General Grievous / Mth 6:23 – remorseless sludge without the monotony

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The Star Wars prequels may be the most memeable film trilogy of all time, but there’s nothing funny about the abrasive sludge served up Russian outfit General Grievous – suitably named after the film series’ part-alien, part-cyborg warlord – even if it is hard to listen to them without picturing Ewan McGregor dropping down behind you with a friendly “hello there”. 

The cryptically named Mth 6:23 (perhaps a reference to Matthew 6:23 – “But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”) is more dynamic than many of the band’s modern-day peers and indeed their own preceding releases, boldly making heavy use of the sort of technicality that most sludge acts would find unbecoming. Crucially, though, the riffs are still here in spades, only rather than festering in pummelling monotony, they morph and expand, and from a certain point of view their refusal to settle down makes this release a more uncomfortable listen than more standard sludge fare.

Opener ‘Zalog’ appears to be leading us headfirst into sludge territory, but the groove never finds its feet, with the surprisingly intricate percussion and harrowing vocals ensuring things never become formulaic. This subtly experimental approach is what fuels Mth 6:23, and it’s to the record’s benefit that it manages to stay grounded in sludgy misery whilst still leaving you unsure of what lurks around the next corner. ‘Napomnie’ delights in the frenzy, jumping from one style to the next without warning. Elsewhere, the dirgey ‘1773’ is more consistent in its use of gloomy, atmospherically-rich guitar but eventually lurches into comparatively speedier tempos whilst the vocalist shrieks with searing vehemence. Each track finds an inventive new approach, but an overarching motif of bleak melancholy ensures this immersive release is cohesive, too. For a release that clocks in shy of the 25-minute mark, it’s a truly astounding offering.

Mth 6:23 is out now and can be purchased here.

Words: George Parr