Newcastle doom-mongers Bong's recent spate of well-received live shows and the release of their most recent album Mana-Yood-Sushai has meant that there's renewed interest in their back-catalogue, necessitating the digital and CD release of their formerly vinyl-only self-titled debut. It doesn't disappoint, and is probably the most pleasurable way I could choose to spend an hour hurtling into the abyss.
Traditional terms like "heavy" don't even cover what's on offer here - it sounds like the honking, droning death-throes of a dying star. 'Wizards of Krull', the first slice of pure black concrete available here, walks the same path as Corrupted or Khanate with their epic song structure, but eschews screaming for more measured chanting. Measured is how I'd describe this whole release, in fact, as the pace remains slow and steady throughout; like lying under a concrete mixer while it slowly, steadily, pours its contents over you. It feels quite suffocating in places, in a very good way. For sixteen minutes, chugging and winding and wrapping around itself, 'Wizards' creates a weird headspace that makes you think that maybe the song's not going to end, ever, and that this is your life now, until it stops and you can finally breathe again.
'The Starlit Grotto', at 26 minutes, takes the previous track's intentions and stretches them even further. The constant low humming bass has a nice counterpoint in what sounds like a zither, but probably isn't - the heavy psychedelic influence sets Bong apart from other bands of their ilk, along with their apparent ignorance of traditional song length. The offerings here are for people who can let the darkness wash over them and can fully embrace what is effectively a audio bearhug from a giant Geordie golem. When 'The Starlit Grotto' finally kicks in, and the bass rattles your insides, it's hard to shake the sense that there is danger lurking, and it is waiting for you.
Bonus track 'Asleep's insistent high-pitched smashing, sounding at times like dischordant piano keys and at other times like a throbbing Eastern drone, adds to the repeated bass and minimalist drums to sound like the soundtrack to the worst time of your life. It's like the bit in the film when the girl realises that the killer is in the house, and that everyone she knows is the killer, and that she herself might be the killer. It's a 17 minute chase down a dark alley; it's brilliant, it's fucking bleak, and with a name like Bong you know exactly what you're getting. They're not pretending and they're not trying to be anything else. Bong are the Slayer of their scene, never-changing but always phenomenal, and this release is a reminder that they started off great and got better from there.
Posted: Mon 1 October 2012