Stomach Earth Stomach Earth
Looking back on his past material, one would be forgiven to pigeon-hole The Red Chord guitarist Mike “Gunface” McKenzie as a one dimensional, what with that band’s chugging, technical riffage and all. Well, the first three minutes of Stomach Earth, the debut by McKenzie’s solo project of the same name, is more than enough to shatter that preconception. The seven songs here are weighted heavily with some serious death/doom that is misanthropic and creeps along like the slow blossoming of fungi on decomposing flesh.
Right from the start of “Void Angel Ritual,” Stomach Earth presents a sound that is bleak and crawling. The guitars are densely textured and layered. The bass and drums, plodding and malevolent. Vocally, McKenzie’s slow, guttural drawl feels swallowed by the wash of morose atmosphere, becoming a part of the music and not so much an entity of its own. This is not an album for those in search of variety. The pace rarely increases above that of decomposition and the sheer weight of the release is cumbersome at times, but when taken as a whole, the result is a rewarding experience, or at least, as rewarding as watching rotting flesh slough off of hardening tissue and and coagulating liquids.
“Watchers” incorporates desperate, wavering melodies amongst the glacially slow moving riffs. If you thought the album opener was slow, this next one lurches along like my daughter dragging her feet to the but stop on the first day of school it ain’t quick. “Haunted by the Living” has a little more urgency to the guitars as distant keys offer up their services to create a little more creepiness to the air. If I were to speed this track up a touch there’d be a solid groove flowing through its veins. “Prolong the Death Watch” (the shortest song at 5:25 in run time) has a chugging industrial vibe as the vocals become even lower end and more distorted while keys sing eerie notes of dread. This is a malevolent and angry song.
While much of Stomach Earth is mired in a sludgy, swampy miasma of despair, there is one hell of an impressive solo on “The One They Fear,” that for a few short seconds provides some room to come up for air. It’s a soulful bit of music that fits the overall tone of the album quite well. “Reaching the Threshold” is the weightiest track on the album not only in terms of it’s run time (over ten minutes), but also it’s atmosphere. The song moves slowly from distant sound effects, building for the first few minutes before the crushing guitars and distorted growls arrive with plenty of malice. “Claimed” wraps up the album in the same fashion in which it started depressive guitar tones and crawling pace.
All in all, Stomach Earth is a pretty solid debut effort. It’s not an album for most people. In fact, it took me several listens to fully make it through the rotten-to-the-core death/doom that Mike McKenzie created. That said, it is still a rewarding album as we can see a completely other end of the musicianship that this dude has in him besides super-aggro, technical mosh-pit mayhem. I can dig it.