Bleak Zero deal in the sort of metal that is unabashed, Iron Monkey-esque, sludge worship. Now there’s a band that’s always an exemplary choice to model your sound on. Bleak Zero’s debut self-titled mini album is made up of 5 songs loaded with thunderous, low-end groove and it’s drenched in a dense, foreboding atmosphere.
The band’s sound has a lot going for it; it has a lovely warmth which is only found in such bass-heavy records like this. This creates a bizarre juxtaposition as the music is always fairly dark throughout. It’s like the band are luring you into a false sense of security before they stomp on the overdrive and bludgeon you with another round of dense distortion.
At over 32 minutes long, Bleak Zero’s songs are quite long-in-the-teeth. This is a pretty standard expectation when it comes to sludge and doom, but the band don’t load their songs with enough riffs to justify the song length. At over 7 minutes long, Less of a Reason drives one riff into the ground for almost half of the song and it’s a painful dirge of a listening experience.
This is accentuated with the final song, The Spectator – Part 1. At over 11 minutes in length it spends most of its time rumbling along with no obvious destination, almost like the band recorded a jam session and slapped it on the end of the record. Sludge metal shouldn’t send you to sleep but this would happily soundtrack many dreary journeys home from a long day of soul-destroying office work.
Another annoying miss-step is the production. For a band making such filthy noise, the production should be accentuating the drums and bass but it’s weirdly understated. The drums are especially low in the mix and it makes the whole thing sound oddly weak for a sludge record.
Ultimately the lack of variety and memorable melodies hurt this record substantially. This is a real shame because Bleak Zero have hit a sound that’s gloriously thick and laden with groove, but it can’t deliver a riff that will ignite the headbangers. Even when the proceedings get wonderfully off kilter like during the opening of Misophonic Petulance, the riff won’t be sticking with you once the song is over. Bleak Zero’s debut EP shows promise but it simply can’t deliver on it.
Bleak Zero’s self titled debut mini-album is out now and available to buy on CD through Carnage Club.