Posted in Whathaveyou on October 11th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Originally announced at the beginning of September, the first volume of the Myelin Constellation MS benefit comp has been released. You can see below all the artists who took place in the thing with previously unreleased material, but seriously, it’s the $6 price tag that should be catching your eye. To shell out so little cash, have it go to a good cause — because, really, fuck MS — and get 20 tracks from killer bands, including Sleestak, whose own Matt Schmitz put the whole thing together can’t be seen as anything but a bigtime win if you’ve got ears and six dollars to your name.
Schmitz sent the following down the PR wire:
Myelin Constellation Vol. 1 is released!
I’m just gonna make this quick because I’ve been fairly busy with a handful of different things.
Myelin Constellation Volume 1 is out now (actually released October 1st but only got around to doing an email for it now). Please go tohttp://mconstellation.bandcamp.com/to download your copy. 20 bands, $6 or more if you can. Every bit helps us out over here and I appreciate everyone who has downloaded it so far! Thank you! Bands that appear in this first edition include:
Northless Sons Of Otis Gates Of Slumber Backwoods Payback Coltsblood Wo Fat Stone Magnum Apostle Of Solitude Sons Of Alpha Centauri Sleestak Black Capricorn At Devil Dirt Confused Little Girl Abrahma Narcotic Luxuria Asatta Headless Kross Myopic Empire Switchblade Jesus Albatwitch
Make sure to read the liner notes on the Bandcamp page please! Visit our Facebook page athttp://facebook.com/mconstellationand stay tuned for news regarding Volume 2. As always we are constantly accepting submissions from bands who have live, unreleased, alternate version, remixed, demo, rare, or just plain brand spankin’ new songs in their archives and want to be a part of this benefit comp for Multiple Sclerosis.
Thanks to all the bands who have helped, all the blogs, radio stations, and individuals that have helped with promoting this project!
Posted in Reviews on September 13th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Recorded in Spring 2013 at the same Bobby Peru’s Recording Studio as their 2011 TheFall of Altrusiafull-length (review here), by the same engineer, Shane Olivo, the new Book of Hours EP is nonetheless a stylistic shift in course from Milwaukee-based prog-doomers Sleestak. Where that album moved in a rich variety of atmospheres around a central core of crunching riffs and heavy vocalizations, Book of Hoursseems to be working directly to contrast any expectation they might do the same this time out. Now a trio, Sleestak has previously delighted in proffering the unexpected, as their interim 2012 outing, Altrusian Moon: A Lo-Fi Collection of Psychdelia and Space Rock, showed, so their affinity for shaking up their approach isn’t much of a surprise so long as you’ve been paying attention. Still, to go from The Fall of Altrusia, as progressive as it was, to Book of Hours is a leap, made spiritedly on the band’s part toward even more progressive territory, culling influence from heavy psychedelic rock and meshing it with their own conceptualism and theatricality. They are, as they were on the album, self-indulgent, as the jazz piano tossed into the ending of “Lone Wolf” and “Lone Wolf (Patriot Version),” can attest, but in context, that self-indulgence also provides some of the most effective moments of the 23-minute EP. If you have to take it with a grain of salt, at very least the music is of a quality that makes both it and the salt easier to take. And not all tonal weight is forgotten either. While they may not hit into the same kind of plodding riffery that drove “Chapter 3 – The Prophecy of the Great Sleep” from The Fall of Altrusia, a cut like “Five Million Years to Earth” doesn’t lack for heft in the slightest. The main difference between the two releases is what Sleestak does with that heft, how they make it move and contort it to their purposes, which here seem more geared toward classic heavy rock riffing and tapping into the ’70s roots of some of the influences they showed on the last full-length — more krautrock and less Opeth, if you will.
As noted, “Lone Wolf” appears twice, in regular and “Patriot” versions. The difference between them is the vocals of guitarist Matt Schmitz, who also handles the not insignificant amount of keys throughout. Where “Lone Wolf” works with a kind of far-back spoken word feel amid the psychedelic exploration that, again, turns to jazzy instrumental wanderings, “Lone Wolf (Patriot Version)” takes on a fuller croon to close out Book of Hourson a more sociopolitical lyrical bent. That approach from Schmitz can be heard on the riff rocking “Seven Sorrows” and “Five Million Years to Earth” as well, and it fits with the organ-inclusive, engaging grooves held in check by bassist Dan Bell and drummer Marcus Bartell. It seems to be Schmitz leading the charge, though, and while opener “Appeasing the Gods (Intro)” starts out with doomly riffing that feels like it could’ve come just as likely from Cathedral as Penance, it’s precise and given depth thanks to vague sampling layered in the mix and synth. A riff to begin. Fair enough. “Seven Sorrows” follows with a faster pulse and and the guitar and vocals out front but still in balance with the bass and drums. A stop following the chorus leads back into the verse with a dead stop and single snare hit that, by the time they do it the fourth time to end the song, is like a game it’s fun to play along with, though at that point you’re the only one doing the tapping. Between, there’s a midsection break with some organ-ized doom that reminds in its bounce of something Beelzefuzz might concoct, but Sleestak snap back into the verse an chorus, skillfully keeping hold of a structure that seemed ready to run away with the ending of the track. That they do so is all the more effective, particularly on this brief sampling, since that’s more or less what happens in (both) “Lone Wolf” — making it that seem much more of a choice to jam out rather than like they got lost after the bridge — something Sleestak have already shown they’re more than capable enough songwriters to avoid.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 6th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
The news of the new Myelin Constellation compilation to benefit those suffering with multiple sclerosis arrives and immediately brings to mind friend of the site Aaron Edge, who’s engaged in a struggle of his own against the disease. Myelin Constellation has been announced as a series of releases (the second is reportedly already in the works before the first has been issued) put together by Matt Schmitz of Wisconsin progressive doomers Sleestak, and for the first, a vast array of acts have signed on to take part, from The Gates of Slumber and Sons of Otis to Wo Fat and Coltsblood. It’s a great way to support a great cause, and as soon as it’s released, I’ll post again to let you know. Until then, kudos to Schmitz on doing something. As you can see in the release below, it’s a personal cause for him as well.
Here’s the info:
“This past April, my wife Kim was diagnosed with relapse/remitting multiple sclerosis. We have been dealing with her symptoms for several years which have included horrible fatigue, muscle spasms, depression, pain, digestive problems, numbness, and more recently even cognitive and sight issues. The doctors we had visited never once mentioned MS as a possibility and she was being treated in a compartmentalized manner, i.e. take this medication for depression, take this other pill for pain, and so on and so forth. We were told she just had all these separate health issues with nothing she could do but take pills. Finally, after her left side (including her face) had went numb we went to an Urgent Care clinic. The quack doctor there saw us for literally less than two minutes, concluded she was getting shingles, and told me in earshot of every other patient and staff member that we should not worry, that she did not have a stroke, and that she did not have MS. He handed us a shingles pamphlet and told us to follow up with our primary doctor in a week. We proceeded to do so and visit our new primary doctor established based on a change in our insurance. Luckily we did as this was the first time a doctor suspected she had multiple sclerosis and soon thereafter we had a diagnosis and were able to put a name on the cause of all these things that were going wrong with Kim’s body.
I consider us lucky in a sense: we no longer have to wonder about certain things, we can establish a plan for ourselves, and now we can do everything in our power to try and fight this as best we can. We also have insurance to help somewhat. I cannot imagine the position we would be in without it. Mind you, all is not golden. We have accumulated well over $5000 in medical bills and it’s continuing to rise and set to go on for the rest of her life. This has put me into a corner with trying to take care of my family in the ways I need to provide. Kim is in-between treatments right now after quitting a brutal regiment of the Copaxone daily injection, leaving her with softball-sized welts, hardening tissue at the injection sites, and not the least of which is more pain. The plan right now is to try a daily pill treatment of Tecfidera. In the coming months, due to the looming Obamacare, we are expecting an insurance “glitch” as told to us by her neurologist where there may be a few months when her treatment is not covered. This pill is $55,000 a year wholesale. Needless to say we are nervous about this, on top of our mounting doctor bills.
I have been brainstorming about ways to help my family get through this and I came to the conclusion to do a benefit compilation. I have seen how these have helped others in need, including Ed from Doommantia. Here is my plan though: the comp I put together is going to be unique in several ways. First, on the music side of it, most all of the submissions are special in the fact that they are live, rare, demo, unreleased, or alternative version of songs, some being even exclusive to this collection. In this regard, the bands I have been in contact with have been absolutely amazing in their support and their willingness to dig through their archives. I have already met some incredible folks through emails from putting this together and one thing I am encountering is the number of people in our scene who have been affected by this disease. This has led me to want to do even more than help my own family. I want to do more music compilations, multiple volumes, to help others affected by MS, to raise awareness about it as well as money to donate to those less fortunate in their situation, and for organizations who are dedicated to the fight. One example is to get people on board here in Wisconsin and other states to legalize CBD, a component of marijuana with almost miraculous medicinal qualities and no psychoactive effects, which, as far as I know at the moment is still considered Schedule 1 even though it doesn’t get you high. Other states like California now have access to this for people with neurological diseases but not Wisconsin, which has the highest number of MS cases in the country. So, there you go. I have got some fight left in me and I want to do something with it.
Now for the juicy details of the comp. It is being called “Myelin Constellation”, myelin being basically the protective coating around nerve bundles, which in MS deteriorates and exposes the nerves to all the symptoms that are talked about. The “constellation” part is in reference to all the bands and individuals who make up the scene as a whole, worldwide. There are several bands which I can name drop at the the time of this writing that are getting involved: The Gates Of Slumber, Northless, Sons Of Otis, Backwoods Payback, Wo Fat, Stone Magnum, and Coltsblood. There are a bunch more which will be confirmed in due time and I am blown away by some of the bands which are lending their support – these are some heavy hitters and names you will know. While no solid release date is set right now, we are aiming for a mid-late September digital download on Bandcamp. I also want to thank a few individuals who have lent their talent and help to get the ball rolling on this: Steve Somers for the wicked awesome artwork (http://stevesomersart.blogspot.com/), Mike from Days Of The Doomed festival, and Lee from The Sleeping Shaman. I consider these guys good friends and good people along with all the bands who are getting behind this. I THANK YOU and my wife, Kim THANKS YOU.”
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 21st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Milwaukee progressive doomers Sleestak returned this year with the impressive new EP, Book of Hours (review pending), building on the wide-ranging melodic sensibilities the four-piece showcased on 2011′s Fall of Altrusia debut full-length (review here). As Sleestak continue to support Book of Hours, the band has announced a couple regional shows for the fall and some new merch on the way as well.
They sent this update down the PR wire:
We wanted to spread the word on a couple shows just announced along with some other bits of info.
SHIRTS! Last chance to get your pre-order in for the new “Moon” shirt. If you don’t, they will only be available in limited sizes and numbers at Sleestak shows. Visithttp://sleestakmusic.blogspot.com/p/tshirt-preorder.html to get yours now. We should have them in hand in the next week or so…
SHOWS! Lastly, come on out and hang with Sleestak at these killer shows if you can!
8/24/13 – Sleestak w/Truckfighters, Scientist, Jap Herron at Reggies Rock Club, 2105 s. State St., Chicago, IL. This is an 17 and over show.
10/4/13 – Sleestak w/Vega, TBA at The Cactus Club, 2496 s. Wentworth Ave, Milwaukee, WI.
We will have a few copies left of both the Book Of Hours and Fall Of Altrusia cds if you haven’t grabbed one yet.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 20th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
If you’ve got a minute to type in your email to get a free download from Bandcamp, then the new Progstravaganza 13 compilation has 76 tracks with your name on ‘em. Progstravaganza 13follows on the heels of the Progstravaganza I-IXcomp-of-the-comps released in June and features the likes of Heavy Temple, Sleestak, and Temple of the Smoke… among 73 others. These things are always huge, and while you know not everything is going to be up everybody’s alley, it’s a great way to discover new bands.
Announcement and stream follow:
Progstravaganza 13 has been unleashed, highlights progressive music in all its glory.
The Progstravaganza compilation series has as its sole purpose to discover new bands. Since its inception in 2010, Prog Sphere has made it its goal to make each compilation special. Every part in the series comes with specially designed artwork. They are all available via Bandcamp in different audio formats.
Progstravaganza 13 sampler brings 76 bands from all around the world, proving that progressive music in 2013 is alive and kicking. The compilation itself is accompanied with the officialProgstravaganza websitewhere all the artists-participants have profiles. The website also brings interviews with the bands, as well as the reviews of their releases. Chris van der Linden(Linden Artwork) provided once again design for the art cover and PDF booklet which contains bands photos and links, as well as the editor’s note.
Progstravaganza 13 brings 76 bands from all around the world for your listening pleasure.
Along with Progstravaganza 13 going on, Prog Sphere is allowing submissions for the upcoming, fourteenth edition. Prog Sphere invites bands from all around the world to take part and reach out to a wide audience by promoting the sampler. The compilations are actively promoted by continuous radio streams on more than 50 radio stations around the world. Bands and musicians interested in being a part of the upcoming compilation can get in touch with Prog Sphere by sending an email firstname.lastname@example.org through the contact form atTHIS LOCATION.
Progstravaganza 13 is available fromTHIS LOCATION. For all the news and updates concerning the sampler visit its official websiteHERE.
They’re doom, for sure, but there’s more at work behind the sound of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, foursome Sleestak than just heavy riffs and slow cymbals. The band’s self-released sophomore album, 2011′s The Fall of Altrusia (review here), was raw on the one hand, but sublimely progressive on the other, showing melodic range and a tendency to wander into lengthy jams. That impulse was even more highlighted on Altrusian Moon, which Sleestak posted online in January.
Altrusian Moon was essentially a practice-room recording — the band subtitled the release A Lo-Fi Collection of Psychedelia and Space Rock — but it was also a fascinating insight into the creative process that drove the writing for The Fall of Altrusia. As complex as the material on that full-length was, its organic roots nonetheless shone through the finished product. Listening, you still knew you were hearing jams.
When it came time to do it, there was plenty to talk about with Sleestak guitarist/vocalist Matt Schmitz, from the band’s participation in Wisconsin’s Days of the Doomed fest to the fact that they’ve been a band since 2003, to their penchant for making references to the tv show Land of the Lost, from which their moniker and album title are both derived and from which the lyrics of The Fall of Altrusia draw thematically. It was a long time coming, but Schmitz took great care in his answers (I think it’s the cleanest copy I’ve ever gotten back on an email interview), and you’ll find the results below.
Sleestak is Schmitz alongside guitarist Brian Gresser, bassist Dan Bell and drummer Marcus Bartell. Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions.
1. Tell me about how the band got together. What brought on the Land of the Lost references? Were you a particular fan of the show?
Marcus, Dan, and Brian had already been jamming together for a while, at least a year I think, before I came into the picture. Marcus and I had been in a previous band together so I would see him at shows and he would always try and get me to come down and hang out, an open jam-type vibe. I always kind of just passed it up. Well, finally I gave in and what do you know? It was cool and there was for sure potential there. As for the name of the band and the LOTL references, it came about while we were jamming one night and I had just stopped playing and threw the name out there. I knew everyone in the band had at least heard of the show. Myself, yes, I was very into it as a kid and then forever it was just a hazy memory. How awesome it was that they released it on DVD not long after we were a solid band. That really gave us a treasure trove of conceptual material to work with, as I found how much depth the show really had. It could easily appeal to children, sure — that‘s who the show was for — but there were many more grown-up themes interlaced, things kids wouldn’t necessarily understand. Despite the now very corny effects and such, it has proven to be quite dark and psychedelic and I guess that’s the direction we try to go in.
2. How would you describe the concept of Fall of Altrusia? What’s the story you’re telling in the lyrics and music?
I guess it helps to know some of the source material, but I tried writing most of it lyrically to appeal to anyone with imagination, who digs post-apocalyptic themes, fantasy, and sci-fi, and I did take some creative liberties with the actual fiction to develop my own story. Basically (or not so basically), there is this immensely advanced civilization, their city being Altrusia. They are scientists, statesmen, philosophers, etc. and have recently developed the technology of time travel. For the first time in history, their debates over this technology lead to war. Factions develop, fighting erupts among everyone, and eventually the losing group of Altrusians are exiled into the jungles. It is there that they discover an ancient temple with a room containing the skulls of their ancestors. The skulls speak through hallucinatory visions and telepathy and warn this group of impending doom by the rising of a triple lunar eclipse. This group goes into a hibernation as this warning plays out in the form of a meteor storm that causes mass devastation. The city is destroyed, yet the temple remains unharmed and those who were victorious in the war are all wiped out. During the hibernation, the surviving Altrusians go into a de-evolution, a fall from grace if you will. Their intelligence, memory, and even speech is lost due to the barbarism and cruel acts of war inflicted upon each other. This is the transformation into Sleestak. As they awake, they encounter a creature similar in appearance but with high intellect and speech. This is Enik (please reference the television show or wiki for the background of this character). While he walks among them, the Sleestak conspire to kill him — but not yet. He is much too powerful of a being. In the story of the song, Enik does not die but the wheels are set into motion for his murder. Here we are left with the final prophecy of the arrival of the Marshall family. I do not wish to elaborate on this area of the story’s timeline as I leave it to the show. They come, change and affect the Sleestak world, and then they either leave the dimension, die, or just become caught in a time loop. My story then picks up after them…
3. The transitions between the tracks are so smooth. Was the album written as one long piece, or separate songs that were then joined together? Do you see yourselves keeping to narrative concepts for future releases?
It really is a mixture of both ideas as Altrusia has some of our original plans which were to have a way to play our songs set with transitions and without stopping. Since then, of course, that has almost all but been rewritten with the only remnant being “The Marshall Prophecy” which is a variation from “Plan” on our earlier album. For the next studio album we do plan on continuing this form of songwriting, having recently decided that we are going to do the next act of the “Altrusian” story and that it may even be a trilogy. In fact, we’ve been doing A LOT of conceptualizing lately and the story and music is flowing quite nicely and coming together faster than anything we’ve tried writing before. But of course writing an hour-long song and making it sound like a singular cohesive piece takes some time. We are really trying not to make it sound like “riff A” goes into “riff B” goes into “riff C” and so on, we want there to be a pace to the music with lots of atmosphere. If we have a part or a riff there should be a purpose for it.
4. Talk about the contrast between jamming and heavy parts. There are these stretches that feel very open, and then you play off that with really gritty sounding doom metal. Are your roots more on the metal end than rock? Is there any influence from European death/doom?
Doing these long jam sections is just a part of the band’s identity now. We used to, in the beginning, do it to mess around, make noise, or work out a song idea, but they started taking on a more serious side, realizing that we were really able to express something through this, almost like sculpting while continually marching forward on a blank slate of time. If that makes any sense? Anyways it just seemed a natural thing to have these jams work their way into a structured song, with our songs primarily in a metal style. Personally, my roots are in punk, thrash, death, and grind and there is definitely a European influence there. I am a big fan of My Dying Bride, Anathema, Paradise Lost, Amorphis, etc. along with stuff like Napalm Death, Entombed, and Carcass. I don’t keep up on that stuff as much as I used to as you can probably tell by the band names I dropped, but the influence is still there for sure.
5. You guys played the Days of the Doomed Fest this past year. How was the show? Any highlights you’d like to share? How is doom received in Wisconsin in general? Is there a scene of bands?
The fest was amazing. Hands down, Mike Smith is the man for putting that together. It’s only going to get bigger and better and this year Sleestak are going to be curators for the official pre-party show on June 21, 2012. I think the highlight at the fest for me this past year personally was getting to meet Eric Wagner and hang with him a bit as he was one of my favorite vocalists growing up. The fest is definitely putting Wisconsin on the map for fans of doom.
As far as a scene goes, bands have come and gone, some good, some not so good. We’ve been here watching it change and evolve. For a few of the early years we felt like we were the only doom band this city had and to be honest it’s been a lonely ride in Milwaukee. For us it seemed like we were too heavy to play with any of the indie kids as we don’t even have that heavy sludgy “indie” sound and on the other hand we weren’t heavy enough and didn’t fit in with a lot of the generic death metal and hair bands that plague the area. We actively avoided doing anything locally for a few years unless we were helping route some good touring bands through town giving us a reason, a justification for us to play a show. We were jaded from both a lack of fan response and from reaching out to bands and clubs who either ignored our desire to connect and network or just flat out dicked us around and were assholes to us. Just this last year, though, we decided to try again and stir up interest here because it’s much easier for us to play local shows than it is for us to get out and tour all the time. But, let me tell you, because of Days of the Doomed fest and a small handful of bands like Northless, I see a glimmer of hope. I think there’s going to be something wonderful and important happening with the scene here given a little time and nurturing.
6. Any other plans or closing words you’d like to mention?
THANK YOU — to everyone who has been supporting us through the years and to all our new friends we’ve made in the past several months. It’s getting crazy with how things are picking up. Even though we’ve been going since 2003 it seems like the start of an amazing journey… Cheers!
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster
Immediate kudos to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, four-piece Sleestak. To honor the coming of 2012, the adventurous doomers have made a collection of unreleased jams available for a pay-what-you-want download at their Bandcamp page. Given the name Altrusian Moon and a gorgeous cover befitting the psychedelic mood of the material, it’s as much a joy to hear as it is to appreciate the band’s bravery in stepping outside their songwriting comfort zone — or maybe just giving as a deeper look within it. Either way, as I said, kudos.
Sleestak is kicking off the New Year with a new release called Altrusian Moon – A Lo-Fi Collection of Psychedelia and Space Rock. Yes, we know: we didn’t warn you.
It is available at Bandcamp and is a “pay what you want” digital album — you can pay $0 or be as generous as you wish. We dug deep into our rehearsal archives to give our fans a glimpse into our relaxed freeform jams, a very psychedelic improvised musical exploration of song ideas. Yes, there are mistakes, missed drum hits, wrong notes, etc. but the journey is there — a raw yet sublime document of our times playing together in the basement over the years. Also included is the live remix jam version of “The Fall of Altrusia” from 2009. You’ll hear some of our wider influences in this material and may appeal to fans of Bardo Pond, Hawkwind, USX, Red Sparowes, Dead Meadow, White Hills, and Yawning Man.
If you dig it, please consider purchasing the download as we start gathering funds to record the studio follow-up to Altrusia, hopefully to be released in 2012.
Posted in Whathaveyou on October 13th, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
Busy times for Milwaukee psych-doomers Sleestak, and not just because the Brewers are gunning to get in the World Series. The four-piece have a gig coming up in Chicago and some new material in the works that they were kind enough to send over an update on. I’m waiting on them to get a Six Dumb Questions interview back over, so stay tuned on more from these guys around here.
Until then, here’s the latest:
We will be playing a somewhat last minute show with Ravensthorn and StoneMagnum. It will take place Oct. 21, 2011 at Cafe Lura, 3184 Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL. Please join us if you are in the area!
We’re currently writing new material, hoping to record in spring or early summer. I’m not sure what it will be for (EP, full-length, etc) but what I do know is that it is absolutely CRUSHINGLY HEAVY along with some psychedelic moments. There is also some recent talk of a split 7″ or 10″ — but for now that will remain under wraps.
