There’s something about the Japanese underground that acts as a focusing lens for music. Heavier, faster, slower, louder – however it’s played, Japanese acts like Boris, Endon, Corrupted, Church Of Misery and Gallhammer push extreme music to the brink.
Osaka-based doom duo BlackLab continue this proud tradition. Second full-length Abyss is a slab of raw, rough-hewn primitive doom, channelled through amps groaning under the strain of unholy levels of tone. Chia Shiraishi and Yuko Morino’s savage take on the genre is proof enough that doom is far from a dead horse yet.
Opener ‘Insanity’ tentatively starts with creeping cymbals before guitars grind in, hugely fuzzed and glowering before dropping into feedback. A lumbering roll rears its head, layered near spoken word vocals rising and falling amid unhurried waves. Picking up the pace into a rough and ready swinging groove, Morino’s wretched shrieks cut through the claustrophobia. Snaking between leaden-footed trudge and tearing grooves, caked in speaker-wrecking fuzz, it tumbles and screeches to a riotous halt.
‘Fade And Melt’ eases in with ethereal, reverb-drenched vocals and the sounds of rattling chains before huge chords collapse through the ceiling. Ruthless riffs lurch over clattering snares, fuzz grinding like granite on granite. ‘Weed Dream’ roils with chaotic sludge, driven by buzzsaw riffing and an infectious rhythmic barrage.
‘Amusement Park Of Terror’ scrapes with terrifying tremolo before being crushed by a heaving riff composed on snarling tritons, ground to a killing edge with climactic cymbals before fading into bleeping sci-fi noise, before ‘Forked Road’ charges headfirst through a punk-laced driving riff before staggering and slowing into a wall of bluesy guitar work powered by pulsing kicks.
‘Chained’ explodes with a rolling riff, stuttering into a bouncing groove before slowing into a syrupy crawl, cut through by a screaming guitar solo. ‘Sleepless Night’ thumps with tribal tom work, injecting immediate pace before dropping into an evil, looping riff that’s sucked into a mire of steamroller fuzz and wailing vocals. Closer ‘Sun’ crushes any remaining air out of the room with its tombstone weight, growled vocals and industrial-edged riffs simmering under a fog of fuzz, amps quivering and creaking audibly under the gain strain.
Each track comes on like one sledgehammer blow after another, cinderblock Sabbathian grooves thrown through a grinding fuzz wall. The tone the band conjure will have ampliphiles trading their stacks in despair. This unbelievable tone is both the albums gift and its curse – the brute force sends moments of breathing space and dynamic calm scurrying for shelter, leaving the record seeming claustrophobic.
A riotous, bone-crushing exercise in modern doom, Abyss will find a firm foothold with all who worship at the altar of the riff.
Abyss is out now on New Heavy Sounds. Order here.
Words: Jay Hampshire