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Reissue Review: The Mound Builders – Wabash War Machine 2.0

I feel bad for not properly reviewing The Mound Builders’ Wabash War Machine when it was first released in 2014. The Lafayette-based group stands out for their almost hard rock approach to stoner sludge, and this EP is one of the Indiana metal scene’s most overlooked releases. Now four years later, Wabash War Machine returns with two extra songs intended for the original release that ultimately ended up on a split with Chicago’s Pale Horseman.

Those previously acquainted with Wabash War Machine will be relieved to know the extra tracks aren’t treated as redundant filler. While the transition from the brutal opening title track to the groovier “Sport of Crows” worked well, having the ominous “Black Drink Ritual” in between helps foster a narrative feel that hadn’t been there before. The same could be said for the placement of the doomy “Hashashin” between the fast “Barroom Queen” and the equally slow “The Mound,” though there’s much more whiplash involved in that transition.

But whether you’re familiar with the band or not, their methods used in their mound building do plenty to impress. The production is clean but retains rawness, allowing the guitar to expel a slew of thrashy breakdowns alongside more conventionally catchy riff work while omnipresent bass slinks undeterred. The vocals are serviceable and even offer some memorably grunted chants, though there’s a sense that the hoarse yells could use a bit more oomph.

Wabash War Machine is a pretty good EP as originally released but this updated version really does take it to another level. Combining The Mound Builders’ established sludge rock with the more ambient doom style of the Pale Horseman split results in a surprisingly cinematic sound by EP standards. The band is planning to release their second full-length album later in the year and fans of High on Fire or Crowbar are strongly advised to familiarize themselves with this outing in the meantime.

“Wabash War Machine”
“Barroom Queen”
“The Mound”

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