Last year, progressive sludge supergroup KHoRADA burst onto the scene with Salt, an incredible debut that found its way into my top 3 albums of 2018. Salt not only introduced me to a new favorite band but also sparked a mild obsession with prog-sludge music: after oozing from the Melvins’ amplifiers in the late eighties, sludge metal has evolved into an apex predator, growing strong by feeding off its influential and gnarly neighbors.
This year, there’s a new contender for alpha in the pack. The fearsome Novarupta, led by constant member Alex Stjernfeldt, dropped Disillusioned Fire in late April, a progressive sludge album that exists outside the orthodoxy of modern metal. For starters, each of the six tracks on Fire features different vocalists, who all bring their own kind of intensity like an extreme metal potluck. I was skeptical about hearing a new voice on every song, assuming that the record would sound like a compilation instead of a fully-realized album. Thankfully, Disillusioned Fire doesn’t sound like “NOW That’s What I Call Sludge Metal Vol. 23,” as the project flows consistently in style and substance. It’s a risky move, but swapping out singers works in Novarupta’s favor.
Several influences are at play on Disillusioned Fire, and while the album is very cohesive, the short tracklist puts importance on quality songwriting: from the blackened tinges of “Stones,” to the post-rock atmosphere of “Pyroclastic Flows,” and the crust punk-infused “Ourang Medan,” these sludge metal vignettes run the gamut of heavy music. It may go without saying, but Novarupta’s kind of metal isn’t easy listening; while Disillusioned Fire isn’t avant-garde, the album’s gait is that of a slow burn, and it takes patience to absorb the nuances crammed into every track. As much as I enjoy this record, it’s kind of like choosing to eat an entire cheesecake: it’s rich and dense, but also a challenge, and if you do it too frequently, you’re going to get sick of it.
One of the better progressive sludge albums of the year, Disillusioned Fire is a smorgasbord of gritty, grimy, and grand metal. The novelty of the rotating vocalists feels less like a gimmick and more like a collective, and the album flourishes from the unique contributions from each member. And if you don’t like everything that Novarupta throws at you, I understand; but, for fans of heavy prog and atmospheric post-metal, this is a breath of fresh air. Strongly recommended, give it a shout.
Disillusioned Fire was released on April 29th, 2019.
You can buy Disillusioned Fire at this online retailer or wherever dope records are sold.