Monday, July 09, 2012

Sons of Tonatiuh: Parade of Sorrow (2012)

Primordial Sludge

The early years of sludge metal's existence found it marginalized and ignored by the core of metal's audience. Corrosion of Conformity did have success with their brand of Southern rock-inflected sludge, but the core New Orleans scene (Crowbar, et al.) labored in obscurity for a decade. Thanks in large part to the high profile of Phil Anselmo, Down brought sludge metal into the public eye. Mastodon then proceeded to blow it apart, resulting in the rise of the Atlanta scene, and the eventual infiltration of sludge into every branch of metal's family tree. Sludge is now a ubiquitous, fully-formed, developed, and mature style of music.

For whatever reason, Atlanta's Sons of Tonatiuh have rebelled against that development and maturity. Sophomore release Parade of Sorrow deconstructs sludge into its primitive elements.

After a short intro, "White Wall" represents the band's vision with stark contrasts between metal-inspired hardcore and hardcore-inspired doom, alternating between punky speed and a sloppy, raw take on Saint Vitus, before finally ending on a grunge note. Students of metal history will instantly notice those are the three elements that created sludge in the first place. The title track is more American doom filtered through punk lenses, complete with bluesy leads, then a punk break, and more doom. The most modern they get is "Colors Run Red," sounding like early Baroness (First/Second) simplified.

Some of it is quite good, in particular the catchy riff of "One by One." But mostly this just sounds like a mishmash. I appreciate primitivism in metal. The dozen or so old-school death metal reviews I've written are testament to that. This doesn't come off that way, but instead as a band struggling to find a cohesive style. The punk parts have little impact on me (maybe hardcore fans will like it?). Worse, the doom parts aren't good, especially not the dull "Fallout."

And what's the deal with that album art, anyway? I've heard of the "kiss of death," but it looks like Death has taken a gay lover. I guess this is what's considered edgy, if that's what they intended.

The primordial sludge performed by Sons of Tonatiuh lacks the charm that the best "retro" bands have the ability to capture, it lacks the vision of bands who push the boundaries, and it falls short of the superb songwriting or performance acumen needed to elevate any unoriginal band to the next level. Despite the inclusion of a few good songs, there just isn't enough to recommend Parade of Sorrow.

The Verdict: 2 out of 5 stars

Buy Parade of Sorrow

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