French Accents and Accidentally Taking Your Ex’s Bath Salts, A Seum Album Analysis: By M H Thomson.
French Accents and Accidentally Taking Your Ex’s Bath Salts, A Seum Album Analysis:
By M H Thomson
19 February 2023
Seum, for the uninitiated, is a Québécois sludge metal trio from Montreal. They fall into an interesting subgenre of the sludge/stoner/doom metal scene, the self-described “Doom ‘n’ Bass”. A fun and apt play on words as there is no guitarist in this group, just a bassist Piotr Ignatowicz, a drummer Frédéric Lepoutre and a vocalist Gaspard Carrey. And to be honest, their brutal and noisy brand of metal carries such weight and power as is, that I think the introduction of a quite arguably (and in this case) unnecessary treble instrument would only take away from the chaos. Double Double is the group's second full-length studio offering, and a fucking corker at that. The following are my thoughts on the record, track by track:
The song opens the record with your typical sludge/doom intro and a solid representation of such. Although it lasts a while, taking a good fifth of the song to pass. Once the song does get going though, you’re in for one hell of a groove, rolling along with all the weight and purpose of a freight train. Piotr’s overly distorted and chunky bass guitar stands front and centre (a recurring theme on this record), and really keeps the song barrelling along. Frédéric’s Jimmy Bower-esque drumline plods away for the first half of the song but then gives way to a more Queens of the Stone Age rock feel in the second half. The relentless assault on the ride cymbal really propels the track forward. The vocals meanwhile, sound like Gaspard’s best Kirk Fisher impression drowned in reverb as his lyrics walk us through the tired but ever-relevant trope of describing a lifestyle of gigs, booze and generally partying in the fast lane.
This song continues on the vibes of the first track stylistically speaking. The song only really gets going from the second verse onwards, a riff led by a driving bassline that leads into a mid-song breakdown. This breakdown really stands out as a nice change of pace, coupled with the repeating of the chorus verse these two different riffs play off each other nicely. The slower, more direct delivery of the second iteration really adds some desperation to the song's lyrical theme, the band's desire to go south for winter.
An ode to accidentally taking your ex’s bath salts, you know as you do, who of us hasn't spent a casual Thursday arvo on bath salts, No!? Me neither. Nonchalant and forward as the lyrics are at describing the “trip”, it is thankfully, not what you’d call a ringing endorsement of said substance. Musically once again Piotr very much leads the charge on this one. A largely Sabbath-inspired piece with very “Bassically” (the N.I.B. bass intro) style vibes early on and a wah pedal-laden main groove. The late addition of a sludge breakdown fucking slaps with all the punch of something off of Eyehategod’s Take as Needed for Pain.
Toil and Trouble:
An unwarranted interlude. This song is a seemingly aimless and rather pointless addition to the record. The interlude itself would perhaps have made sense if it served as an intro to the next track, but it doesn’t, and even if it did, it wouldn’t have required separation from said next track. It feels like they tried to turn a recording of the Piotr doing some pre-show warm-up into a workable riff, too bad it doesn’t really lead anywhere and thus fails on both accounts.
Another song led by a wholly uninspired and overused lyrical platitude, this time that of kicking arse on stage and getting less than sober. The track hits an album low point during the third verse, with the introduction of some cleaner vocals. The band's Québécois accents poke through just unsubtly enough to be distracting as it contrasts greatly with their, up until this point, mostly more brutal and less dialectically identifiable vocal delivery. Quite why their accents are so immersion-breaking here is a mystery, as other francophone bands such as Gojira seem to be unaffected by varying accent delivery. The latter half of the track, on the other hand, takes a drastic and welcome left turn, by way of a brutal apparently Butthole Surfers-inspired stampede, that in hindsight the song seemed to have been building to all along. This, musically speaking, justifies the deceptively, retrospectively un-mediocre start, but there is no recourse in justifying the lyrics.
This tune tows the line of the ever-present punk side of sludge metal, the intro, in particular, is reminiscent of Eyehategod’s modern classic “Agitation, Propaganda!” The chorus to this track is fucking killer, as the band settles into a foot-tapping groove accompanied by a very chantable “It’s all fake, fake, fake!”, something I can imagine slaying live with the benefit of audience participation. The lyrics themselves revolve around a hatred for consumerism. The mid-track sample acts as a nice segue into the change of pace sludge breakdown. The breakdown itself rather abruptly switches feel, as the same riff repeats quietly in the background, but now sounding as if it's being played to you down a 1970s telephone line. The foreground of the mix meanwhile adorns the listener with the graceful ambience of what sounds like a man throwing trash into a dumpster. A beautifully quirky and suitably jarring way to end the tune. Seum is very much back in the saddle on this one after the lacklustre previous track.
Another slow brooding wah-laden monster of a sludge riff opens the track with purpose. The riffage grinds to a halt with the introduction of the first verse, where the vocals and the bass take it in turns as if they're having a conversation and a dull one at that. This back-and-forth concept, whilst a great idea in theory, is utterly decimated by its duration, which is just long enough to ruin it. However, this initially perceived tedium later proves unequivocally necessary as a means of seeding the backbone of this verse riff in the listener's head. As by the time they come back around to this riff for the second verse, the bass/vocal interchange is dead and buried, replaced by what is one hell of a refurbishment of the riff, built upon and stabilising the foundations of its first iteration. Gaspard’s vocals now backed by the melodious but still slow burning charge from Piotr’s bass which effortlessly thrusts the track ahead. The chorus itself varies little in feel regarding the instrumentation as the shifting vocal pattern seizes control and belts you over the head in the best way possible. The track concludes with an invigorating, driving break riff with a nicely paced verse accompanying it, which in turn leads us back to the familiar riff to close. The lyrics for this semi-self-titled track describe the torment of being stuck in a relationship that you need to self-medicate with drugs to get yourself through. A bleak but fitting topic for the music.
This mostly instrumental groove, just kinda passes the listener by as a jam, but a bloody good and engaging one at that. Full of pounding riffs and lots of little noisy nuances provided by the beautifully ungenteel amp feedback. This, I feel, is what the track “Toil and Trouble” could and should have been. The title is a seemingly arbitrary one, a reference to a Canadian term for a coffee with a double shot of cream and two sugars, however, the lyrics bear not the slightest mention of this, not even as a metaphor, instead opting for a brief report on self worthlessness. Overall a great way to close the record.
Whilst far from reinventing the wheel where bass-driven doom/sludge is concerned, Double Double is still a solid and thoroughly enjoyable effort. The band’s brazen, powerful and crushingly sonorous sound makes this album, by my reckoning at least, a punishing albeit worthwhile listening experience and one you should definitely seek out for yourself.
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