The good thing about being from a town that’s a bit off the metal radar is that it’s harder to lump you in with a buncha other bands. Even if I’ve never heard a particular group before, I have a general idea what to expect when I see a doom band from Maryland or a sludge outfit outta New Orleans. But Salt Lake City is a total wildcard for me—and, fittingly enough, The Ditch and the Delta does not sound derivative of any particular band or scene.
You might have some idea what you’re getting into when you see the “progressive post-sludge” label slapped on this disc, but these guys are not mere NeurIsis worshippers, nor are they simply an offshoot of Mastodon/Baroness/Kylesa circa 2008. They do enough to carve their own path on this debut album to make me take notice—and if you’re into the slow ‘n heavy shit, you’ll probably wanna seek this one out, too.
Hives In Decline kicks off with its title track, which takes a little while to get going after an extended atmospheric intro. Once they kick it into high gear, around the 1:30 mark, the double-kick drums form an odd contrast with the dentist-drill guitars at first, creating an oddly unsettling effect. But this number is a dish best served slow—the heavy verses on this one really leave a mark.
The amusingly titled “Fuck on Asphalt” drifts a little more toward Kylesa territory (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but there’s also some classic noise-rock elements in the call-and-response style verse. And man, does this one ever have some heavy breakdowns… while still maintaining a deft melodic touch in the guitar department. Meandering, mellow interlude “Dry Land” divides the album in two—although second-half scorcher “Till Body Quits” isn’t entirely indistinguishable from its erstwhile predecessor “Sleeping Dogs,” or even the song that follows it, for that matter. But with quality riffs that expertly toe the line between noise-rock and sludge metal, does it really matter if all the songs aren’t completely different?