Negative Reaction - Under the Ancient Penalty
This Dark Reign Recordings
Sludge metal/hardcore
8 songs (48'54")
Release year: 2006
Negative Reaction
Reviewed by Alex

The promo sheet implores me to support American metal and buy this record. While I would like nothing more, I either need a crash course on the mastery of sludge, or Under the Ancient Penalty by Negative Reaction takes such mastery to the point my poor brain can’t comprehend. Or maybe it is the fact Negative Reaction is hell bent on sounding “true doom” while mixing in the NYC hardcore angst with its vocal approach that rubbed me the wrong way.

The longevity and the fan base must be there for the band to stick around from the early nineties contributing to numerous splits and compilations. Unwaveringly sticking to the roots is commendable, but after hearing Under the Ancient Penalty I would not want to explore Negative Reaction's earlier discography.

The album offers eight monotonous fairly similar to each other doom-sludge hymns – raw, fuzzy, distorted, with the fat bass domineering throughout. The way Ken E. Bones lays his riffs, I simply can’t get into the molasses slow flow of it. To me, these are not epic riffs of Saint Vitus, Trouble or Black Sabbath, these are more like a bunch of thrown together disjointed chords. The only buildup to speak of is atonal guitar soloing, so twisted and disfigured you’d think the mad scientist is at the controls (Loathing, Sorrow).

The final nail in the coffin of Under the Ancient Penalty is Ken’s vocals. I want to believe that if the lower register manly grunts were used, this would have made the record more typical, yet it would definitely be more palatable. Instead, the band insists on its own vocal angle, which consists of all kinds of balls out hysterical screams, painful squeals and downright wild boar yelps. Pick any epithet from the above. Vocals on this record are not a periodic intermittent occurrence either, they are not just another instrument in the mix. They are very persistent throughout carrying a personal message which, due to the vocal stylings, is absolutely undecipherable. And the few times that the riffs start taking shape, the celestial percussion providing the backdrop, the screams have to barge in and take over (Pain), killing whatever momentum have been building. Even the moments of clean stoned out singing (Loathing) do not rectify this album for me.

While having respect for the bandmembers, I have no connection with the art, leaving me unable to carry out the message on the promo.

Killing Songs :
Alex quoted 30 / 100
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