We’ll be hosting the Days Of The Doomed preparty on June 21, 2012, with the venue to be announced very soon. So far, bands include Sleestak and QueenElephantine with more TBA. Stay tuned on this bad mutha…
And lastly we’ll be in attendance Dec. 1st at the KyussLives!/The Sword/Black Cobra show here in Milwaukee at Turner Hall Ballroom. If you’re going to this show and don’t have the newest Sleestak CD, this will be a great chance to snatch up an exclusive free promotional copy that highlights the first half of the album. We’ll be passing them out after the show!
Posted in Reviews on August 2nd, 2011 by H.P. Taskmaster
More than anything I’ve listened to in a long while, The Fall of Altrusia — the second self-released album from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, doom explorers Sleestak – demands to be taken as a whole. Although the Land of the Lost references of the double-guitar, bass and drums four-piece are easily enough traced, their music is actually far more complex, never quite delving completely into meandering psychedelia, but adding a darkened jam feel to at times surprisingly metallic doom. The Fall of Altrusia is broken into chapters in the tracklisting, and though there’s an element of indulgence in that and in the music likewise, it’s justified by the songs themselves. Sleestak blend genres, fuse wavy guitar sounds and noisy drones, contrast deep growls with Wovenhand-style musing, and most of all, craft a coherent musical narrative from these seemingly disparate and usually isolated elements. It might take a few listens to fully appreciate, but The Fall of Altrusia is propelled by an intense and self-aware creativity – that is, Sleestak know the genres they’re toying with and clearly didn’t just happen upon their sound, but though the material is dense at times, it’s also refreshingly individual.
As the appropriately-titled “Chapter 1 – In the Beginning” starts to lay out the narrative, and guitarist/vocalist/organist Matt Schmitz follows an ambient intro and heavy-riff-into-Opethian-pretty-part tradeoff to deliver the first lines of the album as “War, fear, evolution/Civilization, technology/Manipulation breeds anarchy,” I feel more like I’m listening to Fear Factory than anything that would fall under the doom heading, despite the somewhat languid pace. Drummer Marcus Bartell adds to the metallic atmosphere with pulsing double-kick bass drumming later in the song, betraying a bit of Godflesh-style extremity while bassist Dan Bell and guitarist Brian Gresser relish in thick tones soon to be relinquished again as the lighter pre-vocal movement returns to set up the apex and conclusion. “Chapter 1 – In the Beginning” is ably done, but what’s even more notable about it is how well it flows into “Chapter 2 – Exiled From the City.” I don’t know if Sleestak wrote The Fall of Altrusia as one long piece or as separate songs they then wove together, but the flow between cuts is one of the strongest facets of the album. “Chapter 2 – Exiled From the City” finds Schmitz employing some David Eugene Edwards-style clean vocals over organ and tense strumming guitars, and an extended semi-jam on which Bartell’s ride cymbal seems to cut through everything else in the mix.
That’s all the more a shame for the subtle charm Bell puts into his bassline, but what really stands out about the drumming on “Chapter 2 – Exiled From the City,” and on The Fall of Altrusia as a whole, is how processed the drums sound. It’s not so much what Bartell is playing as it is the production thereof. The snare sounds too uniform and mechanized, too bright and forward for the soft pull of the latter part of that track, so that it undoes the melodic work of Schmitz’s organ, which is doubly unfortunate for how it disrupts the aforementioned flow Sleestak have clearly worked so hard to establish across the seven tracks, and which for the most part is impeccably maintained, even as the plodding, thickly-riffed doom groove of “Chapter 3 – The Prophecy of the Great Sleep” takes hold. One of two prophecies Sleestak have in store for The Fall of Altrusia, this one finds Schmitz once again utilizing his growl over one of the record’s best riffs that marches along until 3:19 in, when the song changes to a more rocking progression that carries it into another slowdown finale, setting up “Chapter 4 – Regression within the Hive” and its more outwardly progressive feel.