Riffocalypse Now!


A few days back, one of my habitual whiner acquaintances bemoaned the death – as he put it – of the deep brooding malevolence that characterised metal music. I was too happy with my beer to resort to violence, nor even to argue. I played him Shepherd’s “Stereolithic Riffocalypse”. His stupefied silence was one of the most satisfying rewards of my blessed life. He walked away with one of the two remaining CDs of the album that I had with me then.

An album name like this evokes thoughts of monstrous riffs. Monumental silliness too, yes, but we’ll let that pass because it doesn’t find its way into the music. This three-piece purveyor of sludge metal has produced the kind of slow motion skull-crushing, mind-numbing music that I am partial to in the heavy metal world. To me it’s a refreshing (it’s ok if you think I must be sick) change from the tearing, high-speed metal that seems – I could be wrong there though – more popular in my part of the world. The tone for the album is set with the dark, visceral “Spite Pit”. And when you hear “Turdspeak” you get an even better sense of the ‘numbing’, ‘crushing’ heavy adjectives I indulged in. Only, this song does it better and more exquisitely than any other in the set. But I know others who have fallen for the cathartic groove of “Crook” or the title track. I wouldn’t complain about that. However, wading through such thick sludge can be tiresome as you get to the end of the album but even on “Wretch Salad” which I found tedious for the most part, the trio manages to wrench you from weary somnolence to a state of frenzy with a surprising change of pace about three quarters into the song. You’ll find that similar schizophrenic state on “Bog Slime” too. And if you thought the dense low end is all that the band has on offer, check out the guitar that kicks in at about 6:25 on the closer “Stalebait”. To me this album seems well thought out and crafted admirably. “Stereolithic Riffocalypse” is not to be just sampled. It has to be heard in its entirety.

I had written about the nearly impossibly low drone of Torche a few posts back. Shepherd plumbs even deeper, and that’s saying a lot. While Torche instils a very unusual, contrarian peppiness, Shepherd goes conventional. The end result is the same though – a vigorous shaking out of the demons in you.

Oh! that acquaintance I mentioned? I haven’t heard from him since. I think he smashed himself out on the sound.