We talk to the curators of Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands (spoiler: it’s just them).
Kurokuma are a sludge trio based in Sheffield, known for their wild live shows and crushing heavy, slow riffs. Kurokuma are expressing a more vivid, colourful and all out more fun take on doom and sludge, adding in elements of electronic music, tribal percussion and psychedelia. Not to mention their love of finding unlikely cover songs.
The trio have become a staple of Sheffield’s metal scene, with drummer Joe Allen being active in Holy Spider Promotions; a crew who managed to bring international headliners such as The Body, Primitive Man, Author & Punisher and more cult acts to the City of Steel. Allen also helped in the creation of 2017 DIY documentary The Doom Doc, chronicling the local metal scene, and Holy Spider’s annual metal festival Doomlines.
Kurokuma are gearing up for the release of their new EP on May 3rd, confusingly titled Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands, Vol. 1. The EP will be released through Sheffield’s own Off Me Nut Records, a label that specialises more in electronic music. We caught up with Joe Allen and Jacob Mazlum (bassist George was caught up at a rave) at Dreadfest in Leeds, to find out all about it, as the two of them had their faces painted with glitter…
Kurokuma have elements of sludge, psych, tribalism and electronic music, but how would you describe your sound in your own words?
Jacob Mazlum (guitar and vocals): Like God, but better!
Like God but better!? They slap a bit of glitter on you and you turn into a diva!
Joe Allen (drums): Sludge with glitter.
Jacob: I just do what I do and explore the sounds that I want to. It just comes out. We don’t want to sound the same as anything else and hopefully that comes through.
Joe: I think we’ve always used doom and slow metal as a base, but we’ve applied our own things on top of that. Me and George [bass and vocals] have a background in percussion and interesting rhythms. So when you put that on top it soon starts to sound like something else.
You have a new EP coming out on May 3rd, on Off Me Nut Records. Is it fair to say your electronic music influences are coming out even more
Joe: It’s very fair to say that. It’s no secret that we listen to a lot of electronic music. I think a lot of bands around us would perhaps stop at bringing that into their music, but we don’t. We need to keep things interesting for ourselves and have a lot of fun with it. We’re doing something that not a lot of people are and we’re enjoying it. Working with Off Me Nut, Tich has produced us for a long time, and it was good to let him go a bit more wild and let him bring his style to what we do. We’ve been to all the Off Me Nut raves, and they’ve been to our shows. It just works. Just because we make different genres of music, it doesn’t matter.
The last track on the EP is a techno remix with a Memphis beat. Tell us about that.
Jacob: We’ve been talking about having a remix done for a while, even with [previous EP] Dope Rider, but it never happened. It’s something we’ve always wanted to do. I think every ambitious band has a backlog of things they want to try out, even if it’s something they mention and don’t do ’til years later. It’s the same with the ‘Deeper Underground’ [Jamiroquai] cover and it just kind of sat there…
Joe: …I’ll never forget the time when you came up to me in the onsen [hot springs] in Japan, we were both just in the changing rooms and you said “let’s do that ‘Deeper Underground’ cover”, so we just went home and we did it.
Jacob: It was at the end of our two weeks in Japan, after sleeping in a karaoke booth! That was the inspiration.
Kurokuma have done a few weird covers now; how do you hear a song and then feel attracted to do your own rendition?
Joe: It’s the same reason we would take any influence from electronic music. When we listen to music, we don’t think of it so much in genres any more. There is rap music that is darker than a lot of doom that I hear. If we listen to a track and hear a seed of something we can exploit and twist into something super powerful and dark then we will. We heard that in ‘Deeper Underground’, in ‘Ecco The Dolphin’ and in [Kraftwerk‘s] ‘Radioactivity’. And then we take the song and we just twist and twist and twist *gesturing* like a Rubik’s Cube.
Your new EP is titled Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands, Vol. 1, so tell us, who are Sheffield’s best metal bands?
Joe: Well it’s us. There’s one volume and it’s us.
Jacob: We went on tour with Blind Monarch. They’re making a real name for themselves doing the very slow, real doomy thing. Sheffield has a decent scene. Archelon, Ba’al, Holy Spider. The scene is healthier than when we started, that’s for damn sure!
Joe: When Holy Spider started we said we wanted to put Sheffield on the map for slow music, and I feel we’ve done that; especially with The Doom Doc, that was just the icing on the cake. It’s fucking great man. I really rate the scenes in London, Nottingham and Newcastle at the moment. It just seems like when you go to a gig, there is a real hunger for good music. It’s fucking great to see.
So there is a sludge trio from Manchester who claim that they are the best band in the genre. How do you respond to that!?
Joe: Just listen to our fucking music and compare.
Jacob: I think delusion can be a very powerful force in some people’s psyche. I think this band should just stop making music frankly.
Joe: We’ve been saying that from the start. They’re three guys who are in over their heads. They’re in too deep now and they don’t understand what they are doing. They’ve got ambitions beyond their capabilities.
Do you have any more powerful words you’d like to deliver to Under?
Joe: Just fuck off. Under a bus.
Jacob: Under? More like Blunder!
So how does it feel to be playing Dreadfest and which bands have you been excited to see?
*Festival organiser Megan Borman stands next to us, listening intently*
Joe: I’ll be completely honest *looking at Megan nervously*, we’ve wanted to play Dreadfest for a long time. We couldn’t last year because we were touring in Japan. I came to the first one. I’m not exaggerating, it’s my favourite vibe of any UK festival.
Jacob: To be honest, I’m not into grind that much really. A lot of the bands that are on, I wouldn’t listen to in my free time, but it’s a really good feel here. It’s a really chilled, warm and welcoming atmosphere.
Joe: I just can’t say how good Dreadfest is. We’ve got a lot of respect for Dan [Vaughan] and Meg. They’re original line-ups every time. There are a lot of unexpected names, but it just works every time. Wormrot on Friday absolutely fucking murdered it. They have that real Asian thing where they’re fusing a lot of genres that a lot of US and European bands might not have the balls to do. It was just so powerful, so fucking tight, and so fast at the same time. It was amazing.
Any final words?
Joe: Big up [piece author] Frenchie. Big up Astral Noize. Big down Under. Fuck Under. We hate them and we’re not doing a split with them.
Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands, Vol. 1 is out May 3rd on Off Me Nut Records.
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French
Photo: Abi Coulson (Darktones Photography)