Coming nearly four years after their first full-length, Keys to the Abyss, Montezuma’s Revenge follow-up the promising debut with eight new tracks of pulverizing, forward-thinking sludge on Them.
This Moscow trio embraces the conventions of sludge and doom, but sidesteps them as well, creating an eclectic sound that is both unique and familiar. Lumbering guitars, bludgeoning groove, thunderous percussion and gruff vocals collide with dissonant angularity, jarring rhythmic shifts and walls of noise on this multifaceted release. It’s fitting that the album contain themes of schizophrenia, as its songs seem to be plagued by multiple musical voices.
The nearly 40-minute record opens with a steamroller of riffs on “Day of Saturn”. The band churn out barreling sludge riffs that flatten listeners underneath their sheer sonic weight. This steady metallic beating opens up into melodic fervor and galloping solo work, while the drumming delivers a percussive beating of its own. The band’s shape-shifting nature really begins to show itself on the following track, “Christmas of Death”. Here the band rapidly shift from thrash-adjacent riffs that bleed into angular licks, caustic groove and spiraling, virtuosic melodic leads that remind one of Leviathan-era Mastodon. It’s a very unpredictable tune, but it’s only one of many on Them.
Other standout moments on the record include the six-minute centerpiece “My Muspilli”. The track churns out slow-burning, sprawling sludge riffs that are enveloped by layers of thick atmosphere and menacing instrumentation, which include dissonant leads and sinister cello. The foreboding wall of doom and gloom eventually explodes during the track’s final minute into a cacophony of noise and piercing, atonal string arrangements. The album’s title track is also worth noting for being the most chaotic on the release. The short, two-minute track showcases a deadly collision between grimy guitar grooves and metallic bass lines, whose abrasiveness is further heightened by unyielding onslaughts of noise and harsh soundscapes. If Unsane collaborated with Merzbow, chances are it might sound a bit like “Them”.
Perhaps the one negative aspect to this otherwise solid effort is its closing track, “Black Illuminator”. This nine-minute track revolves around Sleep-esque, stoner grooves that repeat hypnotically throughout, and are spearheaded by classic, soaring doom metal vocal stylings. While it is not a bad track per se, it seems a bit regressive to end a pretty unique sounding record on such a tame note.
Overall, Them is Montezuma’s Revenge heaviest and most creative work to date. The band’s ability to stay true to their sludge metal roots, while branching out and incorporating various other sonic elements, helps make Them an engaging release. Those looking for some sludge or doom that is a little on the weird side, take note.
Release Date: March 3, 2017
Favorite Tracks: “Christmas of Death”, “Quest for Illusion”, “My Muspilli” and “Them”
For Fans of: Mares of Thrace, Irata, haarp and Mastodon