Bongripper - Terminal (LP)
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Chicago’s Bongripper are the doom bands’ doom band. For nearly fifteen years they’ve waged a campaign of sonic terror and aural battery that has won respect and admiration from fans and other artists alike. Their long-form, instrumental tirades are at once crushingly heavy and achingly melancholic, often wandering off into ethereal lightness. Seventh full length ‘Terminal’ is no exception.
First things first, yes, by their own lofty standards, ‘Terminal’ is relatively breezy. Weighing in at around 40 minutes, it’s removed from the epic crawls of the hour plus ‘Satan Worshipping Doom’, ‘Miserable’ and ‘Hippie Killer’. But this comparable brevity serves the band incredibly well; split into the roughly equal halves of ‘Slow’ and ‘Death’, the record is a distillation of everything at which Bongripper excel, namely heaving atmospherics and incalculable numbers of riff.
‘Slow’ broods with synth before building feedback like a swelling thunderhead, Daniel O'Connor’s massive kick strikes a focal point amid the growing intensity. They tease the drop, keeping you waiting, before it falls in like a basement ceiling. Droning, grinding chords shift like plate tectonics, riffs changing organically and inexorably before things fade out into a wistful, drifting clean guitar chime. Layer by layer, the band construct this wearied groove, rising further and further, spurred by the guiding force of Ronald Petzke’s driving bassline. When the ‘heavy’ comes back in, it’s suffocatingly dense, inhabiting all possible aural space, the single locked in chords raining down like hammer blows as a guitar overlay drenched in reverb spirals off into the void. It’s towering, climactic stuff. But the ‘ripper ain’t finished with you yet.
As the first track bleeds into ‘Death’ with creeping static and roiling synths, before the second song asserts dominance with a swaggering riff that steadily dredges deeper and deeper, slowing, bloating and staggering amidst pounding toms. The band show canny use of negative space, before earth shattering kicks ushering a rolling mid-tempo groove and needling guitar overlay that comes right out of left field. Back into their original dredging groove, any sense of comfort or familiarity is whipped away once more by a strident, sludgy guitar gallop, tight triplets descending into throbbing feedback. Uniting once more into hammerblow chords, Nick Dellacroce and Dennis Pleckham conjure a steadily maddening atonal guitar duel that rides the waves of unstoppable drums.
The shorter form sees Bongripper keep things lean with ‘Terminal’, losing none of their signature heft, brutal tone or hypnotic, meditative sway, gaining an unconstrained momentum and razor edged focus that cannot be denied. Perfectly crafted, and well worth the four year wait. - The Sludgelord