April 21, 2023

Album Review - Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean "Obsession Destruction"

Album Review -  Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean
I try to use the formula “album of the year” as little as I can, but sometimes it just applies. We’re still early in 2023, but we’re going to talk about Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean’s new record Obsession Destruction when December comes. We’re gonna talk about it for a long time. I don’t know if it’ll be my album of the year yet, but we do have a first strong contender for 2023. 
Because that is one mean motherfucker.
Massachusetts’ doom/sludge quartet have earned an enviable reputation since their inception in 2017 by writing some of the most uncompromising, ambitious and creative metal out there and playing it obscenely loud night after night on tour. The band has been releasing EPs and splits quite regularly over the last six years, but Obsession Destruction is only their second full length. Their first since Decay and Other Hopes Against Progress that introduced the band six years ago. It is twice as long, angry, pained and corrosive than its predecessor. This record features the kind of music on it that will either drive you insane or save you from yourself. I’m so fucking ridiculously glad that it exists and I’m here to tell you all about it.
There are only eight songs on Obsession Destruction, but it’s over an hour long. They range from three minutes (the latest single Hole in My Head) to a whopping twelve minutes long and there are two of them bad boys. The opener The Altar is a ten minutes scorcher that opens up with a pleasantly melodic riff before shifting into the punishing blend of doom and sludge metal that made the band’s reputation. There are grunge and alternative rock influences to The Altar (and other songs on Obsession Destruction) that make them catchier than most conventional bands of the genre. Even if the song is separated by a two-minutes long guitar bridge at the halfway line, It has the breath and gusto of an arena rock song and enough intensity to burn through your mind’s eye.
Summer Comes to Multiply was the first single from Obsession Destruction and it is coincidentally one of its most difficult songs. It begins with the same chord being played obsessively over and over again for an entire minute before it starts slowly building up into this majestic altar to guilt and despair. The band adds vocals first and then introduces variations and syncopation in the repeated chord that makes it feel like the vocalist’s mind is quickly unraveling. Three minutes in, Summer Comes to Multiply changes tempo and kicks into this Alice in Chains-like swirling power riff. Not that I want to play sludge metal sommelier, but I perceived elements of shoegaze in there as well. Summer Comes to Multiply is dense and difficult, but it’s one of the richest and most rewarding songs on Obsession Destruction.
The second single Hole in the Head is a more conventionally structured…. dare I say rock song? It has the fuzz and the filth of sludge, but also the energy and brevity of punk rock. It’s one of the simplest, but most efficient songs on Obsession Destruction. It’s a catchy, turbo charged declaration of war against oneself. There’s a very liberating quality to it. Once again, there’s a delightful, anger-fueled guitar bridge that feeds into a nasty breakdown. If you don’t at least clench your fist to it, I don’t think you’re even human. Sure thing, I don’t want to know you if it doesn’t make you feel anything.
The gorgeously titled The Gates Have Closed and They Will Never Open is more on the proggy and atmospheric side. I don’t know how Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean does it but they maintain an impressive sonic cohesion on this record while exploring all these nuances and influences. The song builds and breaks and builds and breaks. I love how in the second part, they use the vocals like an additional instrument to add a different layer of texture. The vocalist keeps repeating “Forever to go, I’ll fight myself” and stretching the syllables to underline the grit in his shrieks. It’s beautiful. 
The Chalice is perhaps my favorite song on Obsession Destruction. It’s one of these songs that requires patience and builds up into these moments of pure nastiness. While it is thoroughly a doom metal song, there’s elements of black metal and punk rock to it. It ends with one of the fiercest breakdowns I’ve ever heard and the vocalist singing: “When I meet my maker/He'll have to kill me twice/No more forgiveness/Just a hole in my life.” That shit made me feel like hurling cinder blocks from the top of a high-rise building. If you’re one of these purists who doesn’t like breakdowns because they’re “not metal” you’re pouting your own fun. Metal is supposed to make you feel shit and the end of The Chalice lit a fire inside my chest. It does every time. 
Ten Thousand Years of Unending Failure has this tribal, rhythmic drumming to it. I mean, the drumming is fantastic throughout the record, but it is otherwise employed to make the songs feel heavier and more percussive. This is a different approach. It’s one of the two twelve minute tracks on Obsession Destruction and a three three minutes goes by before you hear lyrics for the first time. Once again, it’s very simple and structured on obsessive repetition with the occasional menacing, melodic guitar riffs. It’s very fragmented and conceptual. Perhaps not the easiest song on the record to get into, but Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean never fail to build up to rewarding moments in their songs and this one is no exception. Once again a killer closing 90 seconds that lets you flush that pent up intensity.
The doomiest song on Obsession Destruction is, without a doubt, Every Day a Weeping Curse. It drones for a full seven minutes with the best funeral doom tracks out there. It’s a little lighter perhaps in terms of tonality, but it is perhaps the song with the least paradigm-breaking structure on the record. Fans of bands like Ahab or Mournful Congregation will recognize and vibe to this. It was consequently one of the least interesting songs to me, but the execution is still fucking filthy, lumbering and threatening. 
Obsession Destruction closes with its other twelve minutes monolith In the Feral Grace of Night, May the Last Breath Never Come. It’s another proggy, fragmented number that builds up intensity like a goddamn electric pylon. It’s one of the songs on the record with the best understanding of dynamics. The bare, but melodic guitar bridge has a haunting, melancholic beauty to it and bleeds perfectly into the majestic, chugging outro. It’s not that delivers a cathartic ending, but I don’t believe it was the intent. A band like Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean doesn’t feel responsible for your well-being. It wants to drag you down with them and help you find power into the deepest depths of your negative feelings
You might’ve guessed it by now, I fucking loved this record. It has a brooding anger and undisputable power to it, but also a boundless creativity and an admirable tonal discipline. Chained to the Bottom of the Ocean are reckless explorers of the filthiest and most abrasive sonorities known to men and meaningless labels won’t ever stop them from doing whatever they have to do in order to get under your skin and pollute your bloodstream. A great, memorable record from a band that is breaking into a sound of their own. A gem.

The band is touring right now. Do whatever you must not to miss them.

If you like what Ben does and want to hear him talk about books and movies too, follow his site Dead End Follies on Twitter and Instagram.