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Beelzebud : Beelzebud (Re-release)

An interesting Sludge/Drone/Noise debut from Singapore, that is not without some subtleties.

Well, one of the things we like around these parts is the chance to discover and support new additions to the Doom underground. So it's sort of a pleasure to introduce both Cyclopean Eye Productions and Beelzebud to these pages (though I should point out that the 'sort of' simply refers to this being some way from the easiest of listening, rather than any lessening of the welcome!).

And on that subject - both are fairly significant new arrivals. Indian-based labels backing our corner of the universe have been few and far between, to date, and mostly hidden behind the steadily-expanding powerhouse of Transcending Obscurity's move into the Doom scene, so it was nice to hear from another player in the same ballpark. And as for Singaporean Doom acts - those can be pretty much counted on the thumbs of one foot. So this is a fairly significant re-release - Cyclopean Eye picked up Sludge/Drone duo Beelzebud's self-released tape-only debut and reissued it on CD format. Presentation-wise, it's a decent enough jewel-case offering, though - not unexpectedly, given the band's tersely anonymous web presence - somewhat short on information.

The observant will already have spotted, contrary to all expections from any band with a Beelze.../Bong.../Weed...-type monicker, that there was no mention of Stoner. Whatever the ...bud of choice might be, it isn't generating the sort of blissed-out green, smoky atmosphere that would have you drifting gently through imaginary clouds over the holy mountains: instead, you can look forward to more of a faceful of brutally confrontational noise in the vein of Monarch, Deveikuth and, of course, the original touchstone of Khanate. In some places, you might also want to include a nod to some of the more melodic and meditational moments of bands like Ksyatriya in the mix.

With just a trio of tracks and three-quarters of an hour to fill, you can expect some extended sonic workouts - the two shorter prequels clock in at around the ten-minute mark, the closer runs to over twenty-five, and they translate as tackling the cheerless subjects of "hell", "misery" and "faithlessness" respectively. Don't count on too much light relief along the way: as is par for the course in this end of the genre, the sludgy influences are largely free from any sense of groove, however filthy, that permeate the Southern Rock and NOLA schools, and primarily concentrate on layers of abrasive, grimy distortion and harsh vocal screams and growls. Except that...

...perhaps surprisingly, it's also not without subtleties - the guitar dances a nicely atmospheric counterpoint through the latter parts of 'Sengsara', and in 'Durhaka', and the long, unwinding tapestry of the latter - entirely instrumental (weird sounds and choir effect excepted) and quite progressively-influenced track - also features some decidely atmospheric contributions from bass and what could either be keys or FX-heavy guitar sitting in the background. Credit, too, goes to the drum sound throughout, which is both relaxed and forceful - exploring the possibilities of fills, ornaments and timing changes without ever becoming too busy or distracting, and it's quite possible to follow that as an equal-value lead instrument to the guitar when listening. Drones and simple noise present a background and depth to the recording, and somewhere in the final ten minutes of 'Durhaka', something like a NOLA groove even makes a brief appearance.

So, I guess you could say Beelzebud really do live up to their self-description of "Feelgood Two-Piece Noisemachine of Doom" (which would be a way better band name than the rather tacky one they actually chose, in my opinion!), and have delivered something of a rough and yet entertainingly individual gem with this debut. It's certainly playing to some of the standard rules of the genre, but it's also breaking some of those same rules as it goes (take the CD out, and the tray inner is a picture of a boggly-eyed cat with name tag 'I am Fluffy'. Heh!). To be honest, I think this actually leads with its least-innovative moments: once past the trippy mystic introduction, 'Jahannum' offers a quite predictably familiar noise venture - persevere through that, and a much wider vista opens. Hazy, weed-driven feelgood stuff it isn't, but intelligently-prosecuted Doom it most certainly is. So, welcome, indeed...

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Reviewer's rating: 7.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Jahannam
2. Sengsara
3. Durhaka

Duration : Approx. 46 minutes

Visit the Beelzebud bandpage.

Reviewed on 2017-07-21 by Mike Liassides
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