Premiere: The Freezing Fear of Sumeru’s Fiery Blood Ordinance
New big riffs from New South Wales.
Throughout their career, Sydney sludge slingers Sumeru have trawled the bayous of New Orleans, crested the peaks of Appalachia, waded through the marshlands of the Atlantic coast, and slunk their way through the cracks and crevices of the rest of the U.S. South in a wanton search for southern-fried soundtracks to wallowing self-despair. Sumeru (2013) and Holy Lands (2014) were distilled from the same sour mash as Down, Alabama Thunderpussy, Sofa King Killer, or even Sourvein, as original vocalist Matt Power crooned gruffly and soulfully over sticky-as-molasses stoner-blues riffs. Fans of Beastwars’s boot-scootin’ boogie will also find something familiar and deeply enjoyable on these first two Sumeru records.
2018’s Summon Destroyer is an almost entirely different affair. While there are still touches of melancholic stoner blues, Summon Destroyer is far more aligned with “Crusher Destroyer” and host of sludge bands from Savannah, GA, and elsewhere. The production value has improved and thickened considerably, while Power’s vocals have turned into a deep bellow to match the chugging death metal touches that make Summon Destroyer quite formidable. While the riffs have gotten heavier and less bluesy, there is still a deftness to Sumeru’s riffing; it’s not quite as punky or wild as bands like Black Tusk, Black Cobra, and High on Fire, but the spirit is very much the same. Part of the deepening of Sumeru’s sound, too, seems not unrelated to the band’s consideration and recognition of Australia’s colonialist history. Pain and suffering permeated Sumeru and Holy Lands, but there seems to now be a bottomless depth to it. Summon Destroyer is, to borrow from Henry James, “a dropping of the plummet and a measurement of the abyss.”
With former guest vocalist Jack Willoughby (I Exist) now helming the band, Sumeru returns in 2021 with their two-song Blood Ordinance that is more Mastodon than ever. Side A “Cold Chamber” takes me back to 2002, when I first received my used copies of Lifesblood and Remission from a fellow poster on Instrife who could not find much to like in what would become life-altering albums for me. A nascent black metal tremolo worms its way into “Cold Chamber,” a brief change of pace in a track that is otherwise all sea battles and moving shadows. Side A ends morosely, with a moody clean guitar riff fading glumly into oblivion.
Side B erupts out of the calm to blaze like a swamp-striding behemoth. “Foundry of Dread” again tastes a bit blackened at time, though most of the flavour is a blistering, quasi-death metal sludge that brings to mind Sweet Cobra ragers such as “Fucking Fertilizer” or “Crusader.” Replete with solos and clinks, “Foundry of Dread” is one of 2021’s first absolute rippers.
Some might lament Blood Ordinance’s brevity, but we can only hope that it is an amuse-bouche for a full entrée yet to come. Though I do not personally collect vinyl anymore, this is precisely the type of 45 that any listener would gleefully get up to flip over and over like a goddamned riff pancake on a blazing hot griddle.