Sometimes we see behind the curtain. Bands take us step-by-step through the gestation period of the music they make, teasing each riff, from inception to completion. Other times music appears fully formed and sans fanfare, as if by some divine providence. And then occasionally, music rips through the roof of your house, kicks all your teeth down your throat, and forcibly annexes your kitchen. It fucking arrives.
Planet Loss, the debut from south coast cosmic doom-grind unit Wallowing arrives in a way that few records do; wholly, confidently, and absolutely. ‘Prologue’ (fittingly) opens things, rising with a warped rush of noise, bubbling around spears of groaning, creaking feedback. It throbs like the background thrum of the universe as a buzzing monologue rises in as if by intercepted transmission, intoning dread ecological, science fiction warnings. The voice fights vainly against a maelstrom of atmospheric distortion, tension building to unbearable levels as a crescendo of percussive density rises, before wavering, skittering, breaking apart.
The opening vocal shriek of ‘Earthless’ is inhumanly piercing, a fat, bloated riff asserting itself like a doomed-out, more ponderous Indian. Throbbing, laden with bass, it’s unhurried as it judders through tortured screams, seeping in an organic, tar-thick flow. Grinding bass locks in tight with drums, hugely spaced chords ringing out. Trading in heaving, quaking heaviness and far-reaching bleakness, the stop-start riff takes on a sudden burst of speed with pulsing, tumbling drums and frantic chugging before slowing to a stop amid scraping tremolo.
‘Phosgene’ spasms with restless, distant drums before tearing into a galloping drive. Caustic screams beckon a slowing into a huge, monumental chug before tearing away again, lurching into sickened grooves like a more muscular Gaza before diving into spiralling instrumentals straight out of the Mastodon ‘Bladecatcher’ playbook. Slowing again into a swinging riff, it descends into rumbling, loping, broken legged waltz. ‘Hail Creation’ plods with tentative drums swallowed by glowering bass, shot through with lances of shimmering guitars. The main riff worms it’s way in, descending and downtuned, hammering with locked in chords. Canny use of negative space opens things out into a far-reaching, revolving groove before taking a hard turn into an irresistible strident section.
‘Vessel’ rises through warm bass undertow before striking like a meteor, add pace in a slow, inexorable rise. It’s uplifting, triumphant, bedecked in blazing tremolo as screamed vocals do battle on the periphery. Merging slowly, as if by its own gravitational pull, into a rumbling wall of noise, a last gasp of the ‘same riff but slower and heavier’ brings things crashing down until final squeals of protesting amps and whimpers of feedback are all that remain. ‘Epilogue’ loops things back round cyclically, patching in another transmission of dire portent; ‘the planet, its inhabitants, history, culture, everything ended’.
Crushingly heavy, remorseless, yet transcending mere brutality in it’s considered construction and fearlessly experimental, conceptual streak, Planet Loss is an impressive, affirmed record. Swirling with rage, suffocating density and cacophonous vitality, this is an album that demands to be heard. And it ain’t taking no for an answer.
Planet Loss is out now via Sludgelord Records and can be purchased here.
Words: Jay Hampshire