I love writing positively about music that oozes negativity. There’s nothing more fun than pointing out how great some releases are at making us feel truly fucking awful. The debut demo from Auckland, New Zealand sludge/doom four-piece Draulicht definitely falls into that category. It’s tailor-made for the horrible person lurking inside us all, and Draulicht clearly take great delight in dispensing their miserable tidings.
In essence, Draulicht’s Demo 2018 is full of sludgy lo-fi doom. But as Hairy Palm, Draulicht’s NZ label, makes clear, the band aren’t a faux woe merchant making “blues rock masquerading as doom”. That’s a crucial point to note, because we all know there are loads of sludge and doom bands who seem more interested in matching their riffs to craft beers than writing pulverizing songs.
Personally, I like sludge/doom bands that are in awe of groups like Corrupted, Burning Witch, Noothgrush, or Grief. I don’t want to be a total gloom-monger about it, but I like to listen to sludge and doom that sounds sick and fucking twisted. I want to hear punishing music, made by troubled souls. But genuinely gut-wrenching sludge and doom feel like they’re in short supply these days.
You only have to listen to torturous works from NZ groups like Shallow Grave, Open Tomb, or the almighty Meth Drinker (RIP) to appreciate just how much tone and temper matter. Those bands make/made music that feels like you’re being crushed between tectonic plates – while someone stabs dirty, used syringes into your eyes. Plenty of NZ sludge and doom groups endlessly twiddle with their pedals and amps searching for the right tone, but they always fall short when it comes to displaying the right attitude. That’s not the case with Draulicht though. The band sound like bona fide prophets of doom, and their down-tempo demo is a feedback-encased fiesta of abject filth and misery (oh, and it’s abrasive as Hell too). The three lengthy tracks within – “Ixion”, “Shrine of Agony” and “Cotard Delusion” – see Draulicht clawing and crawling through the sewers of sludge, and every song hits the hope-shattering mark with ease, both tonally and temperamentally.
In that sense, Draulicht’s demo reminds me of the similarly wretched demo from fellow NZ sludge/doom punks Ritual Abuse. Like Ritual Abuse, Draulicht use throat-slashing growls and dragging, repetitive riffs to mutilate musical forms as they gleefully mangle our minds. Draulicht’s bass and percussion hammer all that impenetrable torment home, and while the band’s sound is minimalist, it’s also gloriously godforsaken and comprised of the crudest and ugliest ingredients imaginable. (And I did note that Draulicht features a couple of members from Trepanation, who are also well versed in making discomforting noise.)
Ultimately, Draulicht’s demo isn’t going to suit everyone. The 25 painfully slow minutes of music will likely be too raw, too ragged, and simply too real for many of today’s designer-sludge connoisseurs. Draulicht sound worryingly fucked-up as well, and their tar-coated debut is extremely harsh and grating.
Of course, those are all HUGE pluses in my book. Bleak and bruising music should be challenging – and even downright awful to behold. Draulicht’s downer-buzz tunes definitely ruined my day. But, you know, bless ’em for doing just that.