Country : United States Label : Profound Lore Genres and styles : Doom Metal / Sludge / Sludge Metal Year : 2024

CRAWL – Damned

· by Alexander Quiquero

Imagine a Sisyphean narrative where cruelty, torture, and agony reign supreme; Damned, the latest release by CRAWL, paints this vignette with a mixture of blood and linseed oil.

CRAWL is the solo project of San Antonio’s dark conjuror Michael A. Engle, who composes his music as one would a sacrifice: channeling self-immolation through vocals, bass, drum, and sampling simultaneously in both recording and performance. The striking image of his figure clad in black cloth, brandishing a homemade bass built with bones, conducting a black ritual with each limb moving as one is a sight to behold. Proceeding a string of split tapes with both Haunter and Leviathan in 2018, Damned is CRAWL’s ninth release after a three-year hiatus, and truly expresses the essence of the ambient doom project. Much like the state of our conductor, the maelstrom contained within this album weaves both a physical and psychological atmosphere of brutality and desolation.

Beating drums inaugurate the listener into this infernal hallucination in a track like “Renaissance of Worthlessness,” the beginning of a wicked ceremony. Incomprehensible shrieks are muffled by screeches and scrapes of distortion lingering in the air like a lurid vapour, and a sonorous snarl reveals itself in contrast to the cries of a tortured subject—as though its originator is responsible for the horrors to unfold. We get the sense here that in this vision, the connection only exists between flesh and the end of a morning star.

This connection is made in “… This Lesser Form.” Engle’s piercing screams are centre stage, overshadowed only by booming percussion-like pounding lifeless flesh into a pulp. Yes, this track sounds like someone or something is being physically ripped apart or bludgeoned in a frenzy: a remarkably horrifying symphony of carnage. Droning synths asphyxiate to cause a maddened delusion while chord strikes reverberate the consternation of witnessing such a scene.

You could consider the penultimate track of Damned a reprieve from the brutality of the second, but that doesn’t mean much while ensnared in CRAWL’s twisted imagination. The most cerebral on the album, “10,000 Polehammers,” delivers a haunting soliloquy of the damned, where drones and percussive pounding reflect not physical violence, but a tearing apart of psychic threads within a being that reflects on its capacity for atrocity. Indeed, it splinters and breaks under the weight of its toll as the vocals choke and wretch in nauseating shame and mental self-mutilation.

In a transition between tracks, the snarling voice manifests once again with malice: “… soon all of you will feel my hate and suffer and I have suffered,” before a barrage of drums seemingly turn back time: returning us to bare witness once again to CRAWL’s sadism, this time with more brutality than the last. The rock rolls back down the mountain amid pleas of hysteric terror like being dragged backward by the ankle across a jagged cave floor, back into the nightmare.

In a shocking climax, the album ends in a cacophony of agony with “Poisoned and Shadowmad,” laying bare the nihilism in Damned, a haunting reminder that just as in anything, there is no end to torment, cruelty, and pain – these cycles continue to churn. Death is never the end. This record is not for the faint of heart.

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