A review. An interview. Sludge. Doom. A song that may or may not be about having bees in your mouth. This post has everything.
Where the Merfalo Roam, Into the Storm’s second full-length, is exactly what a sophomore album should be. Amidst a Sea of Chaos, released way back in 2010, was an okay proof of concept. It had some space that felt a little filler-y, the production could have been better, but was enjoyable (especially the song names; they are something to behold). This time around, they really honed in on one particular sound, cut the filler, and only experimented when necessary.
I’d even argue that by cutting the filler, they shifted genres ever so slightly. They could have been called atmospheric sludge with a little touch of post-hardcore, but now they are pretty set in progressive sludge with some doom thrown in. Of course, genre-picking is usually grounds for argument, so disagree with me below. This talk of genre-shifting doesn’t even include their EP, which is pretty much a straight doom release. I wanted to get some perspective on this, so I asked:
Between your debut LP, the EP, and now this album, there is a pretty significant change in what you guys are playing. How intentional is this? Have you been just experimenting and looking for the right sound, or is it your intention to shift this much for every album?
We are always searching for that new sound. Anything is possible. The major shift between those albums has been in changing the lineup. Brant switched from bass to rhythm guitar and vocals. Oliver switched from vocals to bass and vocals. A two guitar setup has been great for writing and creating new ideas. Currently new material has been building on the sonic foundation that Where the Merfalo Roam established.
One my favorite parts of their overall sound is the almost southern-sounding guitar. It’s a little odd coming from one of our northernmost states, but the slight twang fits the sound perfectly. The riffs certainly hold up with the best in similar genres, like Baroness, Mastodon, and Torche, and their new progressive nature softens things up not with atmospherics, but instead with deft intensity control.
Most impressively, the album feels like a perfectly executed live performance. Often, with overproduction, you can basically see the layers as you listen, but Where the Merfalo Roam feels much more organic. I wanted to ask about how they achieved this sound.
I love the production on this album, can you tell us a little bit about how it was recorded to give it such a “live” feeling?
Derek Moree did an amazing job producing Where the Merfalo Roam. The basic tracking was all done live so the foundations of the songs are us naturally playing together. To quote Derek “My magic is recognizing your magic and helping you shape and mold it”
One thing I am having trouble with is pinning down the ethos of this band. This album is an all out assault on three senses. The music itself seems sincere, aggressive, and honest. The track names, however, continue the theme of their previous work in that they are wonderfully odd. From the opener “Truck van Trailer”, to “I Gotta Get the Bees Outta My Teeth”, and “Jobbernaught”, there is a level of jest that I have to account for. Then there is the matter of the cover, which sends my visual perception into critical overload.
This is kind of a silly question, so I apologize in advance for its vagueness, but what type of persona do you see the band taking on with listeners? I see traces of humor, doom, and surrealism all clashing at once. What state of mind are you guys in when it comes to writing?
Writing is just us standing around shooting the shit and piecing together our interpretations of the world we consume around us.
The first half of the album is a fierce riff fest and I can’t get enough. The depressive sludgy chugging is pitted against agonizing melodies and I can’t tell which is winning. “Ghostmaker” has Sumac-like crushing weight with a little extra hook, and “Seduced and Disappointed” touches a post-metal chord that I enjoy enough to get through a little of the slowness. On first listen, the second half of the album didn’t excite me as much since it is more sparse with the head banging riffs and everything takes more time to develop. The easily accessible high of the opening songs doesn’t prepare you for the more sophisticated plotting of the later tracks.
Not every minute of every song is a winner for me, but there are un-fuck-with-able moments scattered like seagull shit on a pier throughout the album. There’s some weird experimentation all over, like an explosive trumpet on “Maturin”, some strings on the self-titled track, and just some weird guitar parts, like the closing of “Maths”
I couldn’t let them go without getting one last answer.
I have to ask if there’s a story behind your band promo picture. It may be one of the most glorious band photos I’ve ever seen. I assume those props are everyday items you need in Seattle?
When we realized we should take a photo together as a band that’s not a live photo we knew wanted something different than standing in front of a warehouse or building. Outside in the woods getting lost was still on the table. We got together with our friend and photographer Ken Lapworth where we pitched tons of ideas and settled on something involving boats, whales, fields, derelict buildings and a bunch of other crazy shit. As the date got closer we realized that we had gathered none of the supplies or even determined a location. Ken just told us to come over bring whatever items we generally have on us and clothes that could handle getting wet.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see Into the Storm become a common name in the stoner/doom/sludge realm after this album. Riffs, fuzz, progressive aggression, and just a little bit of weirdness all combine to make this one excellent ride of an album.
Check out their Bandcamp here, and while you’re there, check out their cover of 96 Quite Bitter Beings by CKY, aka the official song for doing dumb shit. You can also preorder the album and other merch here.