There are two kinds of sludge metal. There’s the one that evokes a certain Southern charm with its whiskey sippin,’ thunderclouds-a-gathering, sweaty clubs and down-home big fat riffs. And then there’s the other type—the obnoxious one. The one that conjures up images of broken glass, rubbish-strewn wastelands, dirty needles, infected leg sores, rotting teeth and very unhealthy co-dependent relationships. Meth Drinker plays the latter kind. Real well.
Based in Wellington, New Zealand, a city with it’s own seedy undertow, Meth Drinker—with James Quick on bass and vocals, Sam Thurston on guitar and Tony Pearson on drums and vocals—grind out some of the nastiest slow-baked doom-laden sludge heard in years. With a sound that harkens back to sludge’s more visceral years—When bands like Buzzov*en, Grief and Eyehategod still had the power to shock audiences—Meth Drinker have a gravity about them that drags things down from the nihilistic to down-right suicidal.
James, Sam and Tony originally played together in crusty d-beat outfit Scab and while Meth Drinker is a very different beast to Scab, there’s still a core thread of spirited punk independence. Their album was financed and released by the band themselves on their own underground label Always Never Fun, and was set loose on vinyl and CD—the vinyl is unfortunately long gone, but CD’s still remain.
Let me put Meth Drinker into context for you. One of the things I find most surprising is that visitors from overseas come to NZ expecting some sort of Pacific paradise or Lord of the Rings wonderland. NZ isn’t either of those things. Even a cursory bit of research would show you that our little country tackles with plenty of social iniquities. Bands like Meth Drinker (along with fellow Kiwi’s like Diocletian and Witchrist) tap into that well of hostility to create music that reflects those tensions. One of the greatest attributes of many NZ metal bands is the fact they aren’t inclined to over-sophistication. I’m not saying NZ metal bands are uninspired, or solely focused on the rudimentary, but NZ is a nation of extremes—yes there is unspoiled beauty to be found—but there is also a lot of violence simmering in our cities. NZ metal bands don’t over-analyze our problems, they’re just brutality honest in portraying them, they’re direct and crude (in the best possible way).
Meth Drinker’s view of NZ society is marked out via an insanely heavy quagmire of the muddiest filth imaginable; but it’s the drums that mark out the lethargic pace on their debut—setting the mood for the guttural vocals and riffs to follow. “Deprivation”, with it’s chilling indistinct vocal intro, cut with a dragging guitar line, begins the album and immediately Meth Drinker set about pushing the limits of suffocating tones. “ Incurable Density”, brings the doom to the fore, with a stepped up pace, “Ganja Mutt” kicks off furiously and has a great late section collapse to drone out on waves of feedback and “Combat shock” has a great little sample of hellish suburban life to introduce it’s churning misery. “Shining” goes hard on the feedbacking intro, and “Narco Sub” is just the sort of track you’d play if you were trawling canals for victims of heinous crimes.
Meth Drinker lurch about in a badlands of anguished howls and buzzing tones to produce doomy unhinged sludge that’s easily on a par with anything released internationally. While the album clearly draws inspiration from an unsympathetic NZ society, this is very much a global release. Anyone can connect with the torment produced here because, like the nastiest sludge of yore, Meth Drinker brings one crucial element to the fore—the uncomfortable reality of being human. This is a thoroughly unpleasant album, but you know what—even if you refuse to admit it—you can relate to it, after all, you’re just as twisted, bitter and fucked up as any other person.