Sludge, tribalism, psychedelia, electronic music and Jamiroquai covers from Sheffield’s self-appointed scene leaders.
Sheffield-based sludge trio Kurokuma have been making waves in recent years, featuring heavily in The Doom Doc and spreading their wings as far as Japan, where they toured alongside doom brethren Conan. When we asked drummer Joe Allen what the inspiration behind the title of their latest EP, Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands, Vol. 1 was, he modestly replied “well it’s us. There’s one volume and it’s us” – a bold claim that surely needs analysing further.
Always thinking outside the box, it’s become clear in recent years that Kurokuma aren’t content to be just another sludge or doom band. From dressing in Adidas trackies whilst implementing elements of tribalism, psychedelia and electronic music to recording unlikely sludged-up covers, the band have no trouble standing out in a somewhat over-saturated UK scene. Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands, Vol. 1 continues this trend of left-field thinking by releasing on Off Me Nut! Records, a local label known mostly for releasing hard electronic music.
Kurokuma rise to the challenge, inviting techno producer Tich to produce and mix the record. The trio aren’t shy about their love of electronic music, with bassist George Ionitas making chiptune music under his side moniker Glitchtrip, as well as incorporating synths and the Kaossilator into Kurokuma’s sound. This electronic influence becomes more apparent than ever on this new EP. Opening behemoth ‘RVN’ (raven? raving? Registered Veterinary Nurse?) has a strong emphasis on the kick and snare of Joe Allen’s drums, played with the rigidity you’d expect from a synthetic beat. The song builds ever so slowly, with an alluring psych-tinged pinging bass groove. Eventually Jacob Mazlum’s meaty sludge guitars take over until the song breaks down into a chaotic call and response between the two gnarly screamed vocals, making for a heated finale.
The true icing on the cake is their ten-minute transformation of ’90s funk icon Jamiroquai‘s hit song ‘Deeper Underground’ (yes, we’re being serious). Like with any great cover song, Kurokuma completely make it their own, to the point where you really wouldn’t be able to tell it was a cover unless someone told you. The trio take the original track’s main bass hook, slow it down, twist it and distort the fuck out of it, making it prime meat for a colossal sludge refrain. Everything about this song is a journey, from the eerie opening sample from a Japanese Godzilla film (a funny nod to the fact that Jamiroquai’s hit song was used to promote the terrible ’98 US reboot) to the agonisingly drawn-out swampy sludge batterings and killer lead vocal.
Instrumental track ‘Wasp’s Nest’ perhaps feels more like a filler interlude sitting between the two aforementioned tracks, but the ‘Memphis beat’ remix that closes this EP is a hilarious and brilliant moment, sounding like a cold serial-killer take on ’90s techno and drum’n’bass, cementing Kurokuma’s wild humour and upfront silliness. Though ‘Dope Rider Pt. 2’ May be the crown jewel of their recorded output, Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands, Vol. 1 is the band’s most conceptual and well-structured release to date. It’s also their best produced, coming closer to matching the insane ferocity and wild energy of their incredible live performances. Let’s be having less of the EPs now, Kurokuma – it’s clearly time to get a full-length on the go!
Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands, Vol. 1 is out on May 3rd 2019 through Off Me Nut! Records. Pre-order here
Words: Chris “Frenchie” French