Thlurm is a one-man blackened grind project from Indiana native, Austin Sipes. He likes his music poisonous and slimy, like a rotten apple. This means he roots to the bottom of the waste bin for his charms where others would reach for the surface agents of a much lighter fragrance. The Thlurm Must Die and Dungeon Scum are two separate demos recorded at Planet Shag (he’s American, don’t worry) over the last eighteen months that see a release in their original guise through Wise Blood Records. Those that like the first two Sepultura records will find much to like here, and Sipes will also get the thumbs up from Darkthrone’s Fenriz for this anti-production effort. You might even need a tetanus shot when you’ve finished.
It’s easy to assume The Thlurm Must Die (tracks 1-10) is a grindcore record with most songs averaging less than one minute and thirty seconds in length. Don’t be misled. Sipes plays no blast beats, nor does he have the guitar tone to replicate extreme metal’s most savage sub-genre. The opening track, ‘Intro’, is a filthy mid-tempo piece of sewage metal spiced with suspenseful horror film samples and eerie noise effects. You might even hear a subtle layer of atmospheric keyboards underneath the toxic spillage, but repeat listens suggest otherwise. Mmm… Perhaps Sipes is more of a drummer and bassist than a guitarist. This will explain why he avoids the precision thrash his rhythm sections deserve. ‘Running in Circles’ pulsates like a fuming revenge killer getting ready to cross the line but sounds more like Hellhammer attempting a Minor Threat cover. ‘Disease’ feels like a noxious virus that spreads through its invisibility and wild mutations. Again, it has a retro punk vibe with fast arpeggios and higher frequency shapes competing with the agonising scream vocals for primacy. The mix here and on standout track, ‘Imaginary Hell’, is grubby, like the dead spider legs and dust balls you find in a year-old hoover bag.
Though not grindcore in substance, you can argue for the case in spirit on The Thlurm Must Die. ‘Urge to Kill’ would not be out of place on Napalm Death’s Scum album, with its savage grunt vocals and brewing hysteria ready to erupt into a violent murder spree. Death metal guttural vocals and d-beats equal punk, right? Of course, Napalm Death covered Dead Kennedys’ ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ in the early 1990s, so you might wonder what the reverse would sound like? Thlurm answer this on ‘Sacrifice’. It sounds like, uh, a screeching car crash you cannot ignore. With a heavier guitar tone, the first demo would be even more appealing. The bass-heavy death-doom of ‘Armageddon’ shows that Sipes has a wide range of extreme metal and punk influences and plenty to explore moving forwards.
The second demo, Dungeon Scum, is more like a rehearsal tape. It’s difficult to produce a drum sound that’s worse than Sepultura’s Morbid Visions, but Sipes comes close. The songs here are longer and more enamoured with black metal. ‘Serpent Master’ is a fuzzy mess of inconsequential guitar rhythms and muffled screams. ‘Red Mage’ is much better, like the noise the boys in Mayhem made back in the mid-1980s before they could see themselves as lords of chaos. We know that Necrobutcher and crew listened to punk prior to discovering Venom and Bathory, and this is what their rehearsals might have sounded like in a school hall environment.
Austin Sipes cites cult Italian black metal favourites, Mortuary Drape, as an influence on his music along with Midnight and Toxic Holocaust. You won’t hear anything that reminds you of Joel Grind’s work in the latter, but Midnight creep through into the mix minus the rock & roll posturing. Is the intro to ‘Human Waste’ stoner metal? Sipes leaves you no time to ponder this question by exploring a haunting dual vocal harmony like something from the latest Eight Bells album. Where did that morbid contemplation come from?
The underground will relish these two demos, especially those with obscure and elitist tastes. But will you remember the name when Thlurm release their first professional recording and invite cries of sell-out from those that like their music unworthy of human consumption? It will be interesting to see how Thlurm evolve from here.
Release Date: 29/04/2022
Record Label: Wise Blood Records
Standout tracks: Imaginary Hell, The Thlurm Must Die, Human Waste
Suggested Further Listening: Trading Hands – Clobberknocker (2022), Tenebro – Liberaci Dal Male EP (2020), Mortuary Drape – Wisdom – Vibration – Repent EP (2022)