January: a month of depressingly short days, bitter chills and endlessly grey horizons. In short, what better a time than January to compile a list of albums which revel in the world’s relentless bleakness?
Well, to mark the release of the not particularly cheerful video for their new single Journey’s End, that’s exactly what Oxford-based sludge-lords Desert Storm have done. Join guitarist Ryan Cole for a tour through the darkest corners of his record collection, and be sure to check the video for Journey’s End at the bottom of the page.
10) Eyehategod - Take As Needed For Pain, 1993
“Take As Needed For Pain is one of the best sludge metal albums ever in my opinion, and it’s certainly bleak. Full of crushing riffs, lots of feedback, and brutal lyrics from Mike Williams which range from drug addictions to serving time and violence. Very intense and powerful stuff – awesome.”
9) Nine Inch Nails - The Fragile, 1999
“I love this album. I think Trent Reznor is a great lyricist and songwriter. A lot of this album is very dark, very gothic and quite industrial. Songs like Somewhat Damaged, The Wretched and Starfuckers, Inc are brilliant. Although many would argue Pretty Hate Machine or The Downward Spiral to be the best NIN albums, this is my personal favourite.”
8) Church Of Misery - Houses Of The Unholy, 2009
“Another superb sludge album, this time from Japan’s Church of Misery. An album where each track is written about a different serial killer and psychopath definitely needs to be included in my list of top 10 bleakest albums! Amazing band, full of riffs, aggression and violence.”
7) Godspeed You Black Emperor - Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven, 2000
“Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven is a phenomenal album. Only in the last couple of years have I really started getting into post-rock. Bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, If These Trees Could Talk, Pelican, Isis (the band); but for me this is one of the best of the genre. Great crescendos, nice samples and use of dynamics help create a bleak but beautiful and intense listen. Great stuff!”
6) Iron Monkey - Our Problem, 1998
“A vile, savage, brutal, vicious record from these sludge heavyweights. Nice to see them back, even if it’s not the original line up. Artwork on this is mental, too.”
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5) The Abominable Iron Sloth - The Abominable Iron Sloth (2006)
“This self-titled album is a banger. Elements of hardcore sludge, punk and doom. It’s crushing! Songs such as Hats Made Of Veal And That New Car Scent, I Am The Carcass and the bleakest track Sailing To The Edge Of The Earth – brutal stuff. All metal fans should check this out. Shame I didn’t ever get to see them live, and I didn’t really get into Will Haven as much, but guitarist Cayle Hunter’s current band Armed For Apocalypse are awesome. Me and my brother booked them in Oxford recently and they tore the place apart.”
4) Tom Waits - Bone Machine (1992)
“I really like Tom Waits, and this album is among his best releases. Bone Machine has elements of gospel, blues, jazz and just weird stuff throughout the whole album. Earth Died Screaming is a pretty dark track and a personal favourite. Many apocalyptic films have used this track, such as Twelve Monkeys and 28 Days Later and it works so well. Jesus Gonna Be Here and Goin’ Out West are great too.”
3) Fear Factory - Demanufacture (1995)
“This album is industrial death metal at its best. The rhythm section in that band is so tight. I was really stoked to see Desert Storm on the same festival line up Fear Factory at Bloodstock Open Air in 2016, and Burton C Bell’s vocals were spot on live. Definitely a bleak record too, with songs like Pisschrist and Dog Day Sunrise.
I have the double album version of this with REmanufacture, where the band did a load of song remixes with Dutch Gabber DJs, which was cool, too.”
2) Soundgarden - Superunknown (1994)
“Superunknown is one of my all time favourite records. Chris Cornell’s tragic death last year was a shock to us all. What an exceptional vocalist and songwriter he was. His haunting voice throughout this album helps cement this as a rock classic. The groove on Superunknown, the sludgy Mailman and epic Limowreck are among the best – but unfortunately I can never listen to Just like Suicide quite the same again.”
1) Black Sabbath - Paranoid (1970)
“Sabbath rule! This was always my favourite album, and the first one I heard. Me and my brother Elliot got into them at the age of eight years old, and have our dad to thank for that. I remember Christmas 1996, Elliot opening one of his Christmas presents to find Black Sabbath Paranoid and I got an Alice Cooper CD. The last year of primary school when we were 11, the teacher said bring in your favourite CDs to the class so everyone could play a song, so we brought them in. We were the last to put the songs on following mostly dance music, and Elliot put on Hand Of Doom – a cheery song about heroin addiction – I think it got turned off after about two minutes. I didn’t even get to play School’s Out.”
Desert Storm’s new album, Sentinels, is out March 16 via APF Records. Check out full details including tour dates on their official site, and catch the video for Journey’s End below: