Sunday, March 24, 2013

Album Review: Bovine - "The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire"

If there are two things I've been jamming of late on the ol' iTunes, they'd be the new totally rad Clutch album, and  last year's Rare Chandeliers by Action Bronson and The Alchemist. To get a promo for the Birmingham-based sludge band Bovine that quotes Alex Baker of Kerrang! for saying they sound like "Clutch on steroids" really piqued my interest. I wasn't sure what to expect really, because I freaking love Clutch, but I also think everyone at Kerrang! is full of shit. It could have gone either way.

First thing off the bat, is that Bovine sounds nothing like Clutch. Bovine sounds more older Baroness, back when they were sludging away with meaty riffs and John Baizley's caveman bellows. I hear some later Dillinger Escape Plan worship happening in a couple songs, with awesome guitar work that builds tension with dissonance before throwing you back down into a mudpit of fat, downtuned riffage. Even the vocals start sounding like Greg Puciato at some points, with pitched yells and veinpopping screams coming through the chaos. I'm not sure which of the three vocalists do what, but at least one of them is a great singer as well. Tracks like "Thank Fuck I Ain't You" showcase some awesome singing which is really reminiscent of System of a Down's Daron Malakian.

While there aren't any four octave vocal acrobatics happening here, every vocalist manages to pump out the passion and energy necessary for this kind of music. And really, that's all it comes down to and everything you need for what's on The Sun Never Sets. Everything here is about stampeding power and spacey atmosphere. If they're not kicking your face in with crushing riffage, pounding drums, and barbaric screaming, then they're sending you out on a journey to Mercury and back. The title track kicks off with some tribal drums and bass priming your ears for the trip to come before some chorus laden guitar fills the void. Then before you know it, you go shooting off through the stars as everything comes crashing together into a big, gooey wad of space-progginess.

All of this crushing and space-progging wouldn't happen without the solid production. Bovine sounds fucking massive, being driven by what sounds like Odin's own war drums underneath the rest of the bottom-end heavy mix. Everything is audible and clear too, which is key for any sort of sludgy music. No muddiness here. Bovine deals out a six foot thick wall of sound that can beat your ass harder than Macho Man Randy Savage.

Bomb-Ass Tracks: Thank Fuck I Ain't You, The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire, Military Wife

On a Playlist With: (early) Baroness, (early) Mastodon, (later) Dillinger Escape Plan

Score: 3.5/5

So in the end, "Clutch on steroids" wasn't quite that, but was still enjoyable nonetheless. The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire is for anyone who digs fat, groovy sludge with a spacey/ proggy twist. Bovine are taking up the sludge mantle that bands like Baroness and Mastodon have left behind, and they're holding high above their heads.

You can pick up The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire from the always incredible FDA Rekotz on April 12th, and you can check out Bovine on Facebook and Bandcamp.

That's all for now, folks!

-Grave Dave

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