CackBlabbath were blissfully unaware of Undersmile and their eerie doom excellence until last year’s Bloodstock Festival. We only stopped by the Jager truck to feed our alcoholism but onstage were a band making one hell of a racket; and we liked it. We stayed and became instant fans of the Oxford four-piece.
With their new album cheerfully entitled ‘Anhedonia’ just about to be released and with the band fresh from a storming set at the one-and-only Roadburn Festival. Things are looking rather good for Undersmile.
‘Anhedonia’ is released through the mighty Black Bow records and was of course recorded at the even mightier Skyhammer Studios under the masterful control of Chris Fielding. That should tell you what you need to know. There are good things happening up at those studios at the moment. Anