Sloth Cult’s second album (Every Ism Ends in Cannibalism) plays like a vast journey into the inner reaches of the dark. It shines with both an alarming fear and a beautiful comfort. It is quiet, and subtle, and has more layers of instrumentation than I care to take a guess at; each perfectly laid to create a warming, yet chilling, effect. It is the oxymoron made abstract; it is a wonderful reflection of the human, and the human capacity to hold multiple disjointed and conflicted feelings.
Each track shares the same DNA – bass winding round and round a singular motif, its tone evoking 90s ‘Bristol sound’ greats like Portishead and Massive Attack – the lull of a gentle and comforting predictable ripple of sound, dragging a quiet reflection of the present moment into frame. What really pushes this release into a realm of its own disquieting creation is through the additional texture laid above that soothing bass line. Where the aforementioned groups used melodic voice, and generally comfortable instrumentation (with the odd exception) this brings in alarming whispers, and black metal inflections of voice which range from unsettling to downright fucking frightening. There’s an Ihsahn-esque tone to what’s happening, without ever throbbing into outright throat laceration – although some of that predictable ripple might be comprised of screams, low in the mix.
‘Vermillion’, the second track, brings a beautiful Western-style guitar to the game, and it seems to stay for much of the album. It’s hypnotic, it’s enveloping, it’s intriguing and it’s downright beautiful. It very much reminds me of the ‘gothic Western’ Denver sound, though darker and more frightful. If you like what 16 horsepower do, but wondered what they’d be like with a much more frightening palette and layer upon layer of noise and feedback, then this really feels like a record you’d want to check out. On this frightening palette, well, there’s a lot going on. There are simple percussive choices; bells, hand drums etc. They don’t ever come to the fore, or really provide much in a significant rhythm, but they create a texture; they’re something organic, rooting this record in a humanity- alongside feedback and noises which sound like the unceasing scream of rusted metal on rusted metal, this perhaps offers us a glimmer of understanding, of recognition. The occasional synth seeps into whorls of feedback; Robert Fripp comes to mind, particularly the work he did with Brian Eno.
Whilst all of this ‘noise’ is clearly uncomfortable ordinarily, it comes on this record with a peculiar warmth; it seems to have both a cradling and disquieting effect simultaneously. This seems to emanate from the mix. Everything seems to have been recorded through a cosy wooly jumper – or waves endlessly swooping. The sounds are all muted, warm, and yet shifting and shimmering. Every note, every wail, every scream comes away rich and textural. Comforting. Honestly, if the artist that created this album said they were aiming to make an album that sought to demonstrate what being in utero felt like, whilst all sorts of horrific things were going on around the containing womb, I’d believe them. I am perfectly soothed by this record, despite feeling like I’m balancing on a razorblade over some endless precipice of dread.
In short, I love this album. I hope you do too.
Every Ism Ends In Cannibalism is out now and can be ordered here.
Words: Simon Young