Back in the early days of this column, Couldron were one of the first bands to sign up for a review, and (fortunately for me as a writer, fan, and friend) the group continues to make interesting, compelling metal that can withstand even the harshest of critcisms. If I had one single complaint with 2004's Couldron EP, it was that the band was young and trying to carve their own niche in the crowded sludge metal scene. Some could even say calling Couldron similar to bands like ISIS, Neurosis, Godflesh, et al. is not unlike the pot calling the kettle black so to speak; Couldron played their music well, but they still needed some growth away from their influences to find their own sound.
Maybe it's the lineup changes (new bassist Tariq joined early last year), but to these set of rather jaded ears Four Winds sees Couldron emerging from the darker recesses of sludge with a distinct identity full of exciting possibilities. Like I said earlier, the original Couldron EP was an excellent work of atmospheric sludge, well-crafted yet lacking in a sense of massive innovation perhaps. Four Winds rectifies this minor shortcoming, the band still being as in control of their spaced out meanderings as before, but new undertones of filthy rock 'n roll, thrash, and even harsh industrial noise popping up. It almost seems as if the band has developed a sense of advanced psychic understanding, as the entire disc has a psychotic sense of telepathy to it; for every surprise here, every intriguing nuance, Couldron make you believe they've had it planned from the get-go. It is this sense of drive that propels the EP forward, and makes it that much more devastating than its predecessor.
The EP makes this point apparent right from track one, "Four Winds." Be it the literal four winds (or perhaps the four bandmates themselves, remarking on their unity yet inherent differences) this track shows listeners just how much has changed for Couldron in two years. "Four Winds" kicks off right a way with a driving riff drenched in filthy scuzz, the kind of which is perfect for a sludge album. As soon as that riff expands into a open, billowing wall of noise and vocalist/guitarist Eric Ondo lets forth a mighty, caustic howl, you'll know for sure you're hearing a band who have genuinely expanded their already well-grounded sound. As the track continues forward, one can expect to hear gigantic riffs, noisy roars, and powerful slap-bass from Tariq. Tariq fills his new place in the band with aplomb, as from this song forward the disc is full of low-end funk notes from the bassist. Add in a blazing guitar solo leading into a passage of interstellar brain freeze and "Four Winds" will leave all of you dead on arrival.
"The Witness" kicks a whole lot of ass, it's sludge-y thrash riffing being both crunchy and gaseous at the same time. I thought that last time around vocalist Eric Ondo's roars, growls, and yells were perfectly tailored to the band's tar splattered sound, but on this puppy it is apparent that even he has upped the ante vocally. Over frantic double-bass, Ondo bellows with lungs that sound like flapping slaps of well-worn leather, the powerful frontman spewing forth pitch and bile again and again. "The Witness" is probably the tightest song on the entire EP in fact, and if you don't buy it, just wait for the end where the band manages to wrap a "blow-you-away" track in under four minutes.
Next up is the mighty song "The Behemoth," arguably the most expansive and well-fleshed out idea the band has had to date. "Behemoth" floats in on a cloud of noxious, ethereal, and atmospheric sludge; it's not unlike a really big, faint storm cloud coming to f*ck up your picnic. As the song slowly builds up momentum, one begins to question whether or not all the hypnotic metal going on is really getting faster, or just playing tricks on your ears; the massive breakdown shortly thereafter should convince you of the former. Excellently paced, the song next lets loose a glacial solo that shimmers in refracted light; melodic yet fiery, the slow burn of the brilliantly rendered notes strikes the perfect chord.
After a song that wicked, "Fear for Waking" is just slightly underwhelming, though still decent. Short and simple, the tune bombards you with a sulphur-tinged emission of mud rock at its finest. "Walk Away" slinks in with slicing up-tempo notes and bitter howls; things have an almost math/sludge fusion feel to them. Lacerating ears with megaton riffs and furious drumming, the band even goes so far to add effects to the drums on a soft bridge or two of sorts, making for some excellent electronic beats amidst the soil-caked guitar maelstrom. The song throws a few vague Iommi references in there, just before collapsing abruptly on itself like some dying black hole. Puzzled by the long track time, with a bit of patience through a minute or three of reflective dead air, fans are treated to a sinister slice of Godflesh worthy noise that grows, feeds on itself, shrinks, and dies. I had no idea Couldron were capable of tapping into such dark, disgusting recesses of their minds, and hopefully we'll hear more of this.
I can safely say Four Winds finds the band finally getting a breath of fresh air as their sound is evolved to a higher point of perfection. Everything that made the first EP so interesting (the faster, mid-paced sludge, periods of glowering atmospherics, and above all else filthy buzzing noise!) are better, and many new elements have been added for an ever more biting monster of a sound. Points of reference include a Yankee Deadbird, earlier Mastodon, non-punk Neurosis, and the heavier, scarier portions of ISIS and/or Godflesh. I'm speaking now as a reviewer and nothing else; try tasting the contents of this Couldron, you'll like what the band has cooked up. Highly recommended.
1. Four Winds
2. The Witness
3. The Behemoth
4. Fear for Waking
5. Walk Away