A Hocht

A 'shambling behemoth of an album' from Belfast-based progressive metal masters Slomatics

How heavy is too heavy? For Belfast based three-piece Slomatics, the answer must surely be 'never'.

But rather than just making noise for the sake of making noise, Slomatics manage to fuse a love of sound in all its overwhelming glory to an intuitive understanding of heavy metal dynamics, creating something fresh, challenging and intelligent in the process.

If Black Sabbath initially defined the idea of the heavy guitar riff, Slomatics are well on the way to taking it to its logical conclusion.

From the lush cover art depicting some kind of flaming octopus in burning red, yellow and orange to the abstract final tones of closing track 'Outer Space', A Hocht is much more varied and eclectic than the band’s six track debut ablum, Kalceana, with its dark visual and sonic hues.

Where Kalceanna pummelled and oppressed, inspired by the theme 'monotony is a good thing', A Hocht envelopes and embraces, creating an aural tapestry that is as compelling as it is frightening.

Over the course of these eight tracks, Slomatics show what they’re truly capable of: which is to say, writing, performing and capturing on tape impossibly heavy and sludgy metal songs.

The production creates an ocean of sound, rising up from the depths of the band's low bass notes to wash over everything else in its path. The sense of scale is impressive, particularly on tracks like ‘Flame On’ and ‘Theme From Remora’.

As the reverb-laden drums mesh with the distorted, almost incomprehensible vocals, the effect is almost hypnotic – a spiritual vibration. The tempos – as before – are deathly slow, and this, more than the crushing heaviness or the screamed vocals, is likely to be the stumbling block for the casual listener.

Like a shambling behemoth, the pace of the songs brings a tension to the music that borders on the unbearable, and there’s always the danger of A Hocht coming to a halt like a shambling behemoth plodding, limping along at a funereal pace that can feel like an endless march into boredom.

However, Slomatics wield slowness like a weapon, revelling in it. The beats are perfectly placed, the guitars angeled to add and substract to and from the sound. Tempo is simply another way in which Slomatics cast their spell over the listener. After all, if it was fast it wouldn't be Slo...

On top of all this, Slomatics are clearly having a lot of fun, indulging in their progressive rock side with tracks like ‘Blackwood’ and ‘Outer Space’, as well as making some of the loudest and most powerful music of their career.

Ultimately, A Hocht is unlikely to cross over to a wider audience outside of metal circles, and there’s no real sense of Slomatics wanting to. But whilst the uninitiated may well be terrified by the sheer scale of Slomatics’ heaviness, this album shows the band emerging onto a new level. They are surely at the forefront of modern Irish metal.

An Hocht is out now on Burning World Records. Listen to the album in full on Bandcamp.