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Hangman's Chair : This Is Not Supposed To Be Positive

Hangman's Chair venture into a scarily brilliant heart of darkness.

The superbly titled 'This Is Not Supposed To Be Positive' sees the Paris masters of Sludge return with their fourth full-length offering, and, as the name of the album, and Hangman's Chair's earlier output suggests, this is a work of remarkable bleakness. These guys really mean it; throughout the course of the album, we're taken to the hellish depths of addiction, abuse, despair and self-harm on one of the darkest musical journeys you're likely to take.

Opening track 'Dripping Low' goes straight for the jugular with a down tempo, gut-churningly heavy riff and unsettling lyrical themes of drug abuse, domestic violence and death. When the relentless flow of Sludge gives way to a passage of trippy, hypnotic melancholia, it only serves to accentuate the tortured brutality of what came before. As disturbing as the first foray into Hangman's Chair's heart of darkness is, it's compelling stuff: both haunting and melodic, it will get under your skin and will keep you listening.

Perhaps the darkest point on the album, 'Cut Up Kids' is a masterclass of malevolent Sludge with a brutally heavy down-tempo riff that underpins twisted lyrics with themes of self-harm, and ultimately suicide, as singer Cédric Toufouti wails 'This hole in the ground/calls me so loud' and the tempo slows to the pace of a smack-addicted funeral procession wading through the bayou. Vocals remain clean – no growling here – but the content of this plaintive lament is as grimy as you're ever likely to hear.

As the record approaches the halfway stage, things do begin to lighten up, with 'Your Stone' taking on a more, well, Stoner vibe. Crooned vocals and a jangly, melancholy riff build in intensity as Cédric's voice builds to a soaring crescendo to complement pounding drums and a hypnotic, repetitive riff that ultimately ends in buzzing feedback. But the respite is brief: 'Save Yourself' proves to be the most misanthropic outpouring of loathing on the album. A grinding, scabrous riff gives way to a gloriously demented, solo that screams a discordant wail of anger and misery.

As 'This Is Not Supposed To Be Positive' winds its belligerent journey through the blackest parts of the soul, there are elements of Post Metal, most notably on instrumental number, 'Les Enfants Des Monstres Pleurent Leur Desepoir', a thoughtful piece with spoken interludes reminiscent of early Mogwai. Often trippy and hypnotic, and with brooding Gothic flourishes, the different elements blend effectively to heighten the unflinching emotional pummelling the album delivers, offering some subtlety amongst the primal Sludge. All of this is complimented by an outstanding vocal performance by Cédric Toufouti, his clean, melodic tone filled with a sorrowful menace that is deeply affecting.

This is a truly bleak and challenging listen from start to finish. There's no posturing here: these guys are the real deal and the themes explored are raw and sometimes difficult to confront. Perhaps that's part of its appeal, though: the sheer brutal despair of the lyrics offers a vicarious glimpse into a world we all visit at some point, but perhaps don't remain in as long, or experience to the levels expressed on 'This Is Not Supposed To Be Positive'. And the vocals and lyrics are so compelling, and the musical delivery so assured, it's impossible not to be drawn into the dark heart of Hangman's Chair. There are many influences evident on this album, but they've been honed and combined into a style that the band have very much made their own, on what is a great progression from the rawness of the band's early albums. Scarily brilliant.

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Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Dripping Low
2. Cut Up Kids
3. Requiem
4. Your Stone
5. Save Yourself
6. Les Enfants Des Monstres Pleurent Leur Desepoir
7. Flashback
8. No One Says Goodbye Like Me
9. Dope Sick Love
10. Rouge Pour Le Sang, Bleu Pour La Grace

Duration : Approx. 55 minutes

Visit the Hangman's Chair bandpage.

Reviewed on 2016-06-20 by Nick Harkins
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