In Svbterranean’s Album Dissections, artists break down the construction and/or lyrical themes of their records track by track.
Back in July, Sheffield-based sludge outfit Kurokuma released a two-track EP titled Dope Rider. Based on the comic strip of the same name, Kurokuma weave tales of the eponymous character with huge, bludgeoning riffs. We invited guitarist/vocalist Jacob Mazlum to participate in our Album Dissections series to go in depth on the new EP. Check it out below.
Quality over quantity has always been an important guiding philosophy of ours. Our writing process is slow and laboured and so is our release schedule. Whether bands realise it or not, each piece of recorded music they release to the world is a mark on their legacy. Many would say it IS their legacy. So the big question is whether said mark is remembered as a stain on this legacy or as a valued embellishment.
That, in short, is why fans have waited two years for us to get together a two track EP that runs just over 13 minutes. Deal with it, hombres.
The Dope Rider EP is a concept release based on the 70s comic strip by Paul Kirchner that first appeared in High Times in the days of Cold War terror and 6% THC bud.
As you can tell even at a glance the artwork is wildly colourful and trippier than that 58 year old guy that attends all your gigs who went up in 1985 and never quite came back down. The substance of the strip is questionable but the style factor is through the roof.
Threads of narrative mix violence with the metaphysical, philosophy with inane turns of phrase. Most importantly it ties all this together to create a world that is completely unbelievable but utterly compelling.
Dope Rider pt. 1
At little over five minutes this has become one of the shortest tracks in our whole catalogue. It feels like a beginning, like it is setting something up. Alone it doesn’t quite make sense, a full song that is more akin to an intro. In the context of the EP, however, it is vital.
That drum intro, coloured by the all-important shaker, sets the tone for what is to come – an exotic and crushing piece of brutality. The riff that joins it is one of our slowest and most simple yet, but as with so many great doom moments that’s all it needs.
I handle most of the vocals in this one and wrote the lyrics too. My intention was to explore the side of the herb that the genre rarely tackles, the illusory nature of it and how you operate at a pretty low level just as you’re operating in some way on a higher level.
I did so to create a foil to all the low quality weed-worship lyrics that pollute the genre from ‘legends’ and new bands alike. Of course it’s all done rather poetically and cryptically, with a subtlety that many will read as the typical Scooby-doobie weed fare I was trying to avoid.
Dope Rider pt. 2
We’d been closing our sets with this song for over a year before we finally put it to tape. By that time it had become an audience favourite so we were looking forward to getting it recorded and available to the world.
Starting with a drum fill that feels like being woken with a slap to the face, the track lurches into its first killer riff on bass. A loping swung rhythm is established that is joined by the guitar to really bring the riff to life, making it sound like you’re dragging a dead body through a muddy ditch. This is what sludge should make you feel.
After repeating it enough times to make you both uncomfortable and totally addicted, the first verse starts. The guitar switches to buzzsaw trill picking and the vocals begin, narrating the storyline from an original Dope Rider strip named ‘Geckos’.
The lyrics were written by Joe and closely narrate the plot of the strip itself. They’re direct, easy to follow, and you can almost go pane to pane with the strip in hand. The vinyl version of the release includes a copy of the strip on the inlay itself.
The chorus is one of our (unintentionally) catchiest and despite the length the song mostly follows a rather conventional, if extended, structure. Most find the ending to be the most satisfying part, however, as the song breaks down and builds up to our heaviest section yet. Written by George if I remember right, we downtune mid-song and spend the last two minutes pummelling our bottom strings. Simple and deadly.
BONUS – Dope Rider pt. 3
The track that never was. The EP was originally meant to be three tracks long, with the third and final track being a two-minute instrumental riff-out. It brought back and expanded on some of the riffs of DR pt. 1 with a grinding industrial guitar sound defining it.
Unfortunately upon recording it we found the parts didn’t gel on tape as well as they did in the practise room and we had to can it. It wasn’t the easiest to cut as it left the EP at two tracks and lost the thematic end that matched the beginning. Such are concept releases…
Who knows how it would have been received had this third piece of the puzzle been in place, but the Dope Rider EP’s final incarnation seems to have met or exceeded a lot of people’s expectations. Maybe these things happen for a reason.