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Style: sludge, experimental, German
Members: Jan ~ electronics/keys
Geb, Ralf Bernhardt ~ guitars
Stefan Kuhn ~ bass
Malte Seidel ~ vocals
Marco Hauser ~ drums
I recently reviewed BSON's latest album, Negative Black, which led to having the chance to interview them & also come across this earlier live release. Being familiar with the band & never having heard a sludge group live I obviously took an interest. First off, it should be mentioned the super quality production for a live album. Though, not a bit of audience sound is to be heard. Next, the fact that it is nearly instrumental except for some undecipherable screaming, which doesn't even come until fifteen minutes in. I've always felt if you have to scream you probably don't need the vocals & I continue with resolve here listening ... though with the echo effect it can be a bit cool when the vocal sound trails off. The vocals are an effect here, not traditional vocals. While the new album finds them moving across the sludge landscape looking for new sounds in the genre, to great success, this collection of five songs over sixty minutes is much more tame & subdued with less obvious experimentation. The heavy low-end two guitar onslaught of BSON is apparent & recognizable here & they just churn forward like a rolling mudslide in every sense of the word. One critic has likened them to a slowed down Mastadon. The comparison isn't too far off. Slow Black Sabbath-esque riffs just repeat & repeat in a thick haze of sound. It must be a monster to hear at top volume. But, while the new albums features the same thick haze there is also squawking guitars & keyboards weaving through it with abandon. Here this is kept to a minimum, or at least doesn't seem to in your face & much more subdued. It's not until the second half of the concert that things start to break down to just basics, moving in a direction that would be taken up on Negative Black. It should be noted that the songs also have a much more similiar sound here, or a much tighter range. Or, more properly, while the end of the album doesn't sound like the beginning the change is subtle one built over steps like a John Adams or Philip Glass composition. To recall my earlier review, I said BSON was "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." Now hearing them both live & in the studio across a couple years I can hear a band in change, this is sludge but not as menacing as the new album nor as experimental, but I can also hear a band honing in on a few key factors to get their chops down tight. Mannheim was originally released on cassette, followed by a CD release on a different label.