“Think about your faults” – an enigmatic line now found on the social media pages of Blackened Sludge Owl. Once a source of Bandcamp links, memes and shitposting for fans of ultra-slow, ultra-heavy music, the page’s creator has since turned their attention to the music for which the page displayed a devotion, creating the Remorseful project to offer up their own bleak strain of atonal devastation. With March’s Inward, the Massachusetts-based project tested the waters with an original take on sludge that saw the genre merge with bouts of harsh noise. This style is expanded upon on debut full-length Exit, a release comprised of four tracks, just as Inward was before it, but with an average track-length of over fourteen minutes to its predecessor’s six, it makes for an altogether more challenging listen.
Naturally, the longer runtimes ensure each number is a tough experience, each one wallowing in ultra-slow tempos driven by digitised percussion, churning riffs and atonal shrieks. The release boasts a thick atmosphere that is reminiscent of the ultra-heavy rackets conjured by the likes of Primitive Man, with whom Remorseful also share a proclivity for touches of noise music. These touches are no mere background occurrence, though, often fighting for ground with the riffs rather than simply accentuating them; ever threatening to steal the limelight entirely whilst ensuring the entire release is as dread-inducing as possible.
This coming together of sludge and harsh noise is perhaps the album’s key asset, managing to lend the release a somewhat off-kilter sound even within a genre known for its unsettling waves of noise. The digitised flourishes lend the release an industrialised sound, but also merge with the genre’s usual fuzz, blurring the lines between the two and creating a somewhat psychedelic atmosphere – though this isn’t any sort of trip you want to be on. This thoroughly modern element of the music seems to creep into the riffs themselves too, where a slight melodious nature gives each track a vague groove but also a mechanical feel, like rusted, blood-splattered machinery endlessly churning in a dilapidated factory.
From Body Void exploring personal struggles with mental illness and gender dysphoria to the misanthropic imagery of bands like Dystopia and Noothgrush, sludge metal has long held a knack for exploring real-life disillusionment and anguish. A key source of such struggles is remorse – a feeling many of us battle frequently. It can be intense, overwhelming even, and it is this inescapable sense of shame and contrition that is seemingly explored on Exit. Indeed, both sonically and conceptually, Remorseful is a project that displays a deep-seated love for the sludge genre, but whilst it certainly bears all of its hallmarks, it also strives to do something new, because after all, how can the genre endure if there’s no effort put into progression? There’s nods to Primitive Man, The Body and Author & Punisher, but Exit never fully replicates these acts, rather uses them as a touchstone upon which to build its own unique sound, resulting in an album that is a fine addition to a genre already in a rude state of health.
Exit is out now, check it out here. For more, see our list of the world’s heaviest and best sludge acts.
Words: George Parr