It’s almost hard to believe that sludge metal is roughly 30 years old now, but as SoCal outfit 16, which put out its first record in ’91, is now releasing its eighth album (plus countless splits, EPs, etc), it really speaks to the longevity of the genre. And sludge at 30 is still not music for shiny, happy people – as shown on Dream Squasher cuts like “Me & the Dog Die Together,” “Harvester of Fabrication” and personal favorite “Screw Unto Others.”
The 10-track, 42-minute effort kicks off with “Candy in Spanish,” a menacing, lumbering, gritty chugger that clocks in at three and a half minutes. “Me & the Dog Die Together” picks things up into a mid-tempo hardcore stomp, with a sludgy breakdown section just ahead of the chorus. The super-sombre “Sadlands” slows things down toward Saint Vitus territory, although the ruggedly clean vocals, backed by what sounds like a Hammond organ, actually sound somewhat uplifting, reminding me more of Forming the Void.
“Harvester of Fabrication” recalls the downtuned tones of Crowbar, albeit with a scratchy, semi-industrial verse more akin to (early) Fear Factory. “Agora (Killed by a Mountain Lion)” opens with an evil harmonica that has shades of Sabbath’s “The Wizard” before going straight to the jugular with a full-fledged sludge assault starting right at the one-minute mark, while “Summer of 96” rages like Bryan Adams at a Chinese buffet.
And man, if “Screw Unto Others,” with its refrain of “Bury your head in the sand” isn’t the feel-bad hit of the summer of COVID-19, then I dunno what is.