It is your twentieth anniversary as a band so how do you celebrate? In the case of Southern California sludge metal band 16, you release an album of violent, filth caked, and senses consuming might. Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds is an extreme heavyweight mass of growling anger, insidious grooves, and malicious intensity. It is also a mightily impressive oppression of the ear and beyond that ruptures all the senses whilst leaving one drooling like a ravenous animal over a still feisty feast, though in reality we are the prey to this monstrous beast of a release.
Since forming in 1992, 16 has riled up and flattened the emotions through the years gathering acclaim and fans with their serial killer like muscular vehemence, persistently capturing and captivating through their releases and shows. From the original line-up of Bobby Ferry (guitar), Cris Jerue (vocals), and Jason Corley (drums) with bassist Tony Baumeister joining a year later, the band from debut album Curves That Kick of 1993 onwards grew and consumed. The follow-up album Drop Out came out in 1996 to strong critical acclaim with Blaze of Incompetence a year later equally eagerly received. Throughout these years members came and went with all the baggage this and rock n roll can often offer falling on the band yet they continued to grow in might and stature. Zoloft Smile came next recorded on 1999/2000, but released 2002 by which time the band had changed once again. 2004 saw the band call it a day but the original quartet reunited three years later and signed to Relapse Records with whom the excellent Bridges to Burn came out through in 2009. The album immediately placed them back at the fore of the genre and metal. Another change came in the departure once more of Corley to be replaced by Mateo Pinkerton (ex Buzzov-en, Crom), and now the new Los Angeles based foursome are ready to set metal alight and celebrate the year with the unleashing of the stunning Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds again via Relapse.
There is not one single shaft of light that escapes from the album, the whole release a muggy expanse of masterful bleakness and doom trodden sludge corruption that is glorious. Like a pit of the thickest inescapable quicksand the album sucks one in and devours the life from the senses. Each track brings down their sonic shutters to enclose and violate with venom, anger, and despair to create an irresistible and infectious depressive world that one is only too willing to succumb to. From the opening Theme From ‘Pillpopper’ the album lays its gnarly caustic palms on the senses and draws all hope and defiance from them, not that one is putting up much of a fight for this great assault of sound. The opening track itself is a parasitic crawl through the ear that expands into every synapse and corner of the listener to drag them into its slow powerful frame. With scorched guitars, throbbing basslines and grooves that whip around the ear it is an immense start.
The following Parasite badgers and probes with searching riffs and eager grooves, neither are refined or offered with cut clarity but the music is all the better for it, their lack of definition adding to the intense weight and consumption. The vocals of Jerue spray bile and fury with every syllable of his cutting outraged lyrics, their distorted white heat cutting through the slab of sound and mesmeric grooves decisively.
Throughout its length Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds only offers up intrusive and exhilarating experiences. Tracks like the brilliant Her Little ‘Accident’ with its grooves that wantonly swagger through the sprawling intensity, The Sad Clown a song that leaves one punch drunk through its concentrated heavy jabs and grievous intensity, and the dark menacing Broom Pusher a song that prowls with predatory riffs and suggestive intimidating sounds, all leave one deeply satisfied and wasted. Do not mistake the album for simply the crushing overwhelming beast that it is for the band produces some of the most addictive grooves and distinct unsettling melodies and guitar moments possible. They may not be lined with glossy touches and glowing fragrance but they ensure the songs captivate from every angle and with sure quality.
Ending on the mesmeric Only Photographs Remain, a song that infects every cell of its victims with its slow prowl and incisive fired grooves as well as demanding intensity, the album is a commanding and testing chunk of sheer satisfaction. For all the young and powerful bands emerging and have lit up sludge metal recently 16 show they still hold the reins very firmly and impressively.