Winds, Christians & Sludgy Bedlam, An Analysis of Religious Observance 7 Years of Neglect: By Myles Thomson


Winds, Christians & Sludgy Bedlam, An Analysis of Religious Observance 7 Years of Neglect:

By M H Thomson

                         June 20th 2024

Religious Observance (RO) has always been one of the pillars of the Melburnian sludge metal scene. Relentlessly loud and noisy, with great hooky riffs that push the boundaries of the interplay of repetition and varying dynamics. A veritable supergroup of members of She Beast, Colostomy Baguette and High Drifters, the six pieces' sheer volume (literally and figuratively) makes them an overwhelming live monster in the best way possible. But we’re not here to discuss their live show, they have a new album out titled 7 Years of Neglect, and here are my thoughts on it:



This song starts with the low muffled sounds of swirling winds and a lonely ominous guitar riff which proceeds into a very slow build-up of both instruments and tempo to create what is an altogether noisier and more brooding affair. The now fully realised and so far only riff plods along with all the eerie unsettling charm of “Skin Ticket” or “Iowa” or something else from the b-side to Slipknot’s Iowa album, albeit the riff itself being more reminiscent of an early Melvins droner than anything Slipknot has ever produced. The screeching vocals finally kick in at about the 2-and-a-half minute mark with all the planted finesse and chaos we’ve come to expect from prolific frontman Wayne Donovan. Eventually accompanying the vocals is a new riff but it really acts as more a transition into Andrea Daniel’s tom-heavy tribal drum interlude than a part in its own right. The highlight of the mid-section has to be former bassist and current master of sound effects Campbell Stevens and Wayne’s savage call-and-response vocal exchange; Campbell’s vocals are however quite low in mix, which is a shame at face value but I think actually adds to the song's tumultuous atmosphere in a positive way. Another transition (this time consisting of just guitar amp feedback) leads us back into the seemingly ever-present main riff which eventually draws the tune to a close. A fucking freight train of an opener and a good omen of things to come.

Within Seconds:

It opens with the usual feedback and sample-laden sludge lumbering along at the pace of wind erosion but then relatively quickly takes a turn for the faster with a melee of southern groove redolent of a cross between “Zodiac” by the Melvins and something off of Time Travelling Blues by Orange Goblin. This flurry of twists and turns all come at once, in a single turbulent blast of bluesy, punky, and sludgy bedlam, guitarists Ringo Stander and Ben Jones parts subtly bobbing and weaving all over the mix. The song does nevertheless eventually settle down into RO’s archetypal Eyehategod worship for the remainder of the tune. Towards the end of the song the Wayne/Campbell dual vocal makes another appearance but this time with Campbell serving as the low “harmony” in a well-balanced and brutal roar. Another belter.


Leaning right into a leisurely but doomy blues right off the bat this one quickly falls into a trance-like state where it seems to not really go anywhere whilst simultaneously constantly moving. This makes for a nice somehow peaceful mood, but the peace only lasts if you just ride the vibe and don’t pay too much attention to the unnerving samples peppered throughout. These samples are distorted in such a way that makes it difficult to tell if they are the sounds of a woman feeling pleasure or being raped. Creepy? Maybe. Perturbed? Definitely. Up to the listener's interpretation, I guess.

Extinct Exist:

A good noisy one this. A nice slow hooky riff to start off with, which then makes way for a much more energetic driving chorus, only to slow right back down into the sludgy doldrums. The latter half of this track in particular progressively becomes less and less lively until we’re left with just a single guitar and some samples running off into some soaring feedback to close. This gradual decrescendo in energy really drives home this feeling of exhaustion, the steady yet sedate pace really makes it feel like the band recorded it at the end of a long night, they are of course feigning it. This is a great example of how to make a song feel like more of a brutal slogger via dynamics rather than just adding more distortion (something which RO are hardly lacking). This works especially well coming off the back of the powerful pummeling chorus. The brazen simplicity of merely screaming the title as said chorus coupled with the sharp phonetics of the title only adding to the weight of its impact.

Dismal Horizons, Shinu and the curse of the mid album slump:

These two tracks are classic straight down the line RO through and through, and whilst both good in their own rights they do not furnish the listener with any new or intriguing musical avenues, both rather opting for the well-trodden path. This is no fault of RO's, as is so often the case when you reach the midpoint of a record, any given band's tropes become more apparent and thus the songs feel less distinct. A couple of soft highlights would be the tremolo picking and wah-laden guitar solo and the sudden change to an Erik Larson-style southern groove for the outro, both in Shinu.


Back to Melvins vibes to begin with, this time it feels like a combination of tunes from The Bootlicker album. Just as the cool swaying groove is getting going it is rather abruptly but far from unwelcomely interrupted by a fast punky d-beat riff that sounds more like it was written for Maggot Bath (one of Ben Jones other bands, that tend to incorporate more punk and grind elements than RO) but it still feels right at home here. The track strides along nicely with the slower sludgier riffs grooving away, the fast punky motif barging in intermittently, in a purposefully clumsy organised chaos kind of way. This interaction of differing styles really powers the song along. A juicy doom riff then swings by to not so quietly build the tension right up before the fast punk malarkey triumphantly returns to end the track. Additionally, the random addendum of an old WWII-era British radio broadcast-sounding thing is fun if kinda out of nowhere.


This noisy instrumental soundscape rounds out the album. What sounds like the swirling winds from “Dissent” are back, as well as plenty of static frequencies and low-end humming, all accompanied by excerpts from The Christian Herald and Signs of Our Times regarding the utility of the bible or any other Christian imagery in heaven. A Christian reference seems a fitting closer considering the band’s name. Once the quite lengthy sample ends the track concludes with what sounds like a cross between a Buddhist chant and a burp that's been slowed down and dropped an octave or two. A strange but apposite epilogue.

Overall this is a tremendous album and a pleasing and varied departure from their previous work that does so without losing any of the things that have always made RO great. The addition of some faster and more musically technical passages especially lifts the chaos to new heights. The mixture of cacophonous bluesy titans and bizarre twisted sample-driven interludes they have assembled makes for a rewarding auditory assault of a listen. This record is a fun but brutal ensemble that perfectly captures the band's monstrous presence and energy. Definitely worth checking out.

Mark's brief hot take:

Religious Observance is always free from the epic dullness that so many sludge/doom bands suffer from, by revelling in the dark depths of true artisan experimental/abrasive/filthy/nasty extreme metal. Every fucking one of their releases is worth your time and this record is easily their pinnacle so far. 7 Years Of Neglect is a deranged beast that is glorious in its aims-endless acerbic riffs and an atomic-fueled drums/bass section all in an unhinged unbalance with dual psychotic vocals and a very prominent noise/power electronics tour de force to add a rancid cherry on top. Every delirious track is a solid step up from previous works; all much heavier and maniacal. Personally, I need albums that creep me the fuck out like an old underground cult movie. This is not only one of my favorite albums of the year but also one of the finest sludge/doom Australian albums in memory for my schizophrenic ears. Buy it and support these lovely people now and forever!!

Buy the album:

Attend the launch show:

(Interstate launches as well, check the socials)

Get Antisocial:

In the coming weeks we have a stellar interview with this glorious band, so watch out for that!!!