Maegashira
"The Stark Arctic"

(Spare Change Records 2009)Maegashira - The Stark Arctic

An album as bleak and downtrodden as "The Stark Arctic" could only have been made in one of the most depressing places on Earth: not the frozen wastes of Siberia, nor the harsh dunes of the Sahara, but the blighted region known as New Jersey. No surprise that the Land of No Left Turns spawned such a beast; the atmosphere of the state is perfectly suited to produce Black Sabbath style doom with generous doses of southern fried sludge baked in. Hey, if you lived in the 70-mile-wide radioactive inconvenience between Philadelphia and Atlantic City, you'd be perpetually bummed out and angry, too.

"Ongoing Corneal Erosion" is essentially an extended intro, sounding like Burst in their more dreamy moments. The first real display of bowel-crunching goodness comes in the form of "Caribou Crossing," an earth-moving mix of doom's rolling thunder and Clutch-style boogie. This track-to-track style shift is something Maegashira will play with throughout the album. "Ammonia for Sweat" thuds into a more traditional trudge through knee-deep noise tar. "Baggage Claim/Skin Slip" is like a sweet fusion of the two preceding tracks, with some appropriately filthy wah and drum freak-out adding more flavor. Then "Hi From Jersey" serves as a thick appetizer to the mammoth, 22-minute album closer "Back to Muro." Kind of like Sabbath's "Megalomania," the song yo-yos between restrained build up and genuinely monumental riffage.

Maegashira's unpredictability (as far as doom goes, anyway) paints a little color into a genre that can be as bland as endless tundra if done carelessly. "The Stark Arctic" is a solid slab from a young band who will hopefully continue to put out forward-thinking doom, if only for the tours that will keep them out of their beautiful home state.

B+

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