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El Sledge (+): Doom

Initially based round one man, Matthew Graboski, El Sledge have put out a pair of releases which have baffled, confused and amazed onlookers. Now expanded into a trio, hence the (+), Doom is the third offering from this outfit, recorded in 2011, but released this year and it follows on conceptually from its predecessors. Unfortunately, I haven't heard either Fletcher's Last Stand or The Baltimore Initiative 2010 (a various artists compilation album featuring El Sledge (+)), so I can neither compare nor contrast. However what I can do is say that what Graboski, his brother Jay and Steve Sroka have conjured up is genre blurring doom, prog, space rock/metal, that perfectly fits into the apocalyptic tale expounded here. Thankfully this act are hard to categorise or compare, but if I had to choose one band to liken El Sledge (+) to, it would be dooming stoner progsters Spiral. Both bands have a similar desolate edge to what they do and both see their primary aim as taking the listener on a musical and lyrical journey. ES(+) though are a tougher beast, the likes of "Primal Scream" introducing itself on a gargantuan riff, before off kilter vocals, screams and uncomfortably claustrophobic musical passages completely change the vision. It is a neat trick and one pulled off time and again on Doom, an album title which has more to do with the concept of this band's trio of releases than the music they house. Although a fair crack of doom and stoner influence does ooze from the gloom.

In general this is an intentionally dark, deep and unsettling release, the likes of "The Hour Glass" setting a sparse, yet intense tone which is used as a starting point for some more overtly melodic and almost catchy segues. However the intention here is not to have you singing along when the mood grabs you, rather El Sledge (+) would be happier to have you cowering in the corner babbling incoherently while their despair washes eagerly and relentlessly over you. Happy, feel good music this is not.

Far from being an album which could fit into any day or circumstance, Doom is isolated and concentrated listening fare and while more immediate sections do jump out, repeat visits really are required to make sense of the whole undertaking. Either way, if you have the patience and time to unravel its inner messages and meanings and to withstand an initial stand-off experience, then this is an album you'll enjoy being challenged by.


Track Listing
1. The Hour Glass
2. The Pentecost Broadcast
3. Golgotha
4. Primal Scream
5. Ancient Religion
6. The Eschaton

Added: July 30th 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: El Sledge (+) on BandCamp
Hits: 1024
Language: english

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» SoT Staff Roundtable Reviews:

El Sledge (+): Doom
Posted by Jon Neudorf, SoT Staff Writer on 2018-07-31 02:15:36
My Score:

El Sledge (+) is Matt Graboski (guitars, keyboards, vocals), Steve Sroka (drums) and Jay Graboski (bass guitar, Moog Taurus pedals), formerly of Oho. Guests include Tim Yungwirth (guitar on tracks 3, 7,8,9), Island Styles (additional guitar on tracks 1,2,3,6 and percussion on track 5) and Doug Forrester (additional guitar on track 2).

Doom was recorded in 2011 and originally released in 2014. The version I hold in my hands came out in 2017 and includes three bonus live tracks recorded at the Metro Gallery in 2013. As noted there is an Oho connection and like the work of that underground progressive rock band El Sledge (+) has created something quite different than the norm with Doom. Elements of space rock, doom metal and prog make for a varied and highly entertaining listen.

A swelling of keys begins “The Hour Glass” before breaking into acoustic arpeggios and excellent lead vocals. Graboski has a very good voice with an interesting timbre almost becoming operatic at times. The big riffs and busy drums turns into a cleaner sound with a nice mixture of acoustic and electric guitar. The heavy riffage comes back in a swirling fashion making for an intense opening track. “The Pentecost Broadcast” is a real head turner featuring a number of change ups going from heavy bombast to lighter acoustic parts. There is a lot happening here, including some nifty effects sounding great on headphones. “Golgatha” is another heady number featuring heavy doom, a splattering of psychedelia and a slinky groove near song’s end that is simply delicious. A more classic heavy metal sound can be found in “Primal Scream” although the band include some interesting change ups, most notably the jazzy chords and clean acoustic picking near the end of the song. Excellent guitar work highlights the short and spacey “Ancient Religion” while “The Eschaton” ends the album proper in grand epic style with emotive vocals and innovative guitar work, both heavy and light. Attached are three bonus live tracks although the recording quality isn’t great especially when compared to the first six tracks.

If you have the original release that should be all you need. An eclectic concoction of dark rock and metal, slightly disturbing and highly satisfying.

*The new artwork for this release is not shown.*

El Sledge (+): Doom
Posted by Michael Popke, SoT Staff Writer on 2014-02-10 19:09:43
My Score:

Maryland's El Sledge [+] the plus represents the band's transformation from a one-man band featuring vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Matt Graboski to a duo and then a trio combine old-school angular prog with contemporary avant-rock to create a challenging listening experience via Doom. Never mind that these guys are so pretentious that the first line of their bio reads: "They are spawned from the depths of our humanity, a presence wholly of its own accord, and untethered by the whims of their former selves." Rather, let these half-dozen songs, ranging in length from two-and-a-half minutes to 12 minutes, do the talking. From the lush acoustic guitar passage that opens the album at the beginning of "The Hour Glass" to Graboski's tormented screams at the end of the gargantuan "Golgotha" and his borderline black-metal delivery on "Primal Scream" to the pretty turned catchy-as-hell "Ancient Religion," this is not music for the weak. This won't put you in a better mood. And it may well spoil what had been a pretty decent day. But music's weird that way.



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