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Angakok : Angakok

This self-titled debut from Belgian Sludge/Doom band Angakok is a fittingly disturbing reflection of our times.

Oh, now here we go. Belgium's Angakok, a band I'd never laid ears upon before have certainly put a large smile on my face. Playing a style of Sludge Doom (not sludge metal) with the "speed" and heaviness of Walk Through Fire along with the spite and biliousness of Grief, they throw in the experimental stylings of Melvins and the merest hint of Drone to create something rather special. It's not overtly nihilistic, as there's definitely some decent method, purpose and thought gone into this sonic catharsis, but I'd have to go back to 'Corrado Zeller' by Mudbath to find anything to equal the harrowing nature of the delivery.

(Sludge/)Doom of this kind is a niche genre within a niche genre. A further distillation of the very essence and reasons as to why slow and heavy music gets made. This album comes across as something wholly unafraid and unabashed to venture into the very heart of the perplexing existential horrors that trouble humanity. And, whether humanity wants to acknowledge them or not, Angakok are here to attest to their despicable reality. Spoken-word samples add to the mystery of the record and make it at times reminiscent of Eyehategod or Fistula, but without the bluesy Sabbath worship.

Lengthy down-tuned chords reverberate, whilst the vocalist spits his venom above them. At times it's like listening to a far nastier version of Cough. At other times the music comes in the form of those slow stabs of muted frustration which Noothgrush are so good at, beating out a tense and exasperated atmosphere. Track five, 'Samsara', changes the pace slightly and shows Angakok to be anything but a one trick pony. Starting off with some Unearthly Trance vibes, it's actually not long until the pace slows again, before it quietens down into a moody soup of textured guitars and atmospherics.

Elsewhere there's the jumpy, almost grungy influence of Melvins-type anarchy, and a couple of shorter atmospheric tracks which all help to give the album much more than an overly simplistic dynamic. Which is where I think Angakok really hit it off. Sure, you could do fifty minutes of slow sludgy doom with scorching vocals, and I certainly wouldn't argue with that, but by veering off the beaten track, Angakok have created something mysterious and interesting with perhaps a hint of mysticism. The minimalism of the artwork by Derek Setzer, lack of available lyrics and curious song titles really point to a band making an esoteric statement primarily for themselves. Art, in other words.

Personally, this album ticks all the boxes, not least because of how the record ends. Final track 'Sivudlit Nertorpok' begins with something sounding like a Tibetan singing bowl before a voice in a language I don't understand narrates the album's epilogue. Could be a secret spiritual doctrine. Could be the ramblings of a madman. The two possibilities are perhaps inextricably linked. Angakok's bleak and perilous soundscapes are not without essence or meaning, or I suspect political intent. This self-titled debut is a fittingly disturbing reflection of our times.

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Reviewer's rating: 9/10


Tracklist :
1. Perpaluktok Aitut
2. Sacrifice
3. Collapsing
4. Aksarpok
5. Samsara
6. Avioyok
7. Dead Birds
8. Trust My Scorn
9. Empty Cup
10. Sivudlit Nertorpok

Duration : Approx. 48 minutes

Visit the Angakok bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-03-26 by Matt Halsey
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