It’s been a good while since The Mound Builders released their first full-length album, 2011’s Strangers in a Strange Land. The group has released enough breadcrumbs like 2014’s Wabash War Machine EP to get a feel for their subsequent evolution, but it’s still tricky to tell what to fully expect from them. Their self-titled second full-length doesn’t venture too far from their established sludge metal style but rather takes it to a whole new level.
This album is far more dynamic than anything The Mound Builders released before it. While the band has always played around with doom, punk, and hard rock influences, they often kept these sounds isolated to individual tracks or sought careful transitions between them. Just about every song on here features some sort of tempo change, often seeking out the most contrasting path possible. It comes off as unhinged at first, but there’s a lot of intent behind this construction and the musicianship is far from sloppy.
And while this method makes for less straightforward composition, there are some strong songs to be found. In addition to their bitchin’ titles, “Acid Slugs” and “Star City Massacre” pride themselves on back to back extended doom introductions that jump straight into borderline thrash metal beatdowns and effective gang vocals on the latter. I can also dig the more linear doom of “Broken Pillars,” and the closing “Vanished Frontier” has a cool swing to it.
The musicianship and production are also on point. The album’s sound is very bottom heavy, giving the guitar an especially meaty tone and allowing the bass to stand on equal footing if not usurping it outright. I do feel like the drums are somewhat distant in the mix and the raspy vocals lean heavy on hardcore, but nothing feels out of place. It’d be a frankly monotonous album in lesser hands and I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way.
As one would hope from a self-titled album, The Mound Builders is a strong representation of the band’s overall sound. While the songwriting method is different than their past outings, it captures their varied influences as well as their rough and tumble playing style. It doesn’t quite capture the ferocity of their live performances and I prefer the songs on Wabash War Machine by a hair, but this should be a fun ride for fans of all things stoner sludge.
“Star City Massacre”