Nasdaq / Mothertrucker - A Bulletin from The Department for Transport and Finance
Manchester and Birmingham combine on this dreamy yet barbaric instrumental doom split
Words: Ben Armstrong & Phil Weller
Manchester’s Nasdaq – self-described as three static men playing not so static noise – and Birmingham’s Mothertrucker, both constructors of monolithic instrumental doom, have here joined forces on an emotive, evocative, translucent and gut-rumbling split EP.
It is the Manchester band, the Northerners, who kick off the EP, with a near 15 minute slab of dominating progressive, pressure cooker doom in Collateral (Damage). Slimy and disgusting like the troll under the bridge, it spends its early passages lurking, stalking, gargling. Cascading clean guitars then blanket a trundling rhythm section, turning the heat up yet still. Six minutes in and you feel they’re just getting started, a beautiful, melancholy and ultimately haunted melody begins to break through those cascading guitars, piercing through sludgy sounds with a real zest. With tonalities akin to Cloudkicker here, they wrap you up in your own little world.
It is a song tightly packed with melodies bordering on the cinematic, uplifting and deftly musical moments are just as important as the precise cannoning sections that bombard the track’s second half. Off kilter, full throttle riffs implode within the melodies which had burst out of the song’s opening chapter. Tempestuous but tasteful, their grinding riff work caps off a song that is nothing short of captivating. Here the pressure cooker has blown in the most spectacular fashion. It is a song that fully justifies its length, in no way is this excessive. It is necessary.
Birmingham doom veterans Mothertrucker take charge of the ‘Transport’ half of this governmental split and have two tracks at their disposal through which to deal some serious damage to the listener. Where Nasdaq opted for surprise turns and slights of hand, Mothertrucker take the more direct route. Tension building, gargantuan riffs and woolly production are all hallmarks of this, a thunderous second act, which puts brute force back in the driving seat most of the time.
Opener Gateway to Khyber (not ‘SkyBet’ - thanks Google...), is a huge, rocking doom tune befitting of its name. The Khyber, I’m reliably informed by Wikipedia, is a mountain pass in Afghanistan - and also less impressively, a twisty hill in Whitby. I assume the band is channelling the former, as they take the listener on an epic journey through one of the oldest recognised passes in history. The song is immediately dark, vicious and brooding, building up to an early crescendo with violent drumming and layers of disharmonic, reverb-soaked guitars.
At the three minute mark, the pressure releases and the mix is suddenly less thick with noise. But Mothertrucker are quick to rebuild the energy which they cut off; another steady build-up, more cautious than the first, sends us careening toward the song’s final act: a majestic, crushing display of riffs which creak under their own weight. Here, the band evoke all the things I love about the slower subgenres of metal, delivering a huge payoff to all the tension building. In this sense, Khyber is structured like a great horror movie, always ebbing and flowing but eager to deliver pure adrenaline in its final third.
The incredibly titled Saved By the Belgian is next and its job is simple: find a way to conclude a release which, after just two tracks, is already more than good enough to justify its existence. In short, mission accomplished. This song runs for a comparatively brief seven minutes thirty - a commercial single, by Doom standards - but constantly changes, always adding or taking away layers of instrumentation and shifting its dynamics. Goodenough (Drums) is key to this adaptability: his ability to switch from lackadaisical, supporting percussion to all-out artillery platform means Mothertrucker can move songs quickly and with purpose from Sabbathian battery to quieter, meditative passages and back again with ease.
It’s a testament to both bands’ quality that two groups from different places in the UK can join forces to create a record which feels like it was meant to happen. The two sides of this split cadence perfectly, balancing the others’ humours to make a complete and satisfying whole. When nothing else in the world seems to be making any sense at the moment, at least we still have music - and great fucking music at that. Play loud, drive fast.