Blood Red Water, Tales of Addiction and Despair: Extremity Loves Company

Deeply embroiled in the downer druggie haze of doomly sludge, Venice foursome Blood Red Water beat a slow march of victory in defeat on their debut EP, Tales of Addiction and Despair. Comprised of five self-released tracks that offer little by way of hope and much by way of riff, the EP is the band’s first and finds them plodding heavy-footed through lumbering grooves and a tonal morass of sludge, more weighted (in a metal sense) than a lot of the genre, but still clearly using that as its influence base, alongside a considerable dose of doom. Blood Red Water – whose lineup has already changed but who on Tales of Addiction and Despair were vocalist Michele, guitarist Volt, bassist Lorenzo (since replaced by second guitarist Dodi) and drummer Fiorica – meet squarely on “Considerations/Commiserations” with the Eyehategod comparison that comes with occupying even the smallest of spaces within sludge, but there’s a considerable Saint Vitus homage as well that starts off the release on opener “Ungod,” the central riff of which is almost a direct port of that band’s classic “Born too Late,” and that immediately communicates allegiances to more than just the American Southern tradition of pill-popping riffs and chaotic streams. Michele comes from the more extreme end of metal – grindcore, specifically – and his approach shows it, never losing its edge of aggression even in the cleaner-sung verses of centerpiece “Avoid the Relapse.” His screams are throaty but comfortable over the music, and one gets the sense that he’d be even more at home screaming all the time, which would be fine if Blood Red Water were grinding out, but these songs call for more breadth of approach. Still, this being the band’s first release, they’re still pretty clearly testing the ground for where they want to be sonically and getting their bearings as a creative unit. A debut EP is a good way to do that when you want a project to embark on a natural evolution.

That’s basically what Blood Red Water seem to be doing here. “Avoid the Relapse” veers into some more rocking territory, but the majority of Tales of Addiction and Despair finds the four-piece well in their sludgy element – even the Vitus-isms of “Ungod” are reworked into that context. I won’t speculate as to any of the band members’ personal experiences with either of the EP’s titular afflictions, but at very least the music sounds genuine in its nastiness, “Considerations/Commiserations” bouncing ideas off Sourvein and Acid Bath as Michele tries to work a moaning clean line in here and there. Volt’s guitar is suitably vicious on the three-minute track, taking a descending riff into a more chugging break about halfway through to give a touch of classic metal to what’s already not entirely sludge but not entirely anything else either. What ties all the material together is the aggression, and that never really subsides enough to be completely gone. Even “Avoid the Relapse” shifts to a guttural feel in its chorus. What might be straightforward stoner rock in another context remains metallic tonally in Volt’s riffing, and Lorenzo and Fiorica keep a grooving beat, but it’s not so much of a departure from metal as an adaptation of it. The fourth of the five tracks, “Modern Slave Blues,” begins with caustic feedback and a sample talking something about dopamine, once again covering some familiar territory made more individual when Michele’s vocals kick in on the post-Entombed straight-ahead rocking progression. Things get really interesting when the song cuts to a quiet break and has to rebuild itself, but a snare lead-in from Fiorica keeps the transitions smooth. The groove is viscous and repetitive, but that’s the point, and it’s a point Blood Red Water make well as they build the song to its apex and that of the EP.

A creaking bit of atmospheric play more reminiscent of the Tales of Addiction and Despair artwork than the title itself shows up in “The Perfect Mix,” and Blood Red Water finish with a six-minute cut that, with the opener before, acts as the final slice of bread sandwiching the shorter songs. I don’t know if that’s something the band had in mind, or if the noisy/sampled finish of “The Perfect Mix” just fit best at the end – I’d believe that – but it works either way and that’s what matters. An exasperated-sounding woman speaks in Italian over guitar feedback and lower-end rumble, underscoring the Buzzov*en-esque mood of the song’s earlier sections. Their sound has plenty of spaciousness to it, but room for growth as well and Tales of Addiction and Despair sets up Blood Red Water to feasibly develop in any number of directions, be it a further inclusion of classic doom/metal influences or forays into rawer, more hardcore-based sludge. Well, I guess that’s pretty much two directions, but the tracks are interesting in and of themselves, and seem to be gearing toward moving into different musical territory while staying structurally cohesive. If Blood Red Water can do that, and can perhaps embark on a production and a mix that helps them better play up the dynamics that this EP hints at, then they should be in excellent shape whenever the time comes for the inevitable first album. Until then, Tales of Addiction and Despair has moments where it feels like the songs are serving the anger and not vice versa, and that imbalance can make a song like “Modern Slave Blues” feel like a wash of pissed-off emotionality, but there’s always been a place for imbalance in sludge, and one looks forward to hearing how Blood Red Water put that to use next time around.

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