Thursday 3 January 2019

The Mound Builders - The Mound Builders

Labels: Failure Records & Tapes
Formats: Vinyl/CD/Digital
Release Date: 18 Jan 2019


1. Torchbearer
2. Hair Of The Dogma
3. Separated From Youth
4. Acid Slugs
5. Star City Massacre
6. Regolith
7. Broken Pillars
8. Vanished Frontier

It's time for the first taste of new sludge in 2019, coming courtesy of The Mound Builders, who ply their trade in the Midwestern US city of Lafayette, Indiana. This heavy quartet has been playing sludge and metal since 2009 and their self-titled second album comes a whole seven years after their debut "Strangers In A Strange Land". They've been letting their music grow and this is the result. They'll be supporting it's release by heading out for various dates across Indiana in mid-January and February. 

Distilling all that’s great about the UK doom/sludge scene and mixing it with the chops of their own US genre forefathers, The Mound Builders present groove-laden riffs, varied tempos and harshly shrieked vocals on album opener Torchbearer. It’s obvious how much they love sludge here and reading about the bands that influence them, it’s easy to understand why. Their rock chops ain’t bad either and that’s what gives them extra personality. Sludge is always best when it’s delivered with classy lead-guitar, which is here in spades. Talking of varied tempos, Hair Of The Dogma starts with a thrashing intro and that pace only adds to the urgency of the song, which barely reaches three-minutes and is in stark contrast to the opener. The Mound Builders don’t just settle into a slow slog, they actually take their music in different directions, which can only be good for the listener. 

The closest comparisons musically I can make would be Crowbar and Electric Wizard; however, that’s not to say the TMB are mere copyists. Separated From Youth borrows from those bands but the higher-pitched shrieks of vocalist Jim Voelz point to something more unhinged. Acid Slugs is the perfect name for a stoner band, though it would probably be too predictable. Instead, it’s the name of a song here and if slow is what you’re looking then you’ve found it. Hypnotic in delivery and a little bleak in atmosphere during its first half, TMB pick up the pace in the second with the help of some punk rock percussion flourishes. 

The thrash is strong again in Star City Massacre, which leads you into the second half of the record with neck-snapping metal and gang-vox. It’s still sludge-filled but it rages from start to finish and it’s over before you know it. Throw in another great solo and you’ve got yourself a winner! Regolith conjures the sense of urgency once again and there’s no hiding this time. The addition of subtle semi-clean vocals is a nice touch, though they are very subtle and don’t detract from TMB’s whirlwind at all. The whole band is well in their stride here and clearly enjoying spewing out these sludgy tunes. 

Penultimate behemoth Broken Pillars sees the band going back to their slower roots again. As with the record, the bass work of Brian Boszor and the guitar of Robert Ryan Strawsma is filled with low-end heft while Jason Brookhart’s drumming keeps everything steamrolling on. Album closer Vanished Frontier, like Torchbearer at the beginning, is another long one and it will remind you of a certain troupe of Cowboys from Hell. It ends the album on an ever slowing note that’s actually quite reassuring, considering everything that came before it. The Mound Builders aren’t reinventing sludge  but they are making sure it’s enjoyable and listenable. To me, there’s no better music than that. Good work!

The full record is streaming on Youtube here prior to it's release

The record can be pre-ordered on CD and vinyl here -

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