Fiftywatthead - Fogcutter
Signed By Force
Sludge Metal
8 songs (44'12")
Release year: 2008
Fiftywatthead, Signed By Force
Reviewed by Adam
There are times when a slow and roundabout approach is best, and others when being direct and to the point works better. Apparently, Canada’s Fiftywatthead subscribe to the latter. Their third album, Fogcutter, explodes out of the speakers from literally the first second, not wasting any precious seconds on an intro track or other ominous mood setting piece. Seriously, brace yourself from the moment you hit play, and prepare to be aurally pummeled for the majority of the album‘s 44 minutes.

I’ve seen Fiftywatthead labeled with the standard comparisons for a sludge metal band, namely Neurosis and Mastodon. These are absolutely warranted, though Fiftywatthead manage a brutal quality to their sound that sometimes I wonder if even the aforementioned kings of the sludge hill can duplicate. Take the opener, White Out, for example. As stated previously, the thundering main riff is the first sound you hear on this album. Jason Drummond’s screams have a visceral aggression that lend much to the overall power this band is capable of unleashing. Some of Ben Guthrie’s guitar lines are outstanding and cut right through the fog (pun intended) to stand out. The title track is a bit of a break from the pounding of the first track. In fact, its song structure and plodding pace has more in common with doom, and Drummond’s vocals relax a bit and at times are very reminiscent of the clean style you might hear on Mastodon’s Blood Mountain.

Like many other bands, especially in this genre, Fiftywatthead live and die by their riffs. In fact, they simultaneously embody the best and worst Fogcutter have to offer. When they’re good, they’re REALLY good, especially aided by a production that makes them sound about as thick and heavy as possible. On the flipside though, there are times when they just are not creative or well constructed enough to do anything more than provide background noise, as heard in Seadawg. The riffing on that track just seems a bit elementary, and the same goes for Four Points. Of course, they are made all the more mediocre when compared to a brilliant track like Iron Clad. Here, the riffs are interwoven with well placed leads that are occasionally harmonized. There’s even a bluesy guitar solo thrown in for good measure, and the drumming is the finest on the album in my opinion. After another so-so track in Last Leg, the proceedings come to a close on a very high note with Followed By Thunder. The pace of this one is of the slower variety, but this time the riffs are both heavy and engaging. That said, the aspect of this song that I appreciate the most is the dark and eerie tone conveyed, a change from the all out assault and brutality of some of the other tracks. It shows another side of Fiftywatthead’s sound and they pull it off extremely well.

With Mastodon beginning to garner mainstream acclaim, the sludge genre is becoming a popular one. Fogcutter is certainly ahead of the curve, and may be the album to bring more prominence to Fiftywatthead (they have been around for the better part of a decade). One thing is for sure, this is the loudest and angriest sludge album released this year.
Killing Songs :
White Out, Iron Clad, Followed By Thunder
Adam quoted 72 / 100
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