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19th January 2018 – Argonauta Records

01. Whale Road
02. Selkie
03. Echoes in Stone
04. Einhallow
05. History of the Earls of Orkney

From Lovecraft’s unfathomable sea monsters to Melville’s very fathomable sea monsters, the call of the ocean has always been an important theme for sludge metal. Sludge’s fluidity between raw devastation and tense, drawn-out sections makes the ocean sonically and thematically appropriate, allowing bands like Clamfight to explore both raw aggression and their softer, less feral side.

New record III opens with “Whale Road“, where languid chords are underscored with some driving tomwork. When the washed-out vocals hit the record settles intof its ambient groove nicely, with some more violent moments that encourage momentum. The themes established here continue throughout the record; there’s a lot of space for the songs to breathe, and though this sometimes gives way to aggression they often hold back on sounding feral in order to play about with musical changes, a good example being the rhythms in Whale Road’s solo section.

This continues in “Echoes in Stone“, which builds on their watery theme with the introduction of heavy atmospheres and some tremolo-picked sections. Here though, the focus on rhythmic vocal delivery elevates the track to sound much more dynamic.

A number of things about this record are extremely impressive; aside from being sonically rich and engaging, it’s refreshing to see a sludge band who know when to go hard and when to really strip things back. Even by the regular standards of sludge this is a very guitar-oriented record; III features some really unusual and effective solo guitar sections which help give it definition. This is particularly obvious in the very gentle, sad “Einhallow” where the gently repetitive acoustic strums have a hypnotic, tide-like quality.

There’s a lot of fairly obvious reference points, the clearest of which is Mastodon‘s Leviathan, the king of oceanic sludge metal, though there’s a lot of the edge and experimentation of Mastodon’s earlier work here too. Ultimately there’s a sense that they’re developing themes that have been started before; Clamfight very much have their own take on this. III also works well on a playlist with bands such as UK doom titans Greenhorn.

It’s good to see other bands adding more to the watery, washed-out sound without sacrificing aggression. In many ways a development of ideas that were already working well, but significantly their take on this niche is especially distinctive. The first superb sludge record of 2018.

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