The Tidal Sway of Clagg’s Lord of the Deep

When done right, stoner/doom riffage and brutal vocals can be a lethal combination. Melbourne plodders Clagg go out on a limb to prove the idea again on their third full-length, Lord of the Deep. The album, which was originally released as five-tracks in 2009 and issued again in 2011 with closing Iron Monkey cover “Big Loader” added on Obsidian Records, is an unrepentantly filthy monster of huge sonic proportions. If nothing else, it proves the double-guitar Aussie five-piece know what they’re talking about. The band, which formed in 2002, chose the album’s name, imagery and thematics well. They’re not the first to marry gargantuan tones with oceanic imagery, but damn if they don’t do it well.

That’s pretty much the story with the whole album, as it happens. Lord of the Deep runs the better part of 66 minutes, spread across the already-noted six tracks, and I’ll say flat-out that there’s nothing revolutionary happening here. I’ll add to that, however, that I don’t think there should be. The dark, dense and pummeling atmosphere Clagg is able to affect through their songs is potent enough that it puts you in a headspace where you care less about what’s being broken down and remade than you do about where your next beer is coming from and how hard you can actually thrust it in the air before spilling any. The first three songs of Lord of the Deep – “Carrion,” “Lord of the Deep” (which has two parts subtitled “They Dream Fire” and “At the Rising of the Storm”) and “Buried” comprise over 40 minutes’ worth of material alone, and though there are a few breaks in the action here and there, moments to catch your breath before the next wave hits, etc., Clagg never stray too far from the brutality. Even as fourth cut “The Harvest” works some clean singing from Scotty (it’s a first-name-only deal across the board), the music is dementedly heavy behind, and the sense is that the throat-searing isn’t over. And indeed it isn’t. In its back half, “The Harvest” (a mere seven minutes long, as opposed to the first three tracks, which are all over 11 minutes, or the first two, over 15) has some of Lord of the Deep’s most brutal growling. We’re talking Cephalic Carnage-style. Real deal.

It would probably sound awkward but for the vicious low end in the guitars of Vman and Tom. Together with bassist Sammy, who also provides backing vocals for Scotty, the guitars form an unforgiving attack. They’re not quite as thick as UK epic-tellers Conan, but they’re not far off, and the balance of the mix is rightfully geared in their direction. When Tom takes a lead on “Devour the Sun,” it cuts through without overbearing the rhythm track or being more egregiously loud than anything else. Come to think of it, it’s all pretty loud. Even the drumming, handled by (there are those who call him) Tim, which is pretty much the only thing grounding Clagg’s bastardly riff cycles at all, feels huge from beneath the wall of guitar low end. Even the quiet parts – and “Devour the Sun” might have the quietest of them; it sounds like the band went to grab lunch and came back to finish the song – are loud for the sense of foreboding they convey. It’s not that original, but it’s done well, and as “Big Loader” closes out Lord of the Deep, evoking Weedeater-style recklessness with its faster-pace and no-less demolishing tonality, I’m more than happy to trade the originality for the infectiousness of its groove.

To be fair, that probably won’t be the case for everyone, and there will be those who bemoan the been-there-done-that side of what Clagg present, but for me, the trend in doom has been headed away from vocal brutality for some time now and I’m glad to hear Scotty‘s clear mastery of the form so tightly locked with Vman and Tom’s guitars. Lord of the Deep might start out with whispers, but it definitely ends in screams, and if you’re not willing to be pounded into the ground by the titanic heft of the first three songs – made all the heavier as they are by the not-overused heavy/quiet contrasts – I’m not sure what to tell you. Heavy wins every time, and it certainly does here.

Clagg on MySpace

Obsidian Records

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3 Responses to “The Tidal Sway of Clagg’s Lord of the Deep

  1. dogmaofdespair says:

    Big Loader is actually a cover of an Iron Monkey song from the s/t. Pretty badass cover, though.

    • I knew it was a different sound, and since it’s about half as long as everything else, figured it was a cover, but it’s cool to know of what. Thanks for pointing that out. I made the change in the review.

  2. john says:

    Six references to Clagg’s “unoriginality?” Tell me what is original and revolutionary these days? I see that criticism leveled against this and not that when it’s all derivative. What’s the rule on that one anyway? When is that a foul and when not? I see no consistency there at all.

    Clagg’s “Lord of the Deep” is near perfection. It’s a masterpiece of sludgy doom. I have had this for nearly a year and it hasn’t lost any of its appeal. It (along with Clagg’s 2 previous offerings) gets played regularly even as my collection continues to expand weekly with the small fortune I spend on music. If you are looking for a revolution in music, I guess you need to look elsewhere. If you are looking for something you can enjoy at the highest decibels your stereo reach, give this a listen.

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