Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Coma Wall / Undersmile - Wood & Wire Split 12"

Undersmile are a four piece sludge/doom metal band that I first became aware of in late 2011 when they released a split with fellow oxfordshire noise merchants Caretaker. After falling in love with the two songs they contributed to the split I delved in deeper picking up their first mini LP “A Sea Of Dead Snakes” and it was round about then I was hooked. Last year saw Undersmile release their staggeringly impressive debut LP “Narwhal”, an 80+ minute dirge of slow building rage, despair and darkness.

Never one to rest on their laurels they've just released Wood and Wire a split 12" with the bands acoustic alter ego Coma Wall. Coma Wall is a slightly more fledgling project only officially existing since last year and see's the band strip back their heavily distorted electric guitars in favour of acoustics and banjos. The idea of stripping back and mixing a more lo-fi blues/country aesthetic is not a completely new idea and some of doom and sludge metals pioneers such as Neurosis have been releasing music in this vein under various aliases for years. Whilst it would be easy to make a slap dash comparison to Steve Von Till or Scott Kelly's solo output the music and tone created in my mind is more close to the acoustic material put out by Alice In Chains. The transformation is staggering giving the Coma Wall side of the record a real backwoods and almost grungey feel. The songs are angsty but laid back and resigned and the clarity of sound is really what makes the Coma Wall tracks jarr so violently against the Undersmile side of the record. Think of it as doom metal meet's deliverance and you’re maybe halfway there. Highlights include a reimagining of “Cutters Choice” an Undersmile favourite from “Sea of Dead Snakes”.

The Undersmile half of the record carries on in classic style offering up 3 new, shorter and slightly less sprawling tracks of droney doom perfection. Whilst the tracks are shorter and may not have the time to stretch out into the depths of crushing despair that some of the “Narwhal” material did the tracks are still worthy additions to an already impressive body of work, their short more concise direction making them more accessible, as far as fear inducing doom metal can be accessible.

The main strengths as in all their previous work is the creation of a morbid atmosphere. The stark contrasts between both sides of this record only go to accentuate the pummelling harshness and eerie softness. The vocals as always are a mix of the ominous and angelic but work together to make an incredible refined final product. The end result is enough variety to hold the listeners attention and enough atmosphere to make both sides of the record worthy of praise in their own right.

The record is currently available on translucent purple vinyl (making it not just amazing to listen to but beautiful too boot) on sleeping shaman records and I highly recommend you pick one up. Links below: