NETHER REGIONS - Into the Breach CD
"To all of my stoner friends out there, have you ever smoked yourself straight? If you said yes then you can understand my feeling towards the current stoner rock musical trend. It's gotten over saturated to the point where almost all the bands sound the same. Nowadays it's not who's good or not but to what degree are the humping the SABBATH/VITUS corpse." That's my quote from back in the late nineties during the last Stoner/Sludge trend or back in the last "Bong-Age" as it were. I was writing for a second rate music magazine then, after retiring my own first rate fanzine, and started off a review of yet another stoner/sludge act with that. So here we are again over ten years later except this time around there's no one culling the herds of bands. Label signings did that back in the day but now anyone can release their own CD and call themselves "a unique style of stoner, sludge, doom metal". Some schmuck at a Doom Metal site gets the release and does his or her best to slap a new coat of Thesaurus paint onto the brick shithouse. All in the hopes that if said band get's big they're be remembered for it and raise their own status. Well as for me it's the music which should be remembered first and foremost. Also I'm not so jaded to think there are no bands out there creating some decent and unique stoner/sludge doom.
Take this Portland band for example with the aptly titled band name. Yes it's aptly titled because it conveys the attitude I just put forth. This band's style is NOT the same old SABBATH-ian dick fucking the same even older stoned whore. There's a metaphor for their release title in that last sentence as well. On Into the Breach this four piece act has not re-invented the wheel but does have a unique style which marries the past and present, floats in just enough Eastern influenced psych and just might have some influences hiding that are not so obvious to under forty year old ears. First off this recording (done at Smegmatone in Portland, OR) sounds like a band from 1993 making a record in a studio with 70's equipment plus a pot head engineer wearing a faded CACTUS t-shirt twisting the knobs. I swear to you I was expecting to hear the "pops" and "cracks" of playing a vinyl LP. To put it bluntly upon my first listen I thought it was HIGH ON FIRE meets BLUE CHEER and jamming together at an after show party somewhere in the North California hills. The opening cut "Into the Breach/Spanish Werewolves" reeks of late 60's/early 70's fuzz and hippie killing power. At other times, like on "Do You Live?", I was thinking someone in this band was once in a crust/d-beat act at one time. I mean they're from the Northwest so it's possible. Guitarist Kyle Bates includes solos on here as if he was schooled by an Iomni/Page master. Of course there's some late 70's SABBATH riffage mixed with Middle Eastern opium den psych. Drummer Ryan Moore tosses in those Ginger Baker like drum fills when the band is kicking in that 70's groove euphoria. Guitarists Bates and Todd Pidcock are without a doubt a perfect tag team. Last but not least is bassist/vocalist Joe Wickstrom who channels Dickie Peterson and Geezer Butler fairly well on the four string while also supplying the "every man" (Punk Rock/Hardcore) type pitch perfect vocals. The guy is never over the top screamer nor a gravel throated growler.
Taking past influences and adding first class musicianship is one thing but NETHER REGIONS know song writing craft. Basic stoner metal/sludge rock song structures are enhanced with a more free form jazz technique. This release builds upon itself one song at a time. It's starts out great with the songs I've already mentioned. By the midway point, with the over seven and a half minute band jam showcase cut "Pale Faced God", you're like 'Holy Mountain this is great!" That's as close to any "pass the bong I think I'm Matt Pike" moments this release has. By the near end of Into the Breach with "A City Far Enough Away" you have reached the summit of excellence and a 70's drug hazed flashback. And there's still the last cut "Outrun the Sun" which is an opus which mixes Eastern tinged SABBATH/FLOYD atmosphere with mid period NEUROSIS shock and awe power. After a half dozen plays I'm here to tell ya that NETHER REGIONS have surpassed their influences as well as their peers. This is their debut full length, yes you read that right, it's their Fuckin First Full Length! From what their promo material reveals Wickstrom is the old hand here and the rest of the band is young guns performing like seasoned veterans. Into the Breach is clearly one of the best Doom releases I've been lucky enough to hear in 2011. Go to their Bandcamp link to check it out yourself then purchase the download. Don't thank me, thank the band for creating something unique in a genre of mimics.