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Motherslug : The Electric Dunes Of Titan

Australian Motherslug's debut full-length makes a decent fist of establishing their own identity in the crowded Kyuss-style field.

I'll start with a brief overview and then move into the details: Motherslug are a band that cover a decent swathe of territory in terms of their influences, but I would say the two biggest ones are the Stoner Metal/Rock/Desert Rock spectrum that branched off from Kyuss in the '90s and the classic proto-doom of the 1970s, though they also incorporate ideas from heaver Stoner Doom as well as even occasional nods to the '80s scene.

In terms of vocals, Cameron Crichton's style best fits within the wake left by John Garcia, but like Motherslug as a whole, he is comfortable branching out when he needs to. He does some cool things with his voice, incorporating everything from a deep, throaty style to some really nice wails. He even finds occasion to make sparing use of some interesting effects. If I am not mistaken there were a few times when he ran the vox through a guitar amp à la Electric Wizard's Jus Oborn, though to a less extreme degree, and I really liked the end result. 'Staring at the Sun' is almost entirely done in spoken word, but the low, resonant talking voice sounds pretty cool, and the whole thing works well.

Guitarist Regan Batley's work is well executed and usually fairly interesting. While Doom Metal is, on the whole, much more instrumentally democratic than other genres of metal, where the guitar is the dominant instrument, for Motherslug this is particularly true. Batley allows bassist Cynthia Bae a number of opportunities to take over as the dominant force of a particular section, and, somewhat paradoxically, a lot of the more memorable moments on his end come from what he does when the bass is performing the primary melody. He is also good at oscillating from sections where he plays either a single chord or the rough outline of a progression to these long, multi-bar melodies with lots of hammer-ons and pull-offs.

Underneath, and occasionally above, Batley's guitars is Cynthia Bae's bass playing, which definitely impressed me. There is a good amount of variety in what she plays, from long stretches where she'll just pound out a single note to melodically intricate Geezer Butler-eque riffs. She is capable of playing beneath the guitar riff when an upper-register melody needs to be the focal point, but then just as easily she will switch to something that overtakes the guitars as the primary force.

I really like how both Bae and Batley incorporate bursts of feedback into the music. They will let big walls of it out it as a sort of punctuation mark during a handful of key points. On 'Stoned by the Light', there is an interesting section where Batley just lets noise ring out from the amp as Bae plays a nice riff underneath, allowing the guitar to essentially perform a purely textural function while the bass handles the melody. The effect is a little reminiscent of the work of Blackgaze groups, but not in a way that seems distracting or out of place.

There is a nice amount of variety in Batley's solos, but I think he is at his best when his playing more restrained. There is a common saying among guitarists that soloing is as much about knowing what not to play as what to play, and when he slows things down he showcases a gift for holding notes just the right amount of time, playing very restrained and perfectly timed bends, and, to paraphrase Ian Curtis, knowing when to let the silence ring out. However, when things speed up, he has a tendency to become more reliant on a generic application of a number of fairly common techniques and devices.

There are a handful of interesting things drummer Nick Radcliffe did that caught my attention. The biggest in my mind, is his approach to tempo shifts. Particularly on the album's opener 'The Electric Dunes of Titan/Downriver', he employs them in a very unique way. BPM shifts are par to the course for Doom Metal, but typically they are either done all at once at a transitional point, such as between verse and chorus, or else there is a slow build up. Radcliffe does neither. Instead he does these abrupt lunges at places you wouldn't really expect, which really draws your attention to them. To be honest it seemed a little uncoordinated at first, but the way it catches your attention really grew on me.

A final side detail that I really liked was the appropriate use of the tampura in 'Serpents'. The only other metal band that I have encountered that actually know how to use the instrument properly, i.e. as means of solidifying the tonic rather than just a device for making their sound more exotic, is Om, so it was nice to see another band actually made the effort to utilize the instrument properly.

In summary, 'The Electric Dunes of Titan' is a fairly traditional Doom Metal release that incorporates techniques from across the broad spectrum of Doom, but leans hardest on what I would call the Kyuss school as the dominant influence. They are not, however, mindless copycats, but instead employ a number of interesting twists on the genre that give the release a certain liveliness and push it beyond the territory of the derivative.

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. The Electric Dunes Of Titan/Downriver
2. Followers Of The Sun
3. Stoned By The Light
4. Serpents
5. Staring At The Sun
6. Tied To The Mast
7. Cave Of The Last God

Duration : Approx. 44 minutes

Visit the Motherslug bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-02-20 by Pat Jenkinson
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