Album Review; “Big Fish”, Sadhus, the Smoking Community (Fuzz Ink. Records, 2018)

by Maria Kouvarou (m.ouv.)

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Let me set things straight from the start: if you cannot stand the painful reality and you want your truth sugar-coated and served on a golden dish, then do not even bother pressing play, for this album is definitely not for you. The rest, who can bear it to be thrown face down in the mud and instead of whining learn to live with the monsters of the swamp, stay here with me to talk about Sadhus’ new album, Big Fish, that was released in November 2018.

I saw Sadhus: the smoking community live for the first time at Into the Limbo 2016 and was impressed, and I saw them again one year later on the stage of Power of the Night and was re-impressed. Constantly evading the almost inexistent boundaries that separate sludge metal and stoner metal, they nonetheless lean more toward the former due to their rich/full sound, the heavy distortion and the faster parts that they adopt at times. A perfect fuzz, with words indecipherable, served through screaming and growling vocals, Sadhus is one of these bands that allow for no middle ground. You are either gonna love them at first sight/hearing, or you are never gonna like them at all. And the same goes for their second full album, Big Fish.

"Big Fish" artwork, by Black Space

Big Fish is comprised of six songs and could be described as a 34-minute of cruel and raw agony. It is a heavy music venture that will hit you where you hurt the most: the realization that what you cannot stand is meant to be your permanent companion in life, and no escape can there be. The musical rawness finds its conceptual marriage and its justification within the title itself, which reflects this only truth: the big fish eats the smaller fish, and however big the big fish might be, it will always be threatened by one that is even bigger.

This is a feel given already with the opening track,“Hyper Roller”, that comes as a straightforward attack. Quite fast, with heavy distortion and screaming it flirts with the sense of a desperate rage… or a raging despair. “Flesh” follows, distinctly slower, sluggishly transforming rage into terror. It surrounds you like smoke, promising to “travel” you, but offering no release.

The third song which is also the longest in duration, “Lazarus”, changes paces like it chases a salvation that is not to be seen, just like an other Lazarus who would prefer to remain buried, but is forced to resurrection for experiencing once again the atrocity of life, to which he is by nature addicted. And addictive the song is, with its repetitive drumming, that keeps you there even if you really wanted to go.

“Big Fish” drops speed and energy levels again. For its longest part is slow and torturing, with a psychedelic tendency that resembles a swirl that is about to swallow you alive. The bass is hypnotic, with occasional upwardly passages to remind you of the contrast between your will to reach the surface and your inability to escape the vortex. Gradually the track builds on distortion and heaviness and concludes at a faster speed.

The fifth song, “Sobbing Children”, is definitely harder in character, something underlined with the solo of the guest guitarist, Stavros DVS. It preserves, nonetheless, the atmospheric character of Sadhus, whereas the concluding song of the album, titled “I.P.S.” (Intelligent Psycho Sludge) makes everything clear. Had you expected saving, you can now forget about it. And surely, the insisting, repetitive ending of the song with the almost unbearable weight will leave you tasting the mud, that same mud that you do not really want to get rid of.

In general, the aching offered by Big Fish is the kind of pain that you will love. The album is characterized by pace changes, probably a bit more than Sadhus have shown before. And whereas they do deliver well at faster parts, their repetitive and fuzzy riffs, the dazing basslines, the drumming and the invasive vocals seem to be working better where there is temporal and sonic space. Where they can seize the space like a threatening fog that falls over us.

Sadhus, "the smoking community"

But this is just my personal opinion, stemming from my own music preferences. In any case, Sadhus have once more created successive explosions below the ground and have offered us an album where the danger seems to be lurking constantly. For some, this danger will be a threatening enemy hiding at the blackest depths of an ocean, for others it will look like their greatest earthly phobia that is always looming half a step away. This can be felt both at the faster, raw parts of the album, as well as at the moments when melody and ether creep in, alluding to a possible psychedelic escape.

Either way, one thing is certain: that as much as you might want to be saved from this looming danger that Big Fish is as a metaphoric notion, you will not want to free yourself from Big Fish in its music manifestation… and so, you will keep pressing play over and over again, making relentless dives within the swamp.

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