The self-titled debut EP from Melbourne, Australia’s Motherslug arrives in a CD jewel case with green artwork on the front and a fuzzy black and white band pic on back, over which the four component songs — “Symptoms,” “Rollin’,” “Devils Rise” and “Space Man” — are listed in the Scorpions logo font. Some records just bleed stoner rock, and Motherslug‘s first outing is most assuredly that, moving from an initial Sleep reference at the very start of “Symptoms” — think the beginning of “Dragonaut” — all the way to a bigtime ride-this-riff slowdown at the end of the eight-and-a-half-minute closer. If nothing else becomes clear at the end of the EP’s 26 minutes, you can at least say Motherslug know what they like.
But in fact, a lot becomes clear by the EP’s end, and it’s not so much about seeking out hidden breadth — though to that end, I’d note the psychedelic break in “Rollin’,” which thankfully was not a Limp Bizkit cover — as it is about approaching Motherslug on the level of their intent. Having been a band for just over a year now, not even a year when they put these cuts to tape, there’s a lot about Motherslug that sounds exploratory, feeling out different ideas to see what works in their songwriting, but Cam (vocals), Fergus and Matt (both guitar), Cyn (bass) and Nick (drums) come out of the gate with a solid presentation of their genre and a clear idea, basking in the glow of Sabbath‘s “Hole in the Sky” in the early verses of “Rollin’” even as they push their thickened riffs into churning crash later in the track before putting the second half of the riffy bookend in place. Cam‘s singing reminds mostly of middle-era Alabama Thunderpussy or any number of other stoner singers, but he shows some drive toward fleshing out his approach as well on “Devils Rise” with a Cathedral-style cadence, and though high in the mix, his vocals don’t grate like so many heavy rock singers’ do.
And Motherslug are hardly the first nascent heavy rock unit to put their frontman out front, but with a song like “Devils Rise” — a little slower, a little more on the doom end of stoner doom — one really does want that sense of being swallowed whole by the riffs, and burying the vocals under the guitars and bass is how that happens. Again though, I’m not about to hold that against a self-releasing band on their first EP. By and large, the sound on Motherslug‘s Motherslug is crisp and professional — not too clean, but clean enough to display some will toward accessibility on their part. The closer, longer by two full minutes than anything else on the EP, keeps to a middle pace between the more shuffling “Rollin’” and “Devils Rise,” beginning with winding guitar and quickly locking in its central groove. Cyn provides the bridge between the opening run and the aforementioned final slowdown of the track with viscous, satisfying low end that pushes air en route to the rest of the band joining back in just past the five-minute mark.
That slowdown lasts for about the last three and a half minutes of the song, and though Motherslug have left themselves some room to grow, they’ve also made their intentions thunderously apparent. For listeners long inducted into the realm of stone, the tracks on the Motherslug EP should more or less feel like coming home, and though the band live quite literally on the other side of the planet, I can still just imagine the pint glasses raised in their honor in some darkened venue. Not revolutionary, not aiming for revolutionary, but a thoroughly enjoyable listen for the converted and something to build from should Motherslug seek further development.