Review Summary: A neglected cornerstone of the other side of heavy music
Now, let’s be honest for a while – finding a truly original album is a daunting task. Whenever a musical movement of any sort materializes, so does some sort of widely accepted sonic blueprint that subsequently gets utilized more often than not, forming the rudimentary foundation or even the entire construction of many a record. Whilst an old saying may imply that not fixing what ain’t broken isn’t a crime, there’s only so many times a given template should be exploited before it starts wearing thin and getting dull around the edges. Thus, the bulk of relevant releases from any genre usually mainly consists of early trailblazers and path wideners plus latter-day explorers toying with the formula and trying new things.
Actually, none of that is relevant to this review, as Albino Slug are their own trailblazer, path widener and latter-day explorer rolled up into one and served on a platter with a side of parsley for you to take in for yourself. The group’s near-total obscurity is most likely caused by their aural nonconformity, bordering on downright hostility at their weirdest and most experimental. They play by their own rules, do their own thing, and don’t appear to give half a damn what the environment thinks of it. As such, most of the environment didn’t give half a damn either and the group’s efforts aren’t widely remembered.
They should be, though. Albino Slug’s pair of releases form a lovely musical evolution from a bludgeoning, near-doom wall of otherworldly sound to avant-garde, minimalist gut punchers coming from left field. Every last second is done how it needs to be in the context of their ninety minute journey. When “Knrr 8” takes aim and shoots a rocket through the speakers, few can even imagine what lies ahead. The track is the perfect opener, smoothly grinding any potential resistance into pulp with its opaque harmonies and disjointed albeit focused lead work that forms a delightful, chills-down-your-spine skronk with the shockingly normal clean vocals (due to their startling contrast with the rest of this aural cocktail, they probably sound the most surprising of the bunch) and bone-crushing riffs underneath. You’re about as likely to encounter music like this as you are to see one of those guys from the album cover casually walking down your street and tipping his hat to you.
In case you still think that there’s some album more otherworldly than this by the time you’re through the opener, “Thorbud” is right there to change your mind. Picking up just where its predecessor left, it cashes in some of the balls-to-the-wall heaviness for ingenious musical discord. A bizarre clicking bass sound reminiscent of alien machinery steps in, taking its place next to the guitars and pounding a path through a murky land of madly uneasy harmony and stuttering rhythms that makes Demilich sound like Kings of Leon. It’s all in the context, the orchestration – a crawling two-note chop can serve as the foundation of a lush space blues verse five seconds later. The ease with which this track juggles musical ideas and structures everything perfectly makes it the composition highlight of the album.
Now, with Albino Slug’s initial aural blueprint established both in terms of heaviness and weirdness, it’s time to start mixing some other stuff in. “Du Ma Ikke Sove” (“Dare Not To Sleep”) shelves the established vocal style in favor of a reading of a dark poem written on the brink of World War II. As the author (who’s also the one reading) weaves his grim, foreshadowing tale, the band obligingly supplies a disturbing musical backdrop. Suddenly the biting guitar tone manages to evoke the sound of flames devouring households, the dark riffs conjure an air of destruction and panic, the hovering acoustic accents amplify the atmosphere in a way that is out of reach to the other instruments. And then, at just the right moment, it all gets devoured instantly by a swift electronic invasion which then learns to cooperate with the prior instrumentation during a grim musical afterthought that manages to sound even more psychotic than the parts preceding it.
After a brief track where the newly established electronics study a part of “Thorbud” (I dare say that the riff they chose sounds just as wicked played backwards), it’s time for Albino Slug’s goofiest track. “Vaffel” has it all – in spite of a short run time, it manages to pay homage to the band’s punk roots, supply some pretty fierce electronics (including the part that demands you to headbang the most), ripping riffage and off-the-wall interjections which may or may not include sousaphone action. Take the livelier parts of the prior tracks, add steroids and LSD, obtain “Vaffel”. The band actually shot a clip for this, but the idea to drag an albino slug figurine (complete with red superhero cape) behind the King of Norway didn’t quite work out.
With that out of the album’s system, “Bleeding” takes everything “Vaffel” left on the cutting floor and pastes its own hybrid Frankenstein. The resulting approach is much more calm and collected, as the song flows onward with its simple, yet majestic riffs and somber atmosphere. The low tempo and odd aura of lifelessness are further exaggerated by the preceding track, and you are lulled into a sense of false security by a seeming return to the more straightforward (if still weird) stylistic leanings of the first songs. When “Paradise Regained” rolls in and takes the baton, the same air of lifelessness persists… devoid of the thick guitar riffs that gave it some sort of backbone. Still, the opening organ line and simplistic drumming seem to fare quite well on their own and no low-tuned destruction is necessary to flesh out the idea. The twenty minute mammoth of a closer is a true tour de force, taking its time to explore different sonic avenues subtly hinted by other tracks, using the energy drain of “Bleeding” as an unsurpassable intensity threshold. It’s a true master of holding you on edge – the fact that seemingly so little is happening forces attention to the constant flow of ideas, the tripped out noises, the detached chords, digging right in the foundations of the other tracks and pasting what it finds into its own world complete with unique ideas previously uncharted. True musical evolution taking place before your very ears, and the perfect transition from the rest of this album to Barabbas.
In spite of a mild stylistic scattering, the album does not feel disjointed and everything makes perfect sense. Every song forms a cohesive unit that is a vital part of the puzzle, complete with its own set of individualized traits that positions it precisely. The best part of the deal is that in spite of eschewing so many musical conventions, this stuff is still distinctly listenable. Even “Thorbud” with its tripped out ideas manages to groove like mad in its own unique way, and “Paradise Regained” never once degenerates into white noise or stale, mindless repetition during its impressive 20 minute run time. It’s amazing that something so unique can also be so enjoyable, albeit in a peculiar manner.
I picked this up, used, for all of 4$, and it was easily the best 4$ I have ever spent. Albino Slug’s realm of music is different to the one we know – the harmony doesn’t quite work the same way, the machines and riffs learned to coexist in an effective manner, and towards the end minimalism takes over and swallows up everything. A single album manages to invent its own genre and then successfully mutate it, leading it across a number of sonic territories underway in a manner that sounds surprisingly complete and cohesive. It’s a pity there aren’t more records in this style, but it has to be said that trying to follow in Albino Slug’s footsteps would have been a very daunting task. This record comes with the highest recommendation I can give.