They must put something in the water in the US state of Georgia. Atlanta three-piece Sons of Tonatiuh are the latest primal sludge metal act to emerge from the southern swamps that have produced Kylesa, Black Tusk, Baroness and even the mighty Mastodon in recent years. On their self-titled debut in 2010, Sons of Tonatiuh established themselves as the rawest of the raw, cutting trademark dirty down-tuned guitars with manic switches between droning doom metal and rough-and-ready crust punk. The term sludge had never been as apt as for this particular sonic soup.
New release “Parade of Sorrow” picks up exactly where Sons of Tonatiuh’s opening salvo left off with another 37 minutes of furious, filthy riffing. As before, there aren’t too many surprises here; sonic influences from Eyehategod, Crowbar, The Melvins and Iron Monkey are present and correct, although the band’s overwhelming heaviness derives more from rapid fire drum patterns and churning than the crushing bass of the latter two. Fellow Georgians Black Tusk are perhaps the closest musical cognate but somehow Sons of Tonatiuh manage to be even more murky and lo-fi.
After a slow, feedback heavy intro track, “White Wall” is a thunderous onslaught, its idiosyncratic rhythm, seemingly arbitrary tempo changes and tortured vocals thoroughly disorientating the listener. The band spent most of the two years following the release of their debut record on the road, the impact of which is felt most in their rough and ready sound. “Parade of Sorrow’s” mixing and mastering create an intense, claustrophobic atmosphere that triggers other sensory cues, from the slick sheen of sweat dripping off the low ceiling of a tiny club room to the suffocating heat of dozens of bodies packed into an enclosed space.
For an album that’s so heavily reliant on what ultimately amounts to a slow-fast-slow dynamic, there’s a surprising amount of variety in “Parade of Sorrow’s” ten tracks. “Colours Run Red’s” harmonic-laden into and verses add welcome texture to an almost impenetrable sonic murk. “One By One” is one of the few tracks to really deviate from the status quo here and while it’s still brutally heavy, there’s an unexpected pop sensibility in the reverb-soaked intro riff which is ever so slightly reminiscent of the Pixies’ “River Euphrates”.
“Parade of Sorrow” is a savagely aggressive, sonically belligerent album that is among the rawest to emerge from the southern USA in the last decade. For all its uncompromising fury though, there aren’t really any truly standout moments to set Sons of Tonatiuh apart from their contemporaries – the band never quite manages to find a distinctive voice of its own over the course of the ten tracks. But perhaps that doesn’t really matter. Originality need not preclude quality and “Parade of Sorrow” remains a perfectly enjoyable, if slightly uncomfortable, listen.