Brutal Bristol Doomgazers, Sugar Horse’s new EP, DRUGS, is a punishing aural assault but it also features ephemeral moments of beauty. Doomy opening track, “Drugs”, utilizes neo-Sabbath riffs over apocalyptic, downtempo drumming, and (what feel like) random pauses filled with studio chatter. Vocalist, Ashley Tubb’s voice takes on similar qualities to Deftones’ Chino Morino when it soars into higher registers in the choruses. This chimes in well with DRUGS’ press material’s, which likens Sugar Horse to a Doomy Pink Floyd. It wasn’t unusual to read Deftones being described as the Nu-Metal Pink Floyd. Around the four-minute mark, some chanting, almost gospel-like, vocals come in over some chugging guitars before the track drops back down into the heaviest, most punishing, section yet.
“Pity Party” definitely earns the Doomgaze title, with its more melodic vocals & walls of reverbed fuzzy guitar noise and swirls of feedback replacing the hammering riffs of the previous track. The rhythm section maintains the punishing, metallic abrasiveness. There is an almost heroic, lighters-in-the-air atmosphere. Single, “Richard Branson In The Sky With Diamonds”, begins with fuzzier, shoegazey riffing, reminiscent of Pink-era Boris or some of the more melodic Sunn O))) tunes. The vocals are trademarked metal screams when they drop in and they fit in between the stop-start rhythms. There are twists and turns aplenty and the perceived loudness and heaviness dips and dives constantly. Vocalist Ashley Tubb says it’s “a centrepiece for the record. A mangling of every direction we go in, distilled down and blasted out at both destructive and fragile volume”.
“When September Rain” is a sparse, haunting ballad (as strange as that sounds), built around vicious snare drum crack and gentle synth melodies. It’s definitely an outlier here. The heavy reverbs on the vocals and the blending of the choral backing vocals with the main seems to lend it a quasi-religious feel. Towards the end, it builds up into a wall of pure noise that would make Brian Eno or Kevin Shields jealous. “Dogegg” is a slow, sludgy slice of abrasive Doom. Perfectly pitched to end this EP. It’s heavy riffing also gives strong Boris vibes. Perhaps more Amplifier Worship than Pink though. Despite its bludgeoning feel, there are moments of tranquillity where all you hear are gentle drum patterns, subby bass, and clean guitar chords. These atmospheric segments mainly serve to heighten the impact of the next loud section though, and they fulfil this role magnificently.
DRUGS is an unusual EP and there is almost guaranteed to be something, whether song or moment, which pleases everyone. It may, however, struggle to please some due to its variety. I cannot imagine purist Doomers enjoying “When September Rain”, for example. Personally, I find this level of variety and experimentalism extremely inviting. It is definitely impressive to find such variety on a five-track EP with a runtime below 30 minutes.
Written by Tom Ray.
DRUGS EP is available now on all good digital music platforms.
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