Thursday, September 6, 2012

Planks - Funeral Mouth (2012)

Full Length, Golden Antenna Records
October 12th, 2012

Genre: Sludge/Hardcore/Blackened Sludge
Region: Germany

It wasn't until a little while ago that I became aware Planks were working on a new record, it crept up on me.

Funeral Mouth is this German act's third full length and it manages to build quite well from their sludgy hardcore foundations by adding a little more atmospheric, blackened influences and blending them all quite seamlessly. It ends up with a slight post-metal tinge without the padded song length, reliance on effects and abundance of shimmering instrumentals. Planks (alongside Black Freighter and Perth Express) are not too far removed from Canada's Titan but with this they've managed to step out a little and separate from the pack ever so slightly.

It isn't a huge departure but the differences are noticable structurally and in terms of emphasis on atmosphere, rather than pure steam-rolling heaviness. The vocals stand out quite a bit, passionate and mournful with a wicked deathly and deep rasp while alternating to semi-clean yells with a subtle melodic touch — nothing cheesy and they fit quite well. They're more muted and haunting than in their last release a lot of the time and with that the effect it has on you is different. In "Agnosia Archetype" the chorus stands out a lot as it flows with the melodic riffs and compels the listener to repeat it along with the vocalist, and in past records the style was more loud, gruff.

Guitars still have a wonderful thick tone with a tasteful use of effects and the percussion is clear, strong and very much in the hardcore vein. The bass is right up front playing off the guitars nicely, smooth with a great punch — occasionally left for a short interlude before blasting into the fervor.

When it comes down to the rest music their writing ability has not faltered one bit. Songs on Funeral Mouth still retain the sharp twangy elements and high energy, trampling passages, but this time situated among droning reverb soaked chords or tremolo sections when not dragging you through the hazed sludge. Planks manage to make this interesting by not stretching songs or sections within and harmonizing all elements very well. They effortlessly traverse slower paced and atmospheric soundscapes before injecting the hardcore venom into it to ratchet up the intensity.

Admittedly compared to The Darkest of Grays which was more straight-forward, crunchy, aggressive sludgy hardcore the feeling has changed just a bit and hardcore influences mentioned are not as prominent. Of course this aspect still rears its head at least once in each track (especially in the later songs) but augmented, not as chunky or prominent. It stays dark and heavy regardless. The blackened, hectic energy is still lingering but it feels more controlled and this doesn't hurt the record at all. We also get quite a few lingering quiet sections between the stormy attack every other song, breaking up and building up things well.

The two opening tracks spread things out a little more than the core of the record, the first being slow and dark bleeding into the second with feedback which is where we can hear the black influence more clearly in the drums and riffs; slowing down as you progress to breath out the sludge and reining that back in with a few clean sections before returning to crushing.

Funeral Mouth also has a lot of satisfying grooves throughout as one would expect. Some excellent examples would be in the previously mentioned "Agnosia Archetype" but also in "An Exorcism of Sorts": staring with a clean bassy build, shifting into heavier areas quickly once the vocals come in while the slow drum beats cut a nice notch to get comfortable in. By the middle we have a series of heavy slams and descents drenched in a murky blackened mist. The track which follows it up ("Kingdom") brings back more of their older style as well, muted gallops and flurries of twang sneaking in and feeling quite satisfying.

This is the case for the core of the album but with the mutation in style (however slight) the groovy moments are less about pounding you and are more gradual, tame and spaced.

A few instrumentals appear as they did on previous releases: one as an opener, one as a very short, clean outro;, and right before that the longest track "The Spectre" takes this form as well. Like a lot of their tracks this one hits various territory, never becoming overbearing in terms of effect usage and in fact hits the crust early in the song, but retains a heavy atmosphere. The middle has some great riffs, tumbling at a nice pace and morphing from that groovy sludge into a addictive harmonized and repeating riff with the grumbling bass follows below.

I definitely like this one. Maybe not quite as much as The Darkest of Grays but it is a pleasant surprise from Planks. Like a lot of genres the sludgecore can be fairly limited in terms of direction (especially when in high demand as it is more so these days) and while Funeral Mouth isn't taking any huge leaps it's a pleasurable listen and builds well on what they've previously created.

If you like Titan but wanted something a touch more atmospheric and blackened then you'll enjoy this. Head over to Golden Antenna Records to preorder a copy right now, or check out either their bandcamp or Cvlt Nation to listen to it in full.

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