Ockultist – Festering Wounds

Band: Ockultist
Title: Festering Wounds
Label: Sludgelord Records
Release Date: 13 March 2020
Country: Sweden
Format Reviewed: Digital Stream

As I was running alongside the Vltava river in Prague last night, down cycle paths often illuminated by nothing more than faint lights in the distance, the night ominous around me in these moments before The Czech Republic moved further into lockdown and a state of quarantine, I reflected on the visceral savagery of the soundtrack I’d chosen. “Festering Wounds”, the new album by Sweden’s OCKULTIST is the kind of night-black, brutally heavy auditory nightmare that might seriously amplify any anxiety you have during a late night stroll through dark, unfamiliar wooded paths. Perversely I found myself thinking “well, I don’t imagine there’s many people choosing to lurk in the shadows right now the way things are” and anyway, I could probably outrun them… hopefully.

From the first crashing hammer blow of album opener “Vermin” the percussive impact of the record is clear. “Festering Wounds” is not an album to entice you in with melodies; the interest is very much in the slow, pounding heaviness and the shades of darkness teased out as your eyes (ears) become accustomed to the darkness. Drums reminiscent of SWANS at their “Cop” era peak of physical brute force, pound over and over relentlessly DUN-DUN-DUN-TSCHHHHH DUN-DUN-DUN-TSCHHHHH. Thunderously heavy and overdriven guitars churn as the drums stomp, reminiscent of Justin Broadrik of GODFLESH and especially some of the heavier moments of JESU, with big dissonant slabs of feedback bursting from the huge chugging riffs.

“Abysmal” and “Lividity” maintain a similar tone and feel with variations on the same pounding, chugging brutality. One thing that distances this from SWANS and GODFLESH/JESU is the deep growling vocals, totally indecipherable in the way Sludge Metal often is. At times the vocals are more of a Black Metal style howl (perhaps this is where vocal duties shift between Christopher Erikson and Axel Ehrencrona, but honestly I have no idea who is who).

While I am fully onboard with the power of the band’s brutal aesthetic, after almost 30 minutes of this relentless pounding away I start feeling a little urge for a change in tone. Not a light through the darkness necessarily, but a little shift in the landscape. Right on cue then “Ropes // Necks” takes a faster pace, thundering along like a demonic steam train, before slowing the pace again. It’s not a massive shift, but it reminds the listener that amongst the oppressive darkness there are shifts in the sonic landscape to discern.

After this gruelling, battering journey, final track “Left For Ted” offers the closest thing to some melodic textures in the guitar riffing. After all this time in the darkness, the little changes in form and texture stand out all the more. Make no mistake, listening to this album will give you plenty of perspective on how melodic CROWBAR actually is. “Festering Wounds” is Sludge Metal at the most relentlessly pulverising end of the spectrum, but this is by no means a bad thing. Just know what you are getting yourself in for. “Festering Wounds” is dark, rancid, infected, nasty and it’s probably going to do you ill. A perfect part of a balanced diet 8.5/10 Tom Boatman

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8.5/10 To Greatness and Glory!
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