Here on the East Coast, where we’re basically locked into early winter, the beaches seem to be the furthest thing from our minds. Yet, here come Squalus and Shadow Limb to remind you of aquatic adventures, sea creatures out for blood, and general madness. And fun. Remember that? When you could put on a record and just enjoy what you were hearing without worrying about scene bullshit? That’s exactly what you get today, and it’s a total blast.
“Mass and Power” is a split release pairing Northern California progressive metal band Squalus and Chino, Calif., sludge pounders Shadow King on a seven-track effort that isn’t entirely a call from the oceans, but it might as well be. This is one of the better, more interesting split records to come our way this year, and the fact that it won’t drop until halfway through December is concerning in that people might miss it. That’s why we’re striking early.
“The Great Fish…” is the 2017 debut record from Squalus, a retelling musically of the classic 1976 film “Jaws,” which is just an awesome idea. I mean, considering singer/guitarist Aaron John Gregory’s penchant for aquatic beasts (need I remind anyone of the late, great Giant Squid?), this is right up his alley. However, he and his bandmates—bassist Bryan Beeson, keyboardist Andrew Southard, and drummer Zach Farwell—couldn’t get everything they composed for their debut on the record, so we get one of those tracks here for the first time, as well as two swelling new cuts that will smear you.
Squalus’ portion kicks off with “Fourth of July,” the track that was left off of “The Great Fish…” that retells the conversation between Mayor Vaughn and Sheriff Brody as they talk about shutting down the beaches, which put the struggle of safety vs economy into focus. The track is fittingly watery at first, with Gregory’s singing pushing in and the key haze brightening. As the tale goes on, and the tension of the story builds, things get heavier, as synth zaps, the warning of sharks goes out, and things come to a blistering end. “Swim Charlie Swim” is a carryover from “The Great Fish…” a track that balances sludgy punishment with dripping piano and pattering drums. “Violent Climax” is part synthwave, with deeper singing from Gregory at first, as the track moves its way along. “From his voice came a gurgling whine,” Gregory wails, as the track disappears into inky blackness. “Mass and Power” closes out the Squalus portion, starting calmly, with lurching croons that eventually go deranged, and an off-kilter pattern that can make you uneasy. The track then comes alive and pumps energy, as fiery chaos meets up with bubbling synth, thick doom riffs, and a psyche bath. That intensifies until everything melts into a sea of guitars and keys, with everything rustling once more before fading.
Shadow Limb released their debut offering “The King Is Dead” last year after the band formed out of the time they shared in instrumental unit La Fin du Monde. Here, they’ve added vocals to the mix, but they remain headed down paths that, while rocky as hell, also have a sense of dreaminess and adventure. The band—guitarists/vocalists Chris Roberts and Adam Scarborough, bassist Mike Crew, drummer Dan Elsen—deliver a trio of songs that are heavy on riffs, provide different perspectives on vocals (they can be grisly but also smooth), and add a smothering assault.
Shadow Limb launch into ridiculously named but awesome “Lobstrocities” (their version of the cover has a creature that happens to be “Masters of the Universe” heel Clawful), which is grimy and burly when it starts. Wailed cries eventually turn into swaggering singing, while the track heads into cold, fittingly nautical territories before coming out of that and burning shit to the ground. “Pop Song” has a touch of Torche sludge goodness, as there are some disarming melodies lurking beneath the filth. As the song moves on, calm singing emerges, leading to a power surge that turns everything toward violence. From there, the band begins to crush you with heavy waves, animalistic growls are unleashed, though there’s still a sugary basis that makes it go down smoothly. “Dark Sigil” is their final cut, beginning jazzy before landing punches and spiraling into heavy sludge. The track then picks up, sending fists toward faces, as growls punish amid killer leads before the pace calms down. Gothy singing swims into the murk before the power returns, trudging hell is turned out, and everything ends in a halo of noise.
If you can listen to this pairing of Squalus and Shadow Limb and not have a blast, then fuck you, you’re taking yourself way too seriously. On top of that, these are two killer bands that have some commonalities but definitely approach heavy music from a different perspective. “Mass and Power” is a blast of metallic goodness to cap off your year, and it’s a reminder than when the warm weather returns, you better watch your ass if you decide to go into the water.
For more on Squalus, go here: https://www.facebook.com/squalus.band/
For more on Shadow Limb, go here: https://www.facebook.com/shadowlimb/
To buy the album, go here: https://translationlossrecords.bigcartel.com/
For more on the label, go here: https://www.translationloss.com/