The kind of sludge-oriented post-metal purveyed by bands like Neurosis in the 1990s has arguably now been superseded by the blackgaze movement. Because of this, sludge metal is swapped for black metal and shoegaze fuzziness replaces post-rock song structures. Sheffield’s Awooga, however, have more in common with those 1990s post-metal groups than the likes of Alcest, without sounding like a throwback.
On the contrary, their debut EP, ‘Alpha’ incorporates some pretty interesting, progressive musical ideas. The Sheffield trio sacrifice some of metal’s relentless heaviness in order to lean closer towards the more ethereal side of things. The band cite shoegaze outfit Swervedriver as a major influence, alongside heavier bands – and it shows. The increased dreaminess of ‘Alpha’ does a lot to keep things fresh.
Unfortunately, despite this interesting combination, ‘Alpha’ ends up being less than the sum of its parts and is generally a pretty monotonous listen. Despite running over seven minutes, ‘On Intermission’ meanders without going anywhere, rendering its refrain grating after a while. This is a real shame as there are some nice touches in the song, such as an impressive and beautiful vocal performance about two-thirds in.
Elsewhere, ‘Thief’ has some enjoyable riffs and chord progressions and ‘Where the Others Go’ is the most focused track on the EP, but both are still fairly non-descript.
There’s some redemption with the final track, ‘Faultline’, which is even longer than ‘On Intermission’ but noticeably more coherent. Its second half ends the EP with a transcendental instrumental section that stands out as the highlight of ‘Alpha’, where the band sound more passionate in their musicianship than anywhere else on the EP.
‘Alpha’ isn’t bad, it’s just incredibly tedious at times. Despite this, Awooga have an interesting musical approach that could lead to something better in the future, which it hopefully will.
‘Alpha’ EP by Awooga is out now on Rockosmos.
Words by Alan Cunningham (@funeral_polis)