With a name that means ‘they sleep’ in the Native American language of Ojibwe, it would appear that Canada’s Biipiigwan are looking a little deeper than the usual ‘Buckets-of-Doom’-type names than most other sludge bands throw out. Streamlining their sludge sound in a hardcore style, yet at the same time adding more musicality, it could be said that “God’s Hooks” – recorded as a demo in 2010 – is the flip side to Black Sheep Wall’s recent “No Matter Where It Ends”. Where that album buzzed on and on in a one-note drone, this album takes the crushingly heavy guitars and larynx-shredding vocals associated with the style and mixes them with some truly devastating dynamic twists that’ll keep you guessing where the songs are going next.
Not that this is some great work of art that’ll come to define the genre as we know it, but it does have ambitions above the limitations of the style. The absurdly titled ‘Vegemite’ swings from hardcore thrash to beatdown to mid-paced chug but it all flows without any of the clumsiness that such techniques can highlight. ‘In War’ throbs along on a hypnotic pulse of a bass riff but with some inventive fills breaking up the vibe to keep things interesting.
Elsewhere the title track stands out as the centrepiece, utilising all the band’s tricks in one sub-four-minute track and where their unrelenting aggression meets their sense of melody head on, and also features one hell of a beatdown in the middle. ‘Crimson Sword’ follows and lurches along on a rhythm so insistent your head will instantly nod up and down without you even realising, and the track also features a guitar solo that shouldn’t really fit but does.
The main guitar riffs on this album are quite understated given the style that the band play but the bass and drums are all over this in such a way that the guitar sometimes plays second fiddle to the crushing rhythms. The vocals, which can be a bit hit-or-miss when it comes to sludge metal, savagely tear through each song, almost becoming an instrument of their own and being the brutal constant throughout all the changes of pace.
There is a lot to admire on this album. The songwriting and performance mark Biipiigwan as a band not content to rest on their laurels and the raw production lent itself perfectly to the material – close your eyes, turn it up and you could swear the band are playing live right in front of you, and isn’t that what metal is all about?