Suma: Ashes

Swedish sludge crew recall their darkest hour

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Not many bands reissue their third album, but having already sold out of several pressings, and ahead of its follow-up album, 2010’s Ashes – now with new artwork and a new label – stands as the apex of the Swedes’ predatory powers.

Its caustic sludge still contains a surprisingly despair-inducing potency given just how stripped back it is. Headwound splits open with a suitably insurrectionary quote calling for mass murder, setting the tone for the five elongated exercises in suffering and visions of a nightmarishly dystopian future that follow.

On Ashes, hollow, bellowed vocals echoing down darkened streets, furtive shadows cast in the flickering flames of burned out cars, riffs barely audible through the acidic hiss of cymbals and incessant drums all create an all-consuming metropolis of glowering animosity that you will be grateful you can escape from by simply pressing stop.

It is hard not to draw comparisons with Neurosis, but with less sonic invention and more malice. Ashes is a bare-knuckle nightmare that is more an endurance test than a listening experience.