Style: sludge, experimental, German
Label: Exile On Mainstream
Members: Jan ~ electronics/keys
Geb, Ralf Bernhardt ~ guitars
Stefan Kuhn ~ bass
Malte Seidel ~ vocals
Marco Hauser ~ drums
Opening with a distorted & disjointed guitar sounding like its stumbling with feedback in hand out of a solo like something one might find at the end of a Sonic Youth or Smashing Pumpkins song one wonders what type of band this is. It's certainly not sludge as advertised. Just at that giving up hope moment the mix is interrupted by the sludge factor in all its hard to swallow glory riding on top of the mix. The guitar continues to squack with disjointed noise like a Lou Reed experiment while the rhythm section & other band members create one of the heaviest sludgy rhythms I've had a chance to hear. It's masterful it's so heavy. It one big stone slab of pure low-end power riding against a very simple drum beat. I've reminded of Count Basie whose rhythm section was given the nickname of the 'Basie beat' because the idea was one big rhythm sound versus a bunch of little instruments. The idea is a unified sound & the BSON have hit that one on the head. The sludge style, for many of us, is distinctive for its feeling of mud rolling down the hill. BSON is the volcanic mudslide that buried Pompeii alive. One can imagine an artistic representation being a monster made out of mud, versus some sludge peers that are more like light streams. Here the distinctiveness of each instrument is completely gone, which is the way it should be. But, yet, with distorted guitars bubbling away now & then in the mix under the monolith one is prone to put this more in the experimental end of the genre. Near the end of the six minute opener "Illinois" comes a voiceover about the struggle of the working man, in English, probably from a movie. It's an interesting choice of vocal burst & left to the end of the song has a great impact & helps add to the experimental quality. Sadly, some of the other songs feature dueling heavily distorted & dampered screamed vocals both high & low of a traditional metal quality that provide variety but are anti-climactic after the voiceover. Luckily, movie or tv voiceovers return in the later song "10000 qF" including both sung lyrics & voiceover to great effect, before the album takes a more instrumental direction, except for some delightful mumbling & gasping in the final title track. With the voiceover mixed with the singing one suddenly gets the feeling that what came before was but a textural build-up, both lyrically & musically. The three preceeding songs are laying out the paint on the pallette to be then mixed & rediscovered in ways that are quite fascinating & unexpected. Further, at a lofty eighty minutes the music doesn't feel like it repeats itself. Not once does the listening experience feel like it went on to long. The crawling sludge of the first song gets a contrast with what can only be described as a more vibrant funky sludge sound on "400H" & "60WV". The fourth track, "10000 qF", starts off much more traditional metal sounding in its rhythm just sans any lead guitar lines. One can almost hear some Black Sabbath in it. It's almost like they started out at the extreme sludge end & moved center. But, where does the rest of the album go? Well, the first half is a must hear for sludge fans ... the second half doesn't disappoint either & I'll leave that for you to discover! But, I'll give you a hint - you never would believe sludge metal can develop so much over a single album even venturing into the atmospheric realm (i.e. "RMS") with shocking abandon before coming back to a thunderous crawl slower than ever (i.e. "Neg. Black"). I have a feeling BSON are aiming for an abrasive sound, to quote one reviewer's word, but I find the powerful low-end so fascinating, being a bassist myself, that it ends ups being an addictively interesting listening with its fangs drained of venom. I'm fascinated by how it's so unified in its sound becoming one monster of a instrument with its little dancing distorted guitar elf children running around its feet. Negative Black is the third release by this German outfit that is a ride sludge fans will certainly enjoy.