By Kyle Harcott
Another one of those bands I somehow stumbled onto by accident, there’s very little I can tell you about Indianapolis’ Sleepbringer. Born out of the ashes of Heroes Laid To Rest, an Internet search bore only one other short review (so far) of Compendium, although I have the feeling that once this record gets heard a little more, that’s going to change. What I can tell you without a doubt is that this record absolutely crushes, it’s one of the most promising debuts I’ve heard this year.
Sleepbringer sport treacle-thick riffs that hit like truncheons, relentless call-to-war drums, and some of the most wretched, choked-with-grave-earth vocals I’ve heard in a hell of a while. The album as a whole evokes aural images of earthquakes crumbling ancient ruins, gargantuan tidal waves eradicating waterfront villages, molten death spewing forth from the bowels of the earth, all manner of natural disaster – Compendium is a merciless album, even brief mellow interludes are menacing, because you know that there’s something around the corner up ahead waiting to bludgeon you.
“Eulogy” opens the album, ominously, like a funeral hymn – an over-the shoulder eeriness instantly creeps over the listener. From the initial tolling of the cymbal bell, it rapidly becomes a pretty clear picture that Compendium isn’t any old run-of-the mill doom-sludge. As the song kicks in proper, it dawns on on the listener that what you’re in for is 63-odd minutes of worship at the altars of the likes of Crowbar, Neurosis and Eyehategod.
In other words, heeeeeeaaavy.
I’m not naïve enough to call Sleepbringer mere imitators (in a genre crusted with them) – their songwriting well holds its own in comparison to the aforementioned masters; but the homage is strong enough to draw favorable comparison. Though, there’s at least one instance (the latter half of “Caravan of Martyrs”) when the band almost –almost- veers into post-metal territory; but then that earth-smashing rhythm guitar careens back into the song in the nick of time and drags the helpless listener back out to unsafe black waters.
Every track here is granite-solid, slow-motion-neck-snap gold: “The Old Vs. The New (Testament)” is a relentless exercise in soundtracking the apocalypse. There’s the monolithic curbstomp of “Everything You Know Is a Lie”. Or the southern-fried fist-in-the-face, black-eye kiss goodnight from “Double Shot of Fuck You”. Lest you get too depressed, there’s even a vague glimmer of hope (the kind that follows after everything else is lost) that envelops the beginning of “Procession”. But the pièce de résistance here is absolutely the instrumental closer “I Am The Way Into The City Of Woe”, its clarion-call riff laying absolute overkill waste to everything that hasn’t already been destroyed in the rest of the album’s wake.
To sum up: A monstrous take on sonic-disaster sludge, Compendium is the absolute heaviest album I have heard so far this year. That’s not an honor I bestow lightly, but god damn it, I’m sticking to my guns on this one. Sure, the year’s still got a ways to go yet, but I can safely say that for sheer, subtle-as-an-obelisk-dropped-on-your-head heaviness, Sleepbringer’s Compendium is a strong contender for the win.
I would highly recommend you acquaint yourself with this one, if gargantuan, life-rending love-songs-to-the-end-of-the-world are your cup of tea. The good news is you can check Compendium out for free at http://sleepbringer.bandcamp.com/album/compendium