Pinkish Black - Razed to the Ground (Cover Artwork)
Staff Pick

Pinkish Black

Razed to the Ground (2013)

Century Media

Last year, several publications named Pinkish Black's self-titled full-length as one of the best metal albums of 2012. There's one teensy little problem with that, though; there's nothing metal about them. Sure, they can pull off a fuzzed out drone better than anyone this side of Dopesmoker-era Sleep, they're signed to heavy music powerhouse Century Media, and they're about to head out on tour with Georgia sludge masters Kylesa, but their music has far more in common with groups like Joy Division or even Kraftwerk than it does with your average group of bearded stoners screaming about wizards. Razed to the Ground, their second full-length in as many years, gets even weirder than its predecessor and serves to further define the sludgy post-punk niche the group have created for themselves.

Often the first things that strike listeners when introduced to Pinkish Black's music are the guitars, in that there are none. The group is composed of Jon Teague and Daron Beck on drums and synth/vocals, respectively. Their guitar-less attack lends itself to the creation of sounds that wouldn't likely be heard on records by their peers. Case in point, there is something that sounds an awful lot like a theremin all over instrumental opener "She Left Him Red," along with ambient synth sounds that sound ripped straight from the opening of George Romero's Dawn of the Dead. This sets the atmosphere right away, and atmosphere is perhaps the most important aspect of Razed to the Ground.

It takes almost seven minutes before we hear the first trace of Beck's vocals on Razed to the Ground, about halfway into "Ashtray Eyes." He's got a monotone croon (if that's even possible) strongly reminiscent of Ian Curtis. However, Pinkish Black's funeral dirge drones and fuzz box overload seem somehow even more fatalistic than what Joy Division did in their short career. The brighter synths scattered throughout the eight-minute-plus track display an almost Jesu-esque shoegaze vibe and pull the song out of what might have been an otherwise unbearably depressing slog.

The aggressively distorted bass attack of "Kites and Vultures" comes the closest to fulfilling the sludge metal reputation the group has somehow gained and also displays the most conventional pop song structure of anything on the album. This is Teague's time to shine on the drums, offering dizzying fills between verses. The duo have developed into an incredibly tight unit, and it's hard to believe this much noise comes from two people.

Razed to the Ground runs thirty-three minutes, a pretty standard length – however, this is spread out over the course of only six tracks. Listeners with short attention spans and a desire for immediately apparent hooks need not apply. Those looking for a good record to put some work into, throw some giant headphones on and discover new things every time will find plenty to puzzle over in Razed to the Ground.