Nice to hear some quality heavy music being made just a mere stone’s throw from ATTN HQ. This split between Caretaker and Undersmile (from Winchester and Oxford respectively) is an interesting one; a brief, 11-minute blast of downtuned riffs and guitar interplay from the former, and 24 minutes of gloomy sludge from the latter. Not exactly an even split in terms of duration then, but it actually works rather nicely – as though time itself is reduced to an agonising crawl in the second half, and quick flurries of guitar intricacy become drawn out into crumbling chords that take aeons to subside. After all, I’m sure if you took Caretaker’s contributions down to Undersmile BPM, the lengths of each side would even up quite nicely.
Caretaker manage to get a lot done over their two tracks without spreading themselves too thinly in the process, and while their sound borrows more than a pinch from the prominent names in the so-called “post-metal” scene, these influences are carefully incorporated. “Yeehah!” sounds like the music Pelican would have made had City of Echoes gone to plan, while “The Inexorable March” climbs a rickety ladder of stuttering, 9/8 time signature toward an Isis-style climax (Oceanic-era to be precise) of chugging distortion and cathartic screams. Nicely arranged and well executed.
So then it’s straight over to the doomy crawl of Undersmile, who fall somewhere between Khanate’s suspenseful stop-start and the torturous dissonant drawl of Swans (with vocals dragged out into moans in a similar manner to Gira himself; albeit by a female in this instance). The guitars could do with more grumble in the mids at points, occasionally sounding a little flimsy during the first piece, but it’s a small quibble. “Anchor” is the highlight of the two – the double-tracked vocals hover between harmony and atonal howl, while the piece’s central riff is punched home repeatedly through powerchord and cuts of silence. Solid offerings from both parties then, from two bands I can imagine killing it good and proper in the live setting.