Review Summary: Dense, organic, and crushing. Kind of like being at the bottom of a lake filled with Mercury, but without the damaging health risks.
If you were to put the entire Metal genre into a test-tube, and leave it out on a table for a few hours, chances are one of the first things to settle to the bottom of the tube would be Sludge, and the reason why is in the name. Sludge is heavy, grimy, and largely insoluble in most subgenres, with the obvious exception of Post-Metal, which, in keeping with the Chemistry metaphors, could be considered an isotope of Sludge (or vice-versa depending on the way you choose to look at it). As one dimensional as this makes Sludge seem as a whole, the fact of the matter is simply that Sludge is best when left the way it is: dirty, grimy, and unattractive (aesthetically speaking of course). However, that's not to say that mixing Sludge with other subgenres can't
be done. Bands such as Baroness and Mastodon (pre Crack the Skye) have continued to imbibe their sludgy output with elements of progressive metal, while bands like Isis, Pelican, and Rosetta are prime examples of how simple, yet effective, it is to mix Post-Metal atmospherics with sludgy grit. Well now, you can add Boston, Massachusetts' Disappearer to that latter list of bands, as their debut full length, The Clearing, is exemplary record filled to the brim with sludgy Post-Metal, and a few refreshing surprises.
The Clearing contains all of the usual elements that have come to be expected from an album within the genre. Reverb drenched guitar riffs the size of mountains, drums that sound like they're being pounded with tree branches rather than sticks, distorted, speaker rattling basslines, and neanderthal-esque vocal performances are all present here in copious amounts and are performed to a tee, but the real driving force behind the album is the band's refreshing sense of melodicism. Nearly every figurative inch of the album is inhabited by brimming melodies that serve to stitch everything together neatly, be it an underlying guitar melody, or a sudden, unexpected shift in the vocals from the usual gruff tone to a fairly pleasant and surprisingly clean one. Occasionally, the band uses these underlying melodicisms to throw in something truly surprising, like the very brief, borderline falsetto scattered throughout album highlight Glassland, or the four and a half minutes of acoustic guitar, violin, and hand-claps in The Clearing, the album's closer. Of course, even with all of these surprising little nuggets scattered throughout, an album that constantly churns out megalithic sized pieces without rest runs a very high risk of running itself into the ground, but thankfully, Disappearer knows exactly when to shift gears well before any particular part loses any momentum, so even though the album never really lets up for 45 minutes (until the acoustic break in the closer), the constant, subtle evolutions it goes through keep it from being dragged through the mud.
However, be forewarned; The Clearing is not an album for casual enjoyment. Taking in nearly an hour filled with consistently crushing performances (thought not quite as crushing as a band such as, say, Moss), is not a task that most listeners would choose to undertake, but it makes the experience of truly taking in the album in its entirety that much more of a rewarding experience. Also, if you can, do not insult this album by listening to it through pathetic laptop speakers, as this album demands
nothing short of cranked surround sound speakers, and your undivided attention.