New Zealand Music Month: Open Tomb

It’s New Zealand Music Month this May. New Zealand’s annual celebration of homegrown music. Generally, that involves a lot of mainstream media highlighting a lot of mainstream acts. So I’m here to try and redress the balance a bit.  I’ll be posting a link to some rowdy New Zealand music for you to check out every day over the next month. Some bands will no doubt be familiar; others I hope will be fresh to your ears.

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As the header above notes, most (but not all) of the local mainstream media down here generally ignores underground New Zealand music, whether it’s New Zealand Music Month or not. So what I’m trying to do with these posts every day is redress that balance a little during the month of May.

However, it has to be said that many of the bands I’m featuring here wouldn’t care that much about any media attention anyway. Least of all from an old man like me. That’s certainly the vibe you get when listening to Hamilton-based doom trio Open Tomb. Because everything about Open Tomb screams, “FUCK YOU”. From the wonderfully vulgar cover art of their latest album, Dead Weight, featured above, to their monolithic and über-slow subterranean trawls. Open Tomb just reek of a band that delights in maltreating their audience.

Of course, that’s why we dig ’em, and below is a review I wrote for Dead Weight when it was first released. Before you get to that, I’m also including a link to the Open Tomb-affiliated band Spiteful Urinator. The black metal, d-beat, and “poo-punk” band has a number of releases available on Bandcamp, including the solid gold pile of bile, Work Crimes. So here’s Spiteful Urinator, followed by the even uglier and nastier Open Tomb.

Open Tomb – Dead Weight 

There’s a lot of ways you can describe New Zealand sludge/doom trio Open Tomb: Bleak. Devastating. Sick. Or, unimaginably heavy. All of those work as apt enough descriptors for a band that’s gloomier than a funeral and more twisted than a snuff movie. But Open Tomb’s cruelest trait is that they’re so wantonly torturous. That’s not simply because Open Tomb makes über-slow and disconcerting subterranean noise, but also because the band takes such obvious delight in mercilessly punishing their audience.

That’s not much of a surprise when you consider that two members of Open Tomb, drummer Dane Bailey and guitarist and vocalist Sean Carmichael, have both been making wholly (and unholy) uncompromising music for decades. Both Bailey and Carmichael played important roles in the development of extreme metal in New Zealand, being members of bands such as Enshrine, Intorment, and Gore Story in the early 90s. Those bands were among the first wave New Zealand groups to leave traditional metal in the rearview mirror and begin to wreck audio mayhem. And while Open Tomb dispense a very different style of noise to Bailey and Carmichael previous bands, it’s all delivered with the exact same level of ill-tempered bloody-mindedness.

Open Tomb’s latest release, the three-song gruesome feast Dead Weight, follows on from 2013’s Servants Of Slow compilation which was also released on Dry Cough Records, home to many other heavy-footed brutes. Dead Weight is about as wretched as it’s possible to get. “Blood And Flies”, “Abandoned In A Pit”, and the 20-minute nightmare-inducing “Scraping Shit (From Beneath My Nails)”, are all thoroughly nasty, fetid, and woebegone death marches through tar-thick doom and rancid sludge. Much like Meth Drinker, New Zealand’s other master of noxious murk, Open Tomb are experts in compressing the atmosphere. A choking miasma envelops everything on Dead Weight, and while are gulfs between the album’s giant riffs, there’s no hope of grabbing a moment to breathe any fresh air anywhere.

That is, of course, why Dead Weight is so enjoyable. It’s a suffocating, challenging and demoralizing trawl that’ll test the hardiest of souls. But for fans of leaden sludge and doom that pisses in God’s pocket and wallows in grime and decay, therein lies the bountiful reward.