So far Brooklyn’s Netherlands have defied any sort of genre classification and on third full length Audubon the band stays as slippery as ever. But in reality that’s what makes them so damn exciting in the first place. Never knowing exactly what to expect is part of the fun and this trio takes full advantage, hopping in and out of genres like chameleons. Sludge, rock, and metal all play a part but the way it’s constructed is something unique and about as addictive as that first breath of summer air after a long, cold winter.
To be different in this day and age is a bit of a challenge to say the least. Even more of a challenge is to be magnetic and irresistible at the same time. This is precisely where Netherlands has landed with each release since forming in 2010. No doubt this has a lot to do with mastermind Timo Ellis’s deep roots in the arts, beginning at an early age. Through the years he has been involved in countless projects that range from off the wall to experimental and everything in between. This has allowed his vision to turn a blind eye to conventional songwriting in a way that is challenging yet fresh and full of life at the same time.
Netherlands was created to explore the darker side of Ellis’s mind and with each release it grows by leaps and bounds. But their calling card of coming out of left field with unexpected sounds and structures is what continues to propel them to new heights. Take the freak out sections of “Dots”, rivaling some of Mike Patton’s most off the wall works, or Ellis’s neon covered 80’s vocal stylings in “Thrombosis” and you get the idea quickly that this is one band that doesn’t fit neatly into any one genre or pigeonhole. And Ellis’s vocals are multidimensional — smooth and soothing at times, others loud and brash. He has exceptional control and is one of the reasons all of their works strike such a quick chord, and here it is no different.
Then there’s the bombastic fuzz of Ava Farber’s synthbass skills that make the bouncy groove in “Elephuck” reverberate in the rib cage no matter the volume. This deep rumble has become somewhat of a trademark for the band and where their debut melted together at louder volumes the production here allows for playing at maximum volume without fear of the bass washing out everything else. Which is a good thing as this album begs for louder than normal volume. It — probably more so than Silicon Vapor — has a good time feel and sound, even through all the sludgy reverb. “Thumper” for a fleeting moment brushes elbows with the light hearted and carefree summer attitude of Harmonicraft era Torche.
All this said it’s extremely difficult to pick favorites, mostly due to the variances between, and during, tracks. However “L.M.M.” and “The Bottom Of the Ocean” stand out. Both lean heavily on the sludgy side of early Melvins but have this undeniable and extremely infectious groove to them. The former showcases an energetic drum performance from Zach Eichenhorn in the midst of bent riffs and wild solos. While the latter features arguably one of Ellis’s finest vocal moments on the album, slithering around smooth high notes and muscular shouts reminiscent of Zach De La Rocha — he knows no bounds and belts it out effortlessly and like a man possessed. In addition this track features one of the simplest yet catchiest riffs of the band’s career. And still, all of this is done over frequencies that would make even the biggest doom fan grin from ear to ear.
On Audubon, Netherlands continue their unique brand of experimental sludge, fuzz, doom, and rock music — or in their case — wherever the mood hits to place them. Each and every member proves a vital component to Ellis’s vision and without even one of them things would be quite different. It’s amazing that over three full lengths they have stuck to their initial plan. I’m hesitant to say they are better here because each release easily stands on its own merit and each is equally great. But with Audubon it seems all the very small kinks have been ironed out and the band is truly a force to be reckoned with. I can’t recommend this one enough and there’s a wide enough appeal to this album that hopefully it will gain not only the ears of metalheads far and wide but also the music listening public at large. Bravo Netherlands, bravo.