Extreme music's landscape is cratered with mongrel subgenres, and sludge metal is arguably the biggest, ugliest mutt of them all. A mutant cousin to both doom and stoner metal, sludge takes the misery of the former and the prodigious narcotic consumption of the latter while spewing nihilism, self loathing and frenzied punk rock aggression into the vomitous mix.
New Orleans heavyweights Eyehategod were one of the earliest bands to peddle the style, setting the bar for all who followed with mangled blues riffs, atonal thumps and the relentless mosquito whine of feedback, all capped by vocalist Mike IX Williams' signature slur n' howl.
The band's chaotic, dysfunctional lifestyle often seemed as much as a part of their sound as Sabbath-blasted hardcore riffs, with tragedy, addiction, affliction and disaster all ensuring the band were as sick mentally, physically and psychically as they were sonically. Theirs is the sound of hardscrabble survival set to music - a difficult and uncomfortable listen, but one that is undeniably rewarding.
The one that started it all: In The Name Of Suffering (1990)
Recorded for peanuts at the behest of micro label Intellectual Convulsion, Eyehategod's debut serves as a crude sonic marker and an early indicator of the chaos that would plague them. Despite lacking the weight of later releases the aggression is intact, and the queasy vibe speaks to rumours that the band blew their budget on booze and drugs. Intellectual Convulsion would collapse shortly after the album's release - an early casualty associated with this blighted, benighted act.
The classic: Take As Needed For Pain (1993)
Long a favourite of fans, critics and band members alike, 1993's Take As Needed For Pain sounds ramped up, kicked down and bugged out, towering over its predecessor in terms of sound and craft. It's also the source of one of the band's most enduring controversies - the shamefully-titled White N****r might have since been renamed and, like their flirtation with the confederate flag, disavowed (written off as the idiotic desire to shock, a jibe at a former band member or a nod to Patti Smith, The Avengers or rock writer Lester Bangs, depending on what you read) but nevertheless sticks in the craw and necessitates a strong caveat for what is otherwise one of the genre's undeniable godhead releases.
The connoisseurs' choice: Dopesick (1998)
The clue’s in the title: by the time of their third album certain elements within the band were in the throes of full-blown heroin addiction, and the difficulty of the lives they were living is captured here. Illness and unease rises off Dopesick like the stink on something that's crawled under the porch to die, and immersing yourself in it feels tantamount to voyeurism.
The lost treasure: Southern Discomfort (2000)
The first in a series of odds n' sods releases that trickled out of the EHG camp in the 2000s, Southern Discomfort offered rough-hewn demo tracks from the Dopesick and Take As Needed For Pain sessions. These cuts were initially deemed too abrasive for their label, and appeared on limited edition singles for Bovine, Slap A Ham and Ax/ction instead.
The wild card: Eyehategod (2014)
Eyehategod hadn't released a full-length record in 14 years by the time their fifth album finally dropped. In that time, a new generation of bands, labels and festivals had risen up to revel in sludge metal’s dubious glories. Eyehategod's response to the newly-minted competition? This focused, ultra-direct blast of hate that showcased the band at their most hardcore - a vicious reentry, and also a fitting testament to drummer and founder member Joey LaCaze, who died before its release.