Slomatics are so intensely slow that it’s taken them a decade to travel any further south than Birmingham. But it also means that tonight’s show – their first in the capital – coincides neatly with their tenth birthday.
The little Brixton bar is packed all the way to the back. Never ones to rush, Slomatics won’t begin until well after midnight, well after the support acts have done their damndest to satisfy a doom-hungry congregation with an appetite for only the slowest and heaviest guitar-work. Slow Plague and Three Thrones offer sludge in abundance, each sounding appropriately enough like different varieties of torture and death. Grey Widow offer an excellent set peaking with the heaving, creaking squalls of songs Seven and Eight (named according to order of composition) which fill the room with so much dissonant riffage that standing through it feels like some kind of beatific warming all-body massage. When it comes to sludge, songs tend to emerge like drawbridges rising from the mire: Grey Widow raise them up with more might than most, before letting them crash with full force.
Slomatics have long since become an entirely more artful and stylish act, developing at their own pace and releasing on a variety of independent labels before putting out this year’s masterful Estron on Dutch imprint Burning World. Their decade of determination has paid dividends. In the last few years they’ve been invited to the Incubate and Roadburn festivals in Tilburg, rising from the doom/sludge subset to become more closely identified with acts like Boris, Sunn O))) and Hey Colossus. Perhaps it’s a consequence of Mastodon’s mainstream success or the continual innovation of the Melvins, but Slomatics are, like many persistent bands, enjoying the heartfelt attention of the few people who have finally come round to their way of thinking. Not that they have been striving for approval.
They offer only the briefest of introductions: “We bring you songs of merriment and joy,” says guitarist Chris Couzens. “And of space travel to interstellar galaxies,” says drummer Marty Harvey.
A synth intro summons the first four songs, which despite coming from three different releases flow powerfully and seamlessly and create the strangest sense of simultaneous intensity and relaxation. All vocals are handled by Harvey whose delay-drenched syllables beam in from the back of the mix, like Ozzy Osbourne singing from the depths of a Martian cave. He plays on a kit custom-built to match the specifications of John Bonham’s at Madison Square Garden in 1973, pummelling through Lost Punisher while Couzens and fellow guitarist David Majury play with an immersion that borders on the salacious. During And Yet it Moves they truly deliver on the promise of a space-age journey, the seven-minute workout beginning with feedback and simple compelling chords lifted by a fuzzed-out guitar line that hoists things right up before the vocals arrive. The guitarists are bent backwards, instruments lifted like broadswords before battle. Being among friends, however, war remains undeclared, and after final song Beyond Acid Canyon, Slomatics get nothing but love and applause.