Improvement is something one should expect from a band. Putting out multiple records, playing live, understanding one’s art should pave the way for getting better. Yet it doesn’t always happen that way because stagnation and resting on the laurels also seems as natural.
Then you get a band such as Batillus, who seem to have been born again. I was introduced to the band a couple years ago with their debut, self-titled EP. It is an all-instrumental piece, with three cuts that bleed over 10 minutes long each, and as interesting and dark as it is, it lacks something that could help them transcend beyond the point they found themselves at the start. As time went on and the band got more experience, they started to develop. Then, they made a move that clinched their rise from contender to one of sludge doom’s best bands when they brought Fade Kainer on board to provide vocals and synth/noise weirdness.
“Furnace” is Batillus’ first full-length album, and it is one of the grimiest, dreamiest, most convulsive, most exciting albums I’ve heard so far this year. They’ve taken the elements from their two EPs and their split with Hallowed Butchery and carved out a six-song collection that demands and achieves your attention, and a lot of that has to do with Kainer’s delivery. Simply, he gets it. There are tons of dudes out there who growl and gurgle over backgrounds of blackened doom that’s similar to what Batillus do, but Kainer’s delivery and passion are unmistakable. You want to hear what he has to say next, and you follow him closely, almost like you’re one of those dots bouncing over song lyrics in those old cartoons. Except instead of a dot, you’re a blot of volcanic lava. Kainer is so crucial to making this band as powerful as it is, and while I don’t mean to make the music take a back seat, because it’s awfully good, a run-of-the-mill singer would have made this a good album, not a great one.
The music itself shows a maturity, especially over what they accomplished on their debut EP. And again, that first effort was a good one, so no complaints. But where they are now as compared to where they stood just two years ago is stunning. They still slow-drub you, which you’ll realize right away from the opener “…And the World Is as Night to Them,” which opens with some Wold-like noise before leading headlong into tarry, ashy doom and eventually atmospheric traveling. It certainly sets the tone for what follows and provides a very clear indication just how much they’ve developed. “Deadweight” is my personal favorite song on the record, as Willi Stabenau’s bass feels like a half ton of rock lumbering along, Greg Paterson’s guitar chugs and eventually spirals off like Kim Thayil, and Geoff Summers’ drums keep the pace calculating and chewy. Fainer howling, “Fall on your knees,” over the chorus is that touchstone moment in the song that your brain tabs as the go-to point. The song is ton-of-bricks heavy.
Batillus cite bands such as Swans, Godflesh and Ministry as influences as well, and that can be felt on “The Division” and its feedback drone; “What Heart,” with its beastly keyboards; and closer “Mautaam,” that opens with a weird, warped vocal sample before corroding into a foggy doom storm. The oddball of the whole album is “Uncreator” because it actually opens up with some speed and fire, making its pace something that sets itself apart.
I know from how I wrote this I made it sound like this is a band that’s been shape-shifting for a decade, but really, their life span has been awfully short. That’s what makes what they display on this debut so damn impressive because they’re already this good and have made giant leaps ahead in such a limited time. Their next record should be scary, as long as they continue to grow and understand what makes them so special. I haven’t had a chance to witness this beast live yet, and make no mistake, next chance I get I’m going. The music on “Furnace” sounds like material that, as good as it is to hear on my home speakers or from my headphones, it will be that much more cathartic and arresting watching them recreate this live. Batillus is one hell of an exciting young band, and they’re only just beginning to feel their way around. There’s no limit for where they can go from here, and I imagine they’ll continue to push whatever boundaries they find in their way.
For more on Batillus, go here: http://www.batillusdoom.com/
To buy “Furnace,” go here: http://www.seventhrule.com/store/