In college, a friend of mine had a radio show called “Indie, Electronics, and The Issues.” He would play indie rock and electronica, then talk about “the issues.” Side note; the show eventually turned into my friend just playing whale songs and self help books. Anyways, Severance, the latest from Netherlands, could alternately be titled “Metal, Industrial, and The Issues.” It’s a mix of sludgy and industrial sounds with lyrical content dealing with a variety of current issues; animal rights, toxic masculinity, etc. Yet despite Netherlands leader Timo Ellis’ best efforts, Severance never reaches the lofty goals it sets out to achieve.
This all starts off promisingly with opening track “Sicarrivallio” which leads off with a static filled guitar riff while Car Bomb vocalist Michael Dafferner growls over it. Screams and animal vocals only add to the nightmarish sound. Menace and dread are what this song conjures. When a band labels themselves as sludge, this is what you expect. So far, so good.
The next track “Swimming Dog” again kicks off with a down tuned guitar promising more of the mood of that first track. Then Timo Ellis’ falsetto and the airless production kicks in ruining the mood that came before it. This isn’t to say a falsetto has no place in metal. King Diamond and Rob Halford are known to hit those high notes. Ellis isn’t in their league simply because there’s no presence in his voice which detaches it from the music. Meanwhile, the guitar playing that was so terrifying on that opener just becomes a confounding element. The high pitched vocals and drop-D guitar seem like they’re in two entirely different albums. Finally, the lyrical content seems very surface. Do the lyrics tackle pressing issues? Yes, but never in any really memorable way. All the gravity generated by the opener just evaporates throughout the rest of the album.
Severance is an attempt to marry heavy guitars with heavy content. Unfortunately, Netherlands craft such a lightweight album. Maybe if this album took bigger chances or got really weird, there would be something to really remember. Thankfully this is only 37 minutes. The only severance happening here is this album dislodging from your memory once it’s over.
— D. Morris
Severance is available now on Svart Records. For more information on Netherlands, check out their official website and Instagram pages.