Somewhere in the depths of the multiverse an entity lurks. Writhing malevolently within a slime-ridden miasma, observing humankind with beady eyes on prying protuberances, plotting revenge for all of his brethren who have perished in desiccating agony- salted by our cruel hand. He is the all-father, the grand high slug, Mollusca.
At least that’s what Slugdge, the UK’s best kept extreme metal secret would have you believe.
“It’s kind of a religion- a nerd god,” cackles arch acolyte of slime, vocalist, guitarist, drum programmer and conceptual visionary of the band Matt Moss, in his cigarette-addled, northern croak. “A religion for people who don’t have any religion, there for the filthiest, most disgusting, base characteristics of humanity, to writhe around in the filth like our lord and master.”
With song titles such as Salters Of Madness, Lettuce Pray and Spore Ensemble, Matt and bandmate/riff machine Kev Pearson have launched a three album, tongue-in-cheek assault on the metal scene from “the celestial nest”, they laugh- their house in Euxton, a suburb of Preston, Lancashire that has thus far, with nothing other than a Bandcamp and social media seen them amass legions of fans and rave reviews across the metalsphere, thirsty for their effortless melange of wit, Lovecraftian horror and unbelievably crushing riffs, grooves and blasts. Imagine Gojira, Mastodon and Napalm Death being eaten alive by a giant mollusc, and you’re close.
“We were up one night laughing about sludge bands named after animals,” reminisces Matt, “and how ‘slug’ is the perfect one, but no one had used it!” interjects Kev. “We don’t even play anything like sludge metal,” Matt laughs. “The lyrical themes; everything about it encapsulates who we are. We’re not very serious.”
It might have started as a joke, but Kev and Matt’s infectiously brutal musicality is no laughing matter. Close friends since they met on a musician’s forum in the early 2000s, Kev left his remote Scottish hometown to move to the rain-sodden, post-industrial gloom of the slightly less remote Preston, collaborating with Matt and other musicians in a scene full of bands that tried hard to ‘make it’ but never got anywhere; too many of them guilty of emulating without innovating.
“I think when you try and be something you’re not and write something that isn’t representative of who you are it doesn’t go anywhere. It doesn’t ring true,” muses Matt. “When we were in a band it felt like an uphill struggle trying to do anything; in the end I’d said a few times we should just stop giving a fuck and do exactly what we wanted to do.”
What they wanted to do was write love songs to a cosmic slug deity, inspired by another innovator of the UK extreme scene.
“Akercocke,” extols Matt. “It’s like they’re sexually in love with Satan. I thought that was fucking well funny – I said to Kev, ‘we’ve gotta make that but it’s not Satan, its Mollusca!”
Eventually they moved in together, and their creative partnership flourished into something horrific. Humorous on the surface, but spawned from a mire of physical and mental health issues and existential frustration. “When we were writing our second album Gastronomicon I got really ill,” says Matt, doctors at the time unsure of whether he had lymphoma, which fortunately turned out not to be the case. “For a moment I thought I was going to die.”
“I was concerned, like any bandmate or good friend would be, but you were just like, its Mollusca’s doing – he’s cursed me for a reason!”, laughs Kev.
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This is representative of Matt’s undeniable eccentricities, an imaginative force which has manifested the mythology of the band, that fantastical element that works so well in metal. Diagnosed with schizophrenia and a personality disorder, writing Slugdge is a necessity for Matt, a form of therapy.
“It was a spiral into complete madness,” reveals Matt. “I was convinced that there were people plotting against me. I was staking out their houses, sneaking around at night dressed in black. I had a rough time growing up – let’s leave it at that,” he says matter of factly. “It imprints itself on you; it’s impossible to scratch out the stain.”
“It doesn’t leave only bad things though,” encourages Kev.
“No it doesn’t,” agrees Matt in earnest. “Without any of that I wouldn’t be as driven with my music. Nothing else matters.”
For Kev, writing and recording has been a lifelong exercise, but with a distinct difference – no one was listening, and he wasn’t really trying to be heard.
“Without the comments Slugdge have received I’d still be doing that,” he admits. Eventually all the online praise led to them signing for American grindcore label Willowtip – a deal that almost didn’t happen. “I made a Twitter account, then thought, ‘this is shit’,” says Matt. “I stopped using it, and went to Italy. When I came back I thought I’d look at Twitter. There were all these tweets off Willowtip asking why I hadn’t replied to their e-mail? I’d somehow deleted it,” he says. “I think we got signed because we were three albums in, we’d not given up and people were saying why aren’t this band signed?!”
The rapturous feedback they’ve received has spurred them on to greater heights on their forthcoming fourth record Esoteric Malacology, pushing their intricately melodramatic punishment to ever greater heights. The recording process however has been long and difficult, Matt and Kev suddenly aware of an audience and a label to impress.
“Willowtip said do whatever you want but do the best you can,” says Matt. “They didn’t interfere. When we sent the master it was the first time they’d heard it. They said it was different, but they really liked it. It’s more technical, and that’s largely thanks to Kev.”
“It’s not like it needs to be techy to be acceptable,” continues Kev, “It’s always what sounds good first-” “We are coming from different places,” interjects Matt, the two of them often finishing each other’s sentences. “He’ll put stuff on and I’ll be like ‘It’s too much.” “The feeling’s mutual!” interrupts Kev, the two of them bursting out laughing as they reminisce about a process that pushed them to the limits of their abilities.
“There were a lot of pressures we put on ourselves,” says Matt. “People listening to us get a lot of enjoyment from the joke, which is sometimes difficult” explains Kev. “We’ve made every slug pun that exists at this point probably… we haven’t used ‘snailiens’ yet” he muses, much to Matt’s amusement.
“I slipped into depression,” Matt continues, “The world around us was seemingly going to shit – Brexit and all the rest of it. I was just lying in bed, listening to the album over and over, getting to the point where you don’t know whether you’re asleep or awake. Kev told me to stop listening to it, and I was like ‘but it’s not right, it’s not right! I was losing my fucking mind!”
“You lose objectivity,” Kev continues. “We used to trickle songs out one by one on YouTube and have constant feedback. This time we went a whole album with no one telling us if it’s good or not. When we released the first track, Putrid Fairytale, it was a big weight off.”
With the record finished, Slugdge are plotting their next move, already musing over album five. “It’ll be something earthy and evil; It’s gotta be evil,” insists Matt with a glint in his eye. “This one’s quite technical, spacey. We need to go back to the mud… Reign in mud! We haven’t used that one yet.”
Fans around the world have been asking them repeatedly to play live. Even respected musicians from within the metal scene have contacted them, asking to join the band – their names cryptically withheld for now by Matt and Kev until their plans are in place. If they are to play live, they both need to cross certain inner hurdles.
“I have issues with playing gigs which is simply nervousness,” explains Kev. “I get fight or flight response. It’s a massive hurdle.” Matt’s in agreement. “Touring is a bit dodgy – one day I’ll be fine, the next, I’ll be like… ‘Are they watching us?’ but people in worse situations have got up on stage. That gives me strength.”
If they do cross those hurdles, it will be a special event, a ritual exorcism. “Slugdge is more like a church in my mind, a fucking ceremony,” enthuses Matt. “There’s part of me that needs to praise Mollusca on a pedestal, to spread his fucking word to the masses – that makes me wanna play live.”
You imagine the band in ritual robes, Matt anointing the masses with salt while a giant Iron Maiden-esque Slug monster slithers menacingly across the stage, “With people lying face down in the crowd just not moving!” he cackles, “I need that.”
Slugdge are the most exciting prospect in the UK extreme scene right now. Submit to the slime.
Slugdge’s new album Esoteric Malacology is released March 2, via Willowtip.