April 6, 2014

Swamphög - Pearls for Swine

Written by Matt Hinch.

When I first came across Pearls for Swine by Baltimore's Swamphög, the RIYL said "for fans of Clutch, Sleep and Electric Wizard." My first reaction was "Cheese and rice! That's the Holy Fucking Trinity!" Needless to say I was anxious to get my bleeding ears on this little EP. Wading into the bog I was at first disappointed that it didn't sound like a combination of those three bands. The disappointment didn't last long as Swamphög have their own energy that's nothing to shake a stick at.

Their swampy (duh!), sludgy metal has a very homegrown feel. In more ways than one. Not only can you feel the walls of the garage around them, but you can probably guess what they were doing in there between practices if you know what I mean. Just listen to the smoky, heavy-lidded riff on "Writhing Sky".

For another example of the kind of southern-tinged dirt-rock the 'Högs are wallowing in, look at the lineup (c/o their Facebook page). Tom Hatch - Geetar and Yellin', Mike Podczaski - Bass geetar and Hollerin' and Jon Bridges - Smackin' things good and hard. Gotta love a sense of humour. But those sorts of descriptors work. Pearls for Swine feels loose and free, relying more on feel, tone and groove than strict technicality.

Digging deep though, there are little variations and subtleties to the grungy stoner riffs that call for another slug of whiskey when heard. Paying that sort of attention as well brings out those Electric Wizard, Sleep and Clutch comparisons from where they've been hiding. "Demiurge" is slow and dirgy, mostly instrumental and displays those drone qualities that would lead one to Sleep. The bit of vocals are quite angry but their counter with the more mellow track is cool enough.

"Writhing Sky" and "Demon Train" hint at Electric Wizard. Both tracks move a little faster than EW though, especially the latter. It propels the listener down the tracks with gusto. And for the Clutch-ness, look no further than closing track "The Unrocker". The trick here (and elsewhere) is this isn't modern day Clutch I'm hearing. You'll have to go back to the start and their Pitchfork EP. That raw, punky aggression hinting at the groove to come filters through here and on "Mighty High Aspirations". Perhaps maybe run through a Weedeater on the way there though.

What else is there to say? The thunderous downtuned riffs are bound to disturb the neighbours, the hollerin' and yellin' reek of smoke and booze, and things are certainly smacked hard. Dirty, groovy, grungy, beardy and catchy. Hitch up the 'Hög, cuz Pearls for Swine sounds like a pretty good idea.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

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