Where to Start: Sludge

I’ve heard the word sludge used to classify bands from Pro-Pain to Neurosis to Grand Funk Railroad, so let’s be clear right off the bat that when I talk about sludge, I mean ultra-aggressive, screaming doom, played slow, played angry. It’s a term as nebulous as any other, but going from that specific definition, and considering the bands I’m about to recommend who play it, we should have a pretty good basis to work from.

There are some acts who take sludge to vicious extremes — see Fistula or Sollubi — blending in elements of black metal or SunnO))) style drone minimalism, but I’m not talking about them either. Where to start with sludge is the root of the subgenre, the key formative groups who’ve made it possible for a new generation to pull the sound in the multiple directions they have.

Because I couldn’t narrow it down to five, here are seven killer sludge bands to start with:

Crowbar: Their later material actually has little in common with what’s currently thought of as sludge, but 1991’s Obedience thru Suffering and 1993’s Crowbar are essential to understanding what the sound has become. The latter (recently reissued) is a better starting point for its more memorable songs.

Eyehategod: As much an influence in lifestyle and persona as for their music, the New Orleans gods of sonic fuck-all have nonetheless produced some of sludge’s most classic material. Just not in the last decade. At all. Start with 1993’s Take as Needed for Pain.

Negative Reaction: Their early stuff was more geared to sci-fi, which made the long-running Long Island outfit unique among their viscous peers. 2000’s endofyourerror saw them start to veer away from that into more personal lyrical territory, but it’s a stunningly abrasive listen nonetheless.

Buzzov*en: Dude. To a Frown. Dude.

Sourvein: Technically an offshoot of Buzzov*en since vocalist T-Roy Medlin was once a part of that band, the Cape Fear, North Carolina, slingers are more like an extension of some of the same ideas twisted into a more riffy form. No, that is not a complaint. Their 2002 Will to Mangle full-length is the way to go.

Bongzilla: They were the stoned-est band in the world. From high in the Rockies, literally, Bongzilla preached marijuanism and slow riffs the way Sears preaches hardware: like it’s all they know. 2002’s Gateway is a classic.

Grief: Sadder than all, these Boston bastards were responsible for some of the most miserable sounds ever put to tape. I know it’s possible there are records out there more punishing than 1994’s Come to Grief, but good luck finding them.

If seven’s not enough for you, check out Acid Bath (also New Orleans and not strictly sludge, but applicable nonetheless), Cable, Deadbird, Rwake, 13, 16, Iron Monkey, Thou, Ol’ Scratch, Lord and Greenmachine. All should be good for feeding the primordial death instinct through sound.

Any suggestions, agreement, disagreement? Leave a comment.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

11 Responses to “Where to Start: Sludge”

  1. greenskeeper says:


  2. Poop Man says:

    No mention of the Melvins, the creators of the genre? Fail.

    I will poop on you.

  3. Jason says:

    Electric Horsemen!!!! They are like a updated crowbar!

  4. dogmaofdespair says:

    I feel like if you’re going to include Bongzilla as sludge (I consider them more stoner, but hell, it’s all close enough really), you gotta’ mention Weedeater. At least as a footnote to Buzzov*en or Sourvein if nothing else. Otherwise, cool shit for sure.

  5. Derek says:

    Cavity, Kylesa, Cough…

  6. UKGuy says:

    I too get some of this list. I think I get the absence of Melvins but no Neurosis? I would have thought “Through Silver In Blood” should be on there. Cheers! :)

  7. UKGuy says:

    Sorry, typo: “I too *don’t* get some of this list. But thanks anyway!

  8. Jason says:

    Nightstick, outta Weymouth, MA. These massholes are like nothing I’ve ever heard. Plus, they have their own clown.

  9. whiskypriest says:

    Am I A:The only person who prefers “Confederacy of Ruined Lives” to “take as needed…”

    B:Though I enjoy Iron Monkey find they sound far too much like a slightly faster EyeHateGod to give them tons of credit. They’re cool and all, but, well why not just buy an Eyehategod record instead.

  10. fuck-all says:

    wow, ol’ scratch and lord, 2 of the absolute worst bands of all time !! redneck nu-metal garbage.

  11. Hollaboy says:

    B-side of Black Flag’s My War should be on there. And Cavity.

    And I don’t think Negative Reaction is in any way essential.

Leave a Reply