original hardcore roots. It’s this structure that produced the 2013 two-track EP, Would You Understand?, filled with left-field takes on American post-hardcore and jarring life experiences. 2014 would see sophomore LP Collision Blonde, an expansion and development on this sound, experimental and antagonistic in a scene of dime-a-dozen hardcore… and like that they were gone. Xerxes called time in 2016, playing a handful of weekenders and dates over 2015 and 2016 before quietly fading into nothingness.
Abruptly coming to an end this year, Vermin Womb were a short-lived grindcore project fronted by Primitive Man’s Ethan McCarthy. On the one EP and one full-length they released in their two-year existence, the band essentially did for grind what Primitive Man do for sludge – push an already extreme genre to its absolute limits. Characterised by breakneck speeds and impenetrable riffs with hints of sludge and black metal sprinkled over a particularly bleak strain of grind, the trio offered a fresh new take on an established formula without losing any of the visceral intensity that makes that formula so thrilling. In December last year, a teasing post on Facebook asked fans “Should we write a new record and tour Europe or nah?”, only for the band to later comment “k. sorry everyone, deals off.” as they announced their split. Bastards.
Beginning in 2010 self-releasing a split with Aviator, My Fictions developed their increasingly abrasive sound from a post-hardcore-esque screech into arguably their magnum opus, 2012’s Always Trapped EP, which housed three of the most unrelenting and unforgiving tracks of their career. Forcing components from hardcore and grindcore to fight their way into the mix, the band produced a barely ten-minute listen that still holds its weight six years on. My Fictions would go on to release a genre-melting split with The Saddest Landscape, before releasing Stranger Songs, their debut LP, in 2014. Experimental and blown wide up with a fantastic production done by themselves, Stranger Songs hinted at a band finally perfecting their craft. Playing few shows and tours between the release of Stranger Songs and 2016, My Fictions would fade away by the summer of 2016, with no real explanation other than other jobs and bands.
Anyone who frequents forums or social media groups about doom or sludge will most likely see the name Acid Bath pop up at least several times a week. The Lousiana group’s seminal full-length When The Kite String Pops is still revered as a classic of the genre, one that is (and always has been) underappreciated by the metal scene at large. In truth, the group were much more than a mere sludge band, proving themselves ahead of their time by ignoring genre boundaries to take influences from across the heavy music spectrum. The band came to a tragic end with the death of bassist Audie Pitre in 1997, and whilst rumours of a reunion have arisen every now and then, the remaining members maintain that there is no Acid Bath without Audie.
Dopefight’s 2010 release Buds is, or at least should be, one of the seminal UK sludge albums, rivalling the likes of Iron Monkey and Slabdragger. There was a definite swagger about Dopefight, whose tongue-in-cheek humour was refreshing in a scene that can often take itself too seriously and seem a bit cold. The self-described “SLUDGE STONER GOAT NOIZE” band disbanded in 2013 just before the sludge/stoner/doom resurgence got into full swing, but Buds had all the ingredients of a scene classic; catchy hooks, goat noises and Alan Partridge samples. The band made the demos for what would have been their second album available on Bandcamp, and their quality only makes the band’s split more painful.
Navio Forge played only two shows and released As We Quietly Burn A Hole Into…, their sole record, before splitting up – but what a record! This is arguably the peak of mid-90s DC emo, combining agile song structures with a musical weight that’s reminiscent of Jawbox or Fugazi, without really sounding like either of them. It may be a bit too “heart-on-sleeve” for some, especially lyrically, but when it hits you, it hits hard. The second side, in particular, is pretty much perfect, with ‘Weaponizing’ being driven by one hell of a bass riff; the title-track hammering out octave chords as if the life of the musicians depended on it; and closer ‘Haloed Eyes’ ending with the vocalist breaking down in tears. This will forever be, for some, the holy grail of emo, and though short lifespans were pretty common for early emo bands, Navio Forge’s departure is mourned most than most.
Kicked off by the grinding, d-beat ridden emanations of neighbouring Sweden’s early ’90s death metal explosion, Finland’s interpretation of the scando-death format was colder, more complex, and in the case of Demilich, a whole lot weirder. The likes of Pan.Thy.Monium and dISEMBOWELMENt did excellent things with the whole ‘Bolt Thrower on loads of fucking acid’ direction non-American progressive death metal had naturally morphed into by the early ‘90s, but Demilich’s take was one of total perfection. Their debut album Nespithe’s emphasis on bizarre prog form eschewed the wanky technicality oversaturating the death metal scene at the time, and the resultant structures still stand up today as some of the most bizarrely alien, yet uncannily captivating LPs of all time. For a variety of reasons, Nespithe never really saw much commercial success. Thankfully though, Demilich have recently reunited, and whilst, yes, it technically means they don’t belong on this list, it’s sad, because we will probably never experience anything as cosmically mindfucking as Nespithe ever again in music.
Brotherhood Of The Lake
After seeing the swell of heavy UK bands like Palm Reader, Employed To Serve and Conjurer smashing it, it feels like Brotherhood Of The Lake died just as their wave was beginning to form. After a strong debut in Iron Sails and a killer split with Hang The Bastard, came one of the greatest British hardcore albums of the decade. 2012’s Desperation Is The English Way Vol. 1 was as bleak, desolate, and lonely as the album art suggests, and many were blown away by their intense live show when they supported Gallows on a UK tour. 2013’s Desperation Is The English Way Vol. 2 would unfortunately prove a violent death rattle, but members went on to play in Helpless, Death Parish, and Agelast. There is the odd murmur of a possible EP on their Facebook page, and guitarist Rusty has been ambiguous about a return in interviews, which gives us hope. But, to quote the band’s swansong ‘The English Way’, “If all you have to hold on to is hope, let go.”
Hang The Bastard
This London-bred group’s riff-fuelled stint as one of the leaders of the UK doom underground would unfortunately find itself cut short in 2016, when two years after the release of their second album, they announced their disbandment whilst on tour. Forming back in 2007, the band helped to solidify the basis of the UK underground doom/sludge/stoner scene that would go on to birth a seemingly infinite list of talented bands, despite initially emerging with a sound more reminiscent of hardcore. Thankfully, it’s pretty easy to dive into their stuff as a newcomer, with 2009-2012 compiling the best of their early work and 2014 full-length Sex In The Seventh Circle highlighting the band at their fuzzy best.
Leaving us after just a single album, an EP and a couple of splits, Brighton-based War Wolf played a blend of crusty hardcore and doom, blending slow and fast to devastating effect. Dispelling the myth that doom had to be drawn out and built up to be effective, the three-piece would often charge straight in and end just as abruptly with most songs around the three or four minute mark. Their only full-length release, Crushing The Ways Of The Old, is a fierce and unrelenting beast, with unapologetically misanthropic themes galore. Members have since gone on to form bands such as Sea Bastard, Watchcries, Grave Lines and Dead Witches.
Perhaps the most recently departed of the bands on this list, Wigan trio Mower played their last shows early last month after a short-lived career that spawned just one four-track EP. 2016’s Meathead may have been their only release, but its noisy riffs and sludgy stylings hinted at a winning formula that would surely have been more fleshed-out on a full-length. The band boasted an effective blend of infectious grooves and noise-ridden bedlam, with brief stints of experimentation proving that they could well have gone on to become much more than yet another addition to the already heavily populated UK doom/sludge scene.
Words: Bill Waters, Stuart Wain, Jack Richard King, George Parr, David Brand, Rich Lowe