Title: Ah Puch
Release Date: 19 October 2018
Format Reviewed: CD quality digital promo
When an album has 6 tracks over a total of 52 minutes, with track titles such as ‘Swamp of Blood’ and ‘Corpse of Cortez’ you might expect to be getting some scorching sludgy doom tinted metal. Dirge’s debut ‘Ah Puch’ readily meets that expectation. With every track pushing past the 9 minute mark, aside from the chilly acoustic interlude of ‘The Dilemma’, the band take its time to hammer the riffs into your head. Throw over this a mythological conceptual thread involving the Mayan God of Death (Ah Puch) and Hernan Cortez and the stage is set for some very heavy vibes.
Album opener ‘Invoking The Demigod’ gives it a couple of minutes of build up before making its intentions known by stretching out into another strand of the continuing evolution of the ‘Black Sabbath’ riff. On my first exposure to the album I was wondering if this was going to be the order of the day through the whole 50+ minutes, but thankfully the musical palette of the band spans a much broader landscape and lumbering doom metal riffs are offset with a number of other musical reference points, from Neurosis style menacing ambient sections, to more Thrash or Black Metal like riffs, to jaunty, mid tempo Stoner Rock invoking sections. All of which is not to suggest the sound of the album is overly eclectic; the band move smoothly between the slow, hammering sections, the faster, more aggressive passages and the seething, brooding breakdowns, with the overall effect being a fully cohesive sound. Personally, I’m not a great fan of the distorted, overdriven sound employed for the vocals, the screamed delivery in this form feels like it takes its aggression from the effects rather than the delivery, but the tone fits the music.
The acoustic break of ‘The Dilemma’ is well timed after 30 minutes of down-tuned riffs and screaming, and when it comes to an end the dose of sludgy hammering riffs delivered on ‘La Mincha’ and album is welcome, while album closer ‘Corpse of Cortez’ transitions through a series of crunching outro riffs, that open out into a spaced out sequence like Deftones waking up from a nightmare with Isis holding their heads down underwater, before crashing back in for the final chugging riff that’s drawn to a sudden halt and the end of the album.
Some of the band’s influences are clear to spot. For example the tendency of the band to employ spaced out ambient parts and equally the slow, churning apocalyptic riffs that build into a crescendo, indicate more than a passing nod to Neurosis to my ears. The band’s press release also name checks Acid Bath, Crowbar, Eyehategod, Sleep and Candlemass. All very fine bands and that roster should give you a fair idea of what to expect from Dirge on this offering. It never quite scales the heights of these bands at their peaks, but they are worthy to be spoken of in the same breath and with this as their debut, there is plenty of reason to expect much more to come from the band as they continue to refine the synthesis their collective influences. I will be watching and listening with interest. 8/10 Tom
8/10 To Greatness and Glory
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