By Dr. Abner Mality
What the hell is the difference between stoner death and sludge death? This is the question that wracks my brain after exposure to these two acts. The label describes Finland’s Altar of Betelgeuze as stoner death while Britain’s Warcrab is sludge death. The nuances of difference between these two sub-sub-genres are tricky to fathom.
Warcrab is definitely the heavier of the two. Most of the time. The five tracks here lumber with ponderous weight, featuring simple but effective riffs that are subliminally compelling. There’s an echo of slower Benediction and Bolt Thrower to these tunes that is uniquely British. Those bands had their own version of a sludgy sound and it’s fully realized with Warcrab. The vocals are uniformly harsh, if rather typical and there is a kind of sludgy swing to tunes like “Destroyer of Worlds” and especially “Bury Me Before I’m Born”, which really rocks. But if you’re expecting to hear sludge like Weedeater or Sourvein, you might be a little disappointed. I rather like Warcrab’s hot and sticky version of death/doom.
Altar of Betelgeuze has some of that sludgy goodness as well, but is a bit more varied than Warcrab. Many of the vocals are clean and clear, though there are some real deep growls as well. Songs like “No Return” and “Absence of Light” even make a stab at the atmosphere of My Dying Bride. As far as the “stoner” part goes, that’s very evident on “Sledge of Stones”, which almost sounds like Orange Goblin. They really hit a killer groove on “Advocates of Deception” but truthfully, a lot of AOB’s music sounds kind of second hand. It’s way heavier than the stoner stuff you find on Small Stone Records, but not as crushing as Warcrab.
Both bands have their moments to shine, but Warcrab edges out the Finns this time around.
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