Greenmachine – D.A.M.N. – 3.5/5
Welcome to yet another criminally unknown band. Upon my last check, their myspace page had under 1500 hits. Playing an aggressive form of sludge/hardcore straight of out of Japan, they literally shocked me – you constantly have this nagging knowledge that yes, this is a 3-piece Japanese band playing a brand of music dirty enough for the filthiest New York backstreet, the roughest LA neighbourhood, or that alley round the back of central London used more often as a place for drunk people to pee, not the clean technologically advanced society we tend to think of when Japan enters our minds.
But alas, excluding a short introduction, a deep and dirty bass riff and loud drumming kick off the album with a bang (and a growl might I add), and with a strong presence of doom and despair (as all sludge should) it at no point lets up. Now, I must mention here differentiating between tracks is mighty difficult. The copy of the CD sent to me from Dead Mans Records only has two tracks on it, the original 6 on the album, and some bonus tracks.
The drumming is better than most. Despite a slow and deep riff, requiring little of a drummer in the way of speed and creativity, he nonetheless successfully manages to break up his beats in such a way as to constantly make things different. The bassist which takes most of the guitar spotlight, whilst not at all common works perfectly for that deep distorted dirty sound, laced with a deep southern groove, beautiful in its simplicity and ability to have nodding your head in appreciation. There is no technical wankery to be found, the riffs succeed in being creative without resorting to sounding like a barrage of random notes in order to prove they can play their instrument, the guitarist occasionally adding little pieces over the top to create something new, the odd solo here or there, too quiet in the mix to truly be appreciated, but the vocalist, this is where the album falls down for me.
The vocalist employs hardcore vocals, and the tone achieved I wouldn’t have thought of coming from a Japanese guy. Even when listening to the likes of the growls in Sigh and Unexpect, or even in Gonin-Ish, they all have a tinge, a slant differentiating themselves from others. This guy doesn’t have that, and it works against him because if it was relatively unique in its sound it may well compensate for the monotony in the voice. Combine this with the fact that every track has a similar tempo, and we start to end up with a repetitive sounding album. Luckily, the album only clocks at 23 minutes (38mins with the bonus tracks).
This is an album that succeeds in being both laden with doom, whilst retaining that deep heavy sound, and sounding aggressive in the hardcore fashion. Too often with sludge bands do I find they are lacking in one of these areas. The drumming and bass work is top notch and is really what this albums all about. The atmosphere is so thick you feel like you need a machete to cut through it, it’s downright dirty and mean - an example of how sludge used to be done, how it should be done. There is certainly better, but there’s a lot worse around too.
Greenmachine – Earth Beater – 4/5
Welcome to the next album by this trio that clocks at a depressing 27mins, we find ourselves with an album largely the same as before, with some of the same problems, and some improvements.
The biggest change is without a doubt the guitar. The bass is still given his presence, but the electric guitar has been turned up in the mix, allowing for a tandem-style riffing emerging between the vocals, which unfortunately are still fairly monotonous.
Whereas in the previous album, we were presented with a constant barrage of same-tempo songs, there is a saving grace here. The track “Hempty God, Returns the Sky” is a bassy instrumental track, slow, emotional, and perfectly fitting for a depressing doomy yet quiet track to break up the monotony. Even the song after this doesn’t go back into full swing, but rather utilise a slow and steady build up, proving for the first time they are capable of a different sound, only returning for “earth beater” to full blown sludgecore heaven, and when it does, it sounds fresh and new, which just proves that the mid-section has done its job wonderfully.
Whilst on one hand I was slightly annoyed when I discovered just how short the album was, the truth is if it was any longer it wouldn’t work. The range of sounds they produce isn’t that diverse. The riffs are once again top-notch, the drumming possibly a little less creative in their implementation, but that’s a minor qualm – they’re still better than they truly needed to be to carry the sound – and the mid-point acting to refresh your musical palette between the 10 minute lessons in how to play sludge. Any longer and I fear it would quickly descend into boredom, and given the choice of 25mins of dirty bliss, and an hour long marathon of monotony, there should be no question which would win.
Highlights: Barbarian of Dope, Gravity
Greenmachine – The Archives of Rotten Blues – 4.5/5
Finally, we hit their most recent work, and the only one I could find online. I was impressed with it enough that I sought their other works on am
Building on the improvements made toazon, finding them and deciding it was worth the week or so of skipped lunches that would be required to afford them.
their last album, the format may be much the same, but the level of musicianship, every riff, every note struck vocally, the drumming crashing around the sound in a fit of aggression, the energy of the whole piece surpasses everything previously done to create a monolith of a sound. In fact, the vocals are the biggest surprise of this album. Comparing to their last couple of efforts, it’s still fairly monotonous but the level of production adds a level of aggression not present before. He sounds angry, pissed off and half spitting at you as he screams in your face incomprehensibly. The guitars are given once again more presence between the vocals, and the solos are simple and effective. The level of composition on the songs too has improved. Gone are the 2-minute songs with a damned good riff, but without the staying power for something longer, these are less punk-ish in their short length, and more fleshed out, with more than enough content to survive multiple listens.
The first three tracks showcase their more traditional style, all out sludgecore fury, creating a sound that is simply impossible to not bang your head to. Then we get a very doom-inspired 10-minute epic, slower than seems natural, dragging its feet as it proceeds slowly onwards, varying just enough to stave off sounding too repetitive, certainly one that you appreciate in subsequent listens, before heading back to the ballsy southern rock groove riffs that dominate much of the sound.
The acoustic intro to “Path Bloody Path,” the slower tempo on “Fire Never Ends,” the track 8 which is split into 5 second long segments creating this odd dissonance in the track, short gaps in the sound creating something unpredictable, all factors which result in an album that at no point becomes monotonous throughout its length. This is a band that has consistently improved and have ended up with an album to be placed up there, worthy of the likes of the masters of the genre.
Highlights: Punisher, Into the Big Sleep, Burning Door
By T. Bawden