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Mother Eel : Svalbard


Extreme, brutal and misanthropic: Australian band Mother Eel score a definite hit with this unearthed outing into Doom territories.



Welcome to Australia, home of some utterly brilliant, totally in-yer-face Doom acts...that you may well never have heard of. The most common complaint I hear (generally, directly from Australian Doom acts themselves) is that it's a hard place to even set up a band, never mind break open, and I guess that's probably very true - the logistics of managing an enormous continent with widely-separated and not particularly high-population-density urban areas must be a nightmare when compared to, say, the easy access and short-haul trips needed to get a pretty comprehensive western European presence established. But it hasn't stopped bands as widely spread as the now-ancient and legendary diSEMBOWELMENT and Mournful Congregation, or the more contemporary The Nihilistic Front, ESTRANGEMENT, Motherslug and Lucifer's Fall (etc) from reaching out worldwide with the quality of their recordings.

Well, I reckon I'd be willing to add Mother Eel to that list now. Okay, they freely admit that not everything they do is Doom-influenced, and even the most cursory investigation of their back catalogue shows that to be true. 'Svalbard, however, is a deliberate collection of their most explicitly doomy ventures - and, in the words of drummer AJ: "We generally like death metal but our playing style has always incorporated a mixture of doom, grooves and grind. Svalbard focused primarily on the doom aspect". It does indeed, and, to be honest, it's just a blast from beginning to end. You don't have to listen much further than the noise-enhanced intro to 'Sucking To Gain', with its filthy, sludgy bass groove and the hoarse shout of "Die..." that kicks things off in earnest, to realise you're giving ear-space to the sharp end of some massively abusive Noise/Crust/Sludge-based sonic violence.

And if that's your thing, you're in luck, because Mother Eel have no intention of letting up, anywhere along the line. The instruments are a pounding morass of swampy assault, seasoned with pure noise, and hammering their point home with a percussion section that seems completely unwilling to stick to any given tempo for any length of time. Meanwhile, vocalist Nathan Kenna dredges out some excruciatingly tortured vocals: spitting out words with a raw, painfully intense venom utterly suited to the musical backing.

So - be aware - this is not the polite, thought-out, aggression-by-numbers approach of the more technical and pedal-oriented European Post-Metal bands out there and nor is it the heavy, catchy Southern groove of typical Stoner/Sludge ventures. It's something that takes the extremes of both, and leaves them lying, bloodied, on a spit-and-sawdust floor, like separated teeth after a particularly brutal bar-room altercation. Okay, that's not going to be to everyone's taste - especially if following the instructions on the accompanying press notes: "Must be listened to at volume - if you can speak over it, it's not loud enough". I'd put Mother Eel in the same sort of bracket as The Nihilistic Front when it comes to listenability: that's not really what they're aiming for, and the results, even by underground standards are harsh and unforgiving.

Rolling on from the nihilistic groove of the "Death is proper/Death is fine" refrain of the opening track, through the chaotic uptempo salvos punctuating 'Erection Of Pain' and the more deliberate 'Alpha Woman', into the contrastingly mellow-titled but brutally pulsating 'Listen To The Elderly For They Have Much To Teach' and the raucous finale of 'Not My Shade', the half-hour-and-change runtime thunders quickly by. There's almost no information supplied on the innocuous-looking digipak CD, but the whole thing sounds like it was recorded live in the studio, and the grimy production enhances that feeling. Referring back to the press notes I was sent, it appears that's pretty much the case - it was originally recorded in front of selected private audiences in 2008, and the rough mix which was salvaged from that went through plenty of adventures before winding up with James Plotkin (Khanate, and others) for mastering. Well, to a certain extent, that's exactly where music like this always sounds like it really belongs - on stage, through a bank of Marshalls, with an epilepsy-inducing backdrop of lasers set to stun.

You may also like to know, in passing, that the various instrumental credits include Noise, Wank, Guitar, Bass, Drums and Vox...and though I'm not entirely sure if Australian wank is precisely the same as the UK equivalent, the image does rather sum 'Svalbard' up. It's nasty, raw stuff, sneering and snarling with unsuppressed misanthropic hatred for the weaknesses of humanity. All I can add to that is: keep up the good work, Mother Eel!


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Reviewer's rating: 8/10

Information

Tracklist :
1. Sucking To Gain
2. Erection Of Pain
3. Alpha Woman
4. Listen To The Elderly For They Have Much To Teach
5. Not My Shade

Duration : Approx. 34 minutes

Visit the Mother Eel bandpage.

Reviewed on 2019-06-18 by Mike Liassides
Gorslava
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