Following on from the release of their well-received second album Abysmal last year, US sludge metal sculptors Hollow Leg have their debut beast re-released by Argonauta Records this month. A raw and caustically honed brute of a consuming and oppressive encounter, their previously sold out first album Instinct returns to fill in the blanks of where the acclaimed Florida band began for those missing out the first time. Uncompromising and incessantly rapacious, the album is a sonic brutality with a merciless causticity but simultaneously holds and is tempered by a certainly rough but open seduction through often hidden but bare and potent addictive temptations.
Instinct was originally released in 2010 when Hollow Leg was just the duo of Tim Creter (vocals, drums) and Brent Lynch (vocals, guitars), the band since expanding to a quartet with the addition of Tom Crowther (bass) and Scott Angelacos (vocals), and followed The Hive Demos of the same year. Demanding and exhaustingly heavy, the album is an unrelenting predator of the senses and psyche, a smothering intensity of sound with a taste for southern groove metal within its ferocious belly. Whereas last year’s excellent Abysmal had a more tempered if still abrasive breath to its impacting and suffocating enterprise, Instinct bares no niceties or respect in its invasive sludge swamp of noise and intent. It is not a release which thrust Hollow Leg onto the frontline of the genre but it is easy to see why it triggered an enthused response to its release, a potent entrance taken on to greater levels by its successor.
Opener Caretaker attaches itself to the imagination on a sonic spear of sound, spoken vocals providing the initial narrative before intensive riffs and flattening beats add their scuzz fuelled presence. Employing raw vocal squalls and a leaden but irresistible groove, the song strolls with reserve and intimidating weight through the ears. It is a strong enticement into the album, not strikingly eventful but fully potent in its lure, bait stretched and reinforced by the likes of the bestially bruising Shattered and the more energetic devilish proposition of The Return. Whereas the first is another imposing and senses pinning load of sonic confrontation the second has an eager and fiery gait to its body, though that eventually succumbs to the core heftiness of the band’s sludge intent for a prowling and threatening climax.
As the tracks follow each other it is fair to say that repetition of structure and chunks of certain riffery make a formulaic surface encounter which needs to be pierced to discover the extra delights tracks like The Source with its dirty melodic grazing upon another contagiously addictive groove offer. That southern lilt to the sound is especially rich and tantalising on this particular track, thoughts of bands like Sourvein, EyeHateGod, and Clutch making loud whispers in the raucous noise persuasion but also of another band, The Fat Dukes Of Fuck where certainly vocally and in a certain mischief the similarity is loud. For all those similarities, Hollow Leg ignite a hunger with their still distinct and raw invention; Bacchus with its inflamed swagger and addiction forging grooves around thrilling nagging riffs and punchy rhythms as well as the corrosively compelling Nothing Left drawing thoughts and emotions in with greater strength for a matching return of appetite for their voracious and intensive toxicity.
The niggling violence of Spit In The Fire comes next to spark up another greedy response, the scowling vitriolic vocals against the equally tartish wash of exacting noise a rabid suasion, whilst the band’s intensity takes on a further burdensome and exciting depth with Warbeast, the title summing up the track quite accurately. Hooks and grooves, as across the album, come regularly and forcibly but as with most tracks also with a pleasing variation though their true potency often comes only after an excavating beneath the perpetually gruellingly textured skin of the release. The rhythmic taunting of Grace is an example of the variety at play beneath Instinct, but also proof of having to bury yourself into the song to best reap its rugged rewards.
Closing with the tantalising and unpredictably twisting Wayside, a great epic finale of arduous invention and challenging enterprise, Instinct is a satisfaction filling entrance from a band we know goes on to an even more impressive endeavour. If you missed Hollow Leg on their initial entrance the new releasing of the album gives you a chance to make up for lost time, it a strenuous and stringent view of a band taking its first sonically acerbic steps.
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