The Fallen Sun - SLUDGEHAMMER

You often see polls out there asking metalheads to drum up their votes for best unsigned bands on the scene. Somebody throw SLUDGEHAMMER's name into the hat and be quick about it.

SLUDGEHAMMER is one of a thousand or so hybrid metal bands vying for attention, but in their case, attention is well-deserved since they're far more effective than the norm in stockpiling their thrash, hardcore, death metal, power metal, prog and rock roots with sense and audacity. Only three years together, their volatility is one of many tremendous assets showcased on their first full-length album, "The Fallen Sun".

"Demons from the Woodwork" is bloody impressive with its mosh and thrash do-se-dos, Fernando Villalobos working overtime on just the first track of this hectic yet gratifying album. He socks the double hammer hell out of this cut, but the twin guitars from Jeff Wilson and Tyler Williams go even further in demonstrating SLUDGEHAMMER's skill. With Chris Szarota and Dan Ayers dropping bipolar vocal styles (think of MUSHROOMHEAD's Jeffrey Hatrix and Jason Popson without the rapping), their swaps are as much to keep up with as the signature changes toward the end of "Demons from the Woodwork". Never mind the rest of the songs, which are busier than even the would-be incumbents' press agents.

It's not merely innards getting twisted on "Intestines Entwined", given the countless directions the song goes. SLUDGEHAMMER efficiently curves through variances of power metal, grit rawk, death metal and thrash. Progression plays a huge hand in the 6:30 power epic "The Black Abyss" and later, "Consuming Afterbirth" A piano sonata greets "The Black Abyss" which builds from a PRIMAL FEAR base and then hammers in fluctuating speeds, mirroring ICED EARTH's valor-reveling barrages. SLUDGEHAMMER logically wraps "The Black Abyss" on one the better breakdown-to-thrash sequences you'll hear this year. Dropping a nod to classic IRON MAIDEN on the intro (and later during the solo section) to "Carrion Eater", SLUDGEHAMMER mingles a power march with a brutal death slog, tossing a headbanging fiesta in the process.

Chris Szarota's rhythmic barking in time with Fernando Villalobos's jive-moshing on "Ectogenesis" exhibits full command over pentameter you don't hear too often in octaves so rough. Both Szarota and Dan Ayers woof like madmen over the flinging, PANTERA-grounded "Carnivorous Forest". Ever-so-subtle can you hear some black metal guitar rails amidst "Carnivorous Forest"'s drubbing locomotion. The biggest payoff on the song, however, comes with the wailing guitar solo before you find yourself rudely dumped into a filthy deathcore slam.

This is how gifted SLUDGEHAMMER as a band is, even with only a demo, EP and now LP under their belts. On their own, they're a devastating DIY metal band. With a contract in-hand, they're gonna become unstoppable.

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