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Thrashback: Couldron Review

by Mark Hensch

Of all the unsigned bands I've stumbled across in my life, I can safely say none have a pedigree quite like Couldron's. Like an analogy for it? How about this...

The year was 2001. Somewhere in Atlanta, Georgia, a five song demo was about to be released by a band few had heard of. Formed by several ex-members of seminal progressive hardcore act Today is the Day, the band was relatively unknown, and only the most diehard of TITD fans were truly excited for the release. Featuring obscure movie samples, twisting and angular progressive sludge metal, and the completely inhuman drumming of Brann Dailor, the little band went on to become one of the American underground metal scene's critical and commercial darlings. Now signed to Warner Brothers and with arguably several of the best albums in recent memory to the name, its ironic to think the band started off as a bunch of unknowns grouped under the name of a prehistoric pachyderm; Mastodon.

The above was meant to relate to the kind of things I feel Couldron could be capable of in the near future. This six song self-titled demo had me going in vivid flashbacks to the first time I heard Lifesblood. The similarities are (musically) few, but in terms of historical similarities many.

Formed in Chicago in 2001, Couldron wanted to (not unlike good old Mastodon) pay homage to Neurosis, as well as ISIS and Godflesh. After several years of jamming and solidifying their lineup (the band had a revolving door of bassists for awhile), Couldron recorded this album at Chicago's famed Volume Studios, the likes of which have seen such innovative bands as Pelican, Rwake, and Buried at Sea laying down tracks behind its doors. For doom fans, few place on Earth should have as much progressive history to them as Volume Studios does. Further amping the disc's name values, the demo was sent to West Side Music/Deko Music in New Jersey for mastering, the same studio that has mastered the like of Superjoint Ritual, Sepultura, and ahem, Mastodon.

When I stumbled across the band's credentials in the personal ads of Metal Maniacs magazine, I knew that they were probably something special. My one conclusion is that I cannot believe this band isn't signed. Couldron is a short but sweet ride through hazy sludge, the kind that manages to have the element of inspirational weight to it that the Melvins radiate all while mastering the art of rise/fall dynamics bands like Neurosis, ISIS, and Pelican have been peddling to major praise for some years now.

"Dune" opens the disk with patient, sludgey guitar licks and vocalist/guitarist Eric Ondo's exceedingly unique voice. Alternating in various shades of dull, lazy roar, Ondo's raspy yowls are one of the band's most defining (and interesting) characteristics. "Dune" sways between cascades of sonic assault and swirling passages of clean guitar; the bulldozer tune eventually builds up into a blazing solo of stoner metal bliss. "Before the Gods" opens with a movie clip (props if you know it folks) and a relaxed, confident guitar arrangement that slowly adds layer after layer of density to itself. "Fallen" opens with thrashier riffs slowed to a crawl, and the band proceeds to go through constantly expanding and contracting moods recalling the work of both (in a weird way) Mastodon and Deadbird.

"The Well" opens with spacey acoustica before transitioning into pummeling, complex sludge. A fantastic bridge mid-song is one of the disc's strongest moments. The inky "A Dark Era" bubbles with an intensity I'd expect from Nola metal bands like Eyehategod or Down while sounding like the thickest grunge rock ever committed to record. Closing instrumental "Stoner" mixes soaring guitars, dirty rock 'n roll, and stark space rock freakouts for a fantastic cut of innovative metal.

Muddy and massive, Couldron seem poised to make a big splash on the underground music scene. Upon showing them to my younger brother, he asked me what label they were signed to. "They're not signed? That seems wrong." Beyond the fact they sound like they deserve a record contract, Couldron are (thankfully) starting to turn heads. In March of 2005 the band saw "Dune" rearing its filthy head on the Daredevil Records metal compilation "Burn the Street (Volume IV)" alongside such class acts as the Mighty Nimbus, Entombed, and Mastodon. The Editor of Metal Maniacs has also gotten behind the band, giving them the honor of an interview/review photo spread in the November 2005 issue. Couldron have cooked up a real tasty stew on this disc, and I'm hoping someday soon a decent label allows them to take things even further. Interested parties should apply, and keep your eyes on this one.

Track List
1. Dune
2. Before the Gods
3. Fallen
4. The Well
5. A Dark Era
6. Stoner

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