Belgian quintet, Modder, aim to combine stoner metal with the cold tones of industrial music. Few artists harbour these niche ambitions, and they might find they’re the only player in the game, but they make a decent effort of it on their debut album.
On first listen, Modder are nothing more than instrumental doom metal throwbacks recycling the gargantuan riffs of Sleep and Candlemass. But dig deeper, and you’ll hear a second layer of guitar operating in a higher wave of dense atmospherics. Opener, ‘Mount Frequency’, captures this subtlety as if attempting to create a cinematic form of doom coated in the cackle of distorted bass. The fuzz is ubiquitous, like the opposite to tinnitus. Maurice van der Es’ low-end noise vibrations, here, will do in thirty minutes what the latter does to your brain over decades. You won’t even think to question the absence of vocals when the nine minutes and thirty seconds come to an end. Only one reservation stays at the back of your mind – is there anything new in the band’s sludgy pentatonic riffing?
Sometimes you can overlook the lack of originality in the rhythm guitar. ‘Wax Rituals’ is too heavy to invite any doubts. The guitar and bass distortion will pull your legs and feet into the ground like a belching bog aiming to suck you under the surface. Again, the cosmic textures of the lead guitar lend it an air of transcendence. The first hint of an industrial sound emerges in the middle-eight with a square bass sample and a tape loop, but it’s all about the riff. ‘Spasm’ should be just as good with its High on Fire bass line and weird Space Invaders percussion effect, but the grinding guitars offer nothing of value beyond Black Sabbath worship. The switch to an eighth-note drum pattern after five minutes promises a finale, but it’s an underwhelming one. Maybe the sluggish stoner element is too strong here when we need the paranoia that comes with being half-baked.
Closing track, ‘When Your Bones Weren’t Meant to Be,’ is more successful in its execution and reach. Modder have a good grasp of ambient tones and accentuate them in the intro with a distant fade-in of distorted guitars and the circular steel of a ritualistic bass line. You might even hear a phantom French horn in the mix before they up the ante towards the end with a vicious bout of chunky palm-muting and venomous chord slashes. The lesson is clear: we need more of these savage mood swings – not less.
Modder are one of those bands that’ll connect better with you in a live setting than on record. This LP contains fragments of genuine originality in the way they mix the fuzzy low-end with ambient guitars, but they rely too heavily on recycled riffs we’ve heard a thousand times before. The final product is good, but it’s not great.
Release Date: 03/12/2021
Standout tracks: Wax Rituals, When Your Bones Weren’t Meant to Be
Suggested Further Listening: Sorge – Sorge EP (2020), Candlemass – Nightfall (1987), Spelljammer – Abyssal Trip (2020)