North Carolina’s Ape Vermin have delivered a corker of a debut album in Sonic Monolith. The concept that accompanies the juddering riffs and thundering drums is something to behold too – evil aliens are messing about with ape DNA to help create an army of aggressive sapiens to take over the world. Get in!

Formed in August 2017 by singer/guitarist Brett Lee, with Charlie Burleson on drums/percussion and bass/backing vocals from Jeb Laird, Ape Vermin are a sludge metal trio for fans of Conan, Slabdragger, Sleep, High on Fire – you get the idea. Gargantuan, hypnotic riffage dominates throughout, however there are moments of very nimble fret-work and there’s almost an outbreak of down and dirty boogie a la Clutch. It’s a great balance between contrasting styles.

The album opens with ‘Astral Drones’ – the spiralling, repetitive riffs reminiscent of ‘Set Controls For the Heart of the Sun’ by Pink Floyd. But heavier. Much, much heavier. At just under ten minutes, it’s a great opener, drawing the listener in and preparing them for journey ahead; a journey covering topics such as astronomy, murder, occult, myths, apocalypse and extra-terrestrials. Lee’s vocal style is unlike most other vocalists in this genre – they’re not overly harsh but are rather gruffly unique and are well-defined and clear in the album’s mix. 

Across the album, there are overtones of Mastodon at their trippiest, and some of the song sections on display are a joy – you can imagine the pit opening right up when these are played live. ‘Witch-Jive’ in particular has it all; groove, heaviness, blistering solos – all the ingredients to be a live favourite. The title track dramatically closes the album with over twelve minutes of sublime, spaced-out lunacy. With plans to tour and apparently a comic book in the offing, things are looking promising for Ape Vermin. More please!

Sonic Monolith is out now and can be purchased here.

Words: Scott Crawford

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