Sludge/doom pioneers Floor return with a vengeance with great new record ‘Oblation’

Photo by Kassi Kelley McKamey

Photo by Kassi Kelley McKamey

Not all band reunions are created equally. Some are done because there is money to be had, and putting the band back together is the best way to capitalize on said opportunity. Actually, my guess is most reunions are based on that model, and you really can’t blame them. But there are other reasons for pulling the forces back together that have more to do with spirit of the project.

Floor’s story is much more the latter. The Miami-based sludge/doom band started making noise more than two decades ago, and although they survived for quite some time after their initial formation, they only had two full-length releases and a ton of mini efforts to their name before they called it a day in 2004. They were a classic case of being ahead of their time, creating music that was both impossibly heavy but also sticky and fun in a poppy way, a formula not a hell of a lot of bands in their time were doing. They also had frighteningly down-tuned guitars, the infamous bomb string, and really catchy vocals that made them sound different from just about everyone out there, but that didn’t result in mass adulation or enough support to sustain the band.

Floor coverOnce the band split, guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks went on to form Torche, an insanely fun group that was much in the same vein as Floor, though a bit more exuberant musically, and they pumped out great records such as their 2005 self-titled record, 2008’s untouchable “Meanderthal,” and 2012’s “Harmonicraft.” The sound seemed to indoctrinate people to this style, and along the way, listeners found their way to Floor’s discography and realized that band’s greatness. Robotic Empire put out an insanely extensive anthology “Below & Beyond” for the band in 2009, with 10 LPs, 8 CDs, a 7-inch, a book, and more, and the guys then got back together for a reunion tour in 2010 to find their audience had swelled. While Floor initially said no new music was going to come from their reformation, that idea changed as time went on and now we have the glorious new “Oblation.” This 14-track, 45-minute record is stuffed to the gills with songs, riffs, hooks, and sludge, and it’s one hell of a return for the band. One drawback, especially to newcomers, is the music might sound very similar to what a million other like-minded bands are doing these days, but that just goes to show the Floor/Torche influence. These guys crafted this sound, and that must be kept in mind when taking on this album.

Floor has Brooks on guitars and vocals, sounding in fine form as always, and remaining one of the more engaging singers in extreme music. Anthony Vialon is on guitars, and Henry Wilson is on drums, and behind the boards for this record is Kurt Ballou, weaving his magic and really capturing the power of these guys. It’s a killer sounding record, and it’s great to have these guys back, even if it’s only a part-time thing between Torche records. I don’t know that it is the case, by the way, but I’d be fine with that setup. I’m sure a lot of people feel that way, too.

With 14 tracks, the record’s songs do smear into each other from time to time, but not really in a bad way. The record opens with the title cut, which is heavy and sludgy, with sleepy vocals and a slow-driving, drubbing tone. “Rocinate” changes the pace instantly, with a blistering opening, a driving tempo, the guitar strings rumbling like the earth is exploding, and Brooks promising “always and forever.” “Trick Scene” is muddy and thick, but also appealingly catchy, and “Find Away” also is a blast of fun, with Brooks threatening they’re “changing rhythms as we go,” continuing to push the madness with full force. “The Key” is a quick, 47-second instrumental blast that just seems to be there to put a pocket before “New Man,” a great, engaging song that’s full of guitar buzz and catchy filth that’ll get your blood pumping. “Sister Sophia” has the guitars lighting up again, blazing power, with chugging music, hopeful vocals and lyrics, and a really strong finish that hammers in a nail at the end of the sentence.

“The Quill” has awesome, feedback-smeared guitars, and the song drubs you slowly but thoroughly during its running time. Trust me, it’ll bruise you. “Love Comes Crushing” truly lives up to its name, with abrasive strings that rumble like thunder, the entire band sounding like machines that have gone to war against each other, and a finish that suddenly launches into speed and danger before it cuts itself off. “War Party” has more great riffs, with Brooks howling, “Control denied!” as the band takes its time clubbing your senses with roiling madness. “Homecoming and Transitions” has reverberating guitar work, Brooks voice blending in with guest vocalist Melissa Friedman, who adds a sense of chilled beauty to the song, and the two vow to “learn from yesterday.” This is a really great song. “Sign of Aeth” runs nearly eight minutes with guitars ringing out, Brooks howling, “We are chosen,” and the song settling into a smoky, doomy tempo that sounds more evil than fun. The song threatens to break open entirely here and there, but it remains murky and atmospheric for the most. The final couple minutes take on a classic rock feel, especially vocally, and the band trudges a bit more, but it’s never full throttle. “Raised to a Star” follows, with burly guitars and a hazy tempo that burns slowly, and closer “Forever Still” is a sugary, blistering blast of fan, with Brooks’ vocals purposely detached, the tempo bruising, and the whole thing getting caught in your head and refusing to let go. It’s a great way to end this record and a glorious way for “Oblation” to walk out into the sunset.

Floor’s return is a triumphant one, and “Oblation” is a comeback record that makes it feel like this band never really went away. They give you a stuffed collection with more riffs and melodies than you can handle, and hopefully this will lead to even more people learning about the group’s history and their undeniable influence on doom and sludge rock.

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