I feel like sludge is in something of a renaissance right now. Between mainstreamers like Mastodon and Baroness to critical darlings like Inter Arma, Intronaut and almost anything Aaron Turner is involved in, sludge has arguably never been closer to the forefront of new and exciting metal as it is now. I feel like a large part of that is the trend of embracing the atmosphere and crushing heaviness that are the pillars of sludge and driving them both to their extremes. And, that’s exactly what Boston’s Lesser Glow does on their sophomore release Nullity.
Lesser Glow’s 2018 debut Ruined made critical waves, with heaps of praise and anticipation for the next release sweeping the band up almost as soon as they appeared. What’s there to do when there’s that much hype and expectation built up? “Pull the drums forward. Up the grit a bit more. Give the record more teeth in the heavier moments and more lush space in the melodic and ambient passages,” apparently, according to guitarist Andrew Nault. “I was tired of genre-choked bands and missed hearing songs instead of riff parades.” Overall, the band wanted more space for the songs to breathe, more immersion and more improvisation. All the while writing lyrics that explore the grim concept of human beings as parasites living off the planet. Sounds like a tall order, but the delivery is there. Nullity hits like a Mack truck just as often as it lets your mind wander down some grim but melodic paths before singer Alec Rodriguez’s vocals pull you back in. Rodriguez showcases a wide range here, from wild yelps to deep bellows to soaring clean vocals which, admittedly, while they don’t do a lot for me, never feel like the wrong choice. Throw copious reverb and multiple tracks together and they serve to widen the atmosphere and deepen the sound. Actually, every piece here seems meticulously crafted to serve the atmosphere of the songs, which is credit to the collaborative process the band employed.
One thing I will definitely give Nullity credit for is that, despite the convention for long, drawn-out compositions being the trend in sludge these days, the tracks here rarely go beyond four minutes and change. Not that I want this album to be over quickly (quite the opposite), but this shows the band’s intent and how smart and focused their craft was in making Nullity. Nothing goes on longer than it has to, and each track feels important and without filler. Truly, these are songs first and foremost, not just riff factories. That being said, if you want riffs, there’s riffs in spades here. “The Great Imitator,” “Fostering this Nullity,” and “Versterven” brood and lumber with the crushing weight of a landslide, with the latter easily being my favorite cut here for just how solid and lock-step the guitars are with the drums. Speaking of drums, they are definitely much farther forward this time, and Seth Botos puts on a goddamn clinic pretty much from start to finish, showcasing just as much restraint and nimble dexterity in the more atmospheric sections as pure and unrestrained ferocity when the shit hits the fan.
The folks in Lesser Glow are all pretty busy outside of the band, with members in Chelsea Wolfe’s road crew, managing legendary East Coast soundstages, teaching, session work, and side projects. It’s hard to make that many conflicting schedules come together, but I’m certainly glad they did, because Nullity is quite the shot in the arm I think we all need to wake up and shake things up a little bit. I can’t say when Lesser Glow will have the time to record another one, but I do have a feeling it’s also going to be hotly anticipated after this.