As the title hints, IV: Ronkonkoma is the fourth short release from Tucson, Arizona, duo Methra. After bustling their lineup over the course of the last few years and putting out material on 7″ and 10″, a split with Godhunter, and digital, they’ve arrived at the duo of guitarist/vocalist Nick Genitals and drummer Andy Kratzenburg and the latest five-track outing, which clocks in at just over 21 minutes, finds them exploring the line between deathly sludge and more traditionally riffed doom, Nick switching his vocals between low-register guttural growling, raw-throated screams and Sabbathian cleaner singing following opener “Breatharian (Supreme Master Ascending),” which unfolds the start of side one with a thickened lumber stood out all the more by the use of a sample talking about breatharianism, which has its roots in Hindu philosophy but is essentially the practice of staring at the sun for nourishment.
The subsequent “Blessings” showcases more of the variety in Nick‘s vocals, with a chorus that’s made almost sneaky in how catchy it is by the viscous tones surrounding. Particularly for a duo, the sound throughout IV: Ronkonkoma is full and demented more in the manner of Midwestern sludge — think Fistula and the many deeply troubled branches on their family tree, though I acknowledge the “meth” part of the duo’s moniker might be a factor there — than Methra‘s more metallized Tucson countrymen and drummer-sharers Godhunter, but particularly on tape a sense of rawness is maintained in “Honest Men” and perhaps most of all on side one finisher “Slumscraper,” which builds to a punkish noisy fuckall sudden stop leading to another sample, this one talking about slicing heads off with a cutlass. It’s a long way from charmingly dopey New Age spiritualism, but by then, Methra have indeed made it a journey.
Most curious about the tape is that “SBS” occupies side two all by itself. Listening first to the digital version, I wondered if maybe the one on the tape was extended somehow, if Nick and Kratzenburg just rode that chugging riff for 20 minutes to even it up, or if there was a long sample to make up for that time, or something to draw side two out to match side one, but nope, the cassette of IV: Ronkonkoma is the same as the mp3, and though “SBS” fakes its ending on both before crashing back in for a few more measures, the tape has a long silence following. If it was Methra‘s intent to single the song out — it’s not like you actually have to sit there and listen to all that nothing, what with this modern age of fast-forwarding and whatnot — they did it, and “SBS,” with its anti-having-a-job lyrics and air-pushing groove, earns its place well with a modus consistent with “Blessings” and “Honest Men,” only pushed further with a longer runtime and a sense of build added to by Kratzenburg‘s frantic snare work and Nick‘s vocal tradeoffs.
If the way they want to go is to keep belting out shorter offerings, then IV: Ronkonkoma seems to set them up well. Methra weren’t far off from putting the pieces together on 2012′s self-titled digital release, but the latest installment builds on that in a way that makes them sound even more solidified, and if Nick and Kratzenburg choose to continue as a duo, they’ve given themselves ground on which to progress while also establishing a style that smoothly bridges subgenre gaps and comes across as inherently their own. The edges are rough, but that’s the idea. Don’t be fooled. Methra know what they’re doing. And if they want to take on the task of a debut full-length, they’re ready for that too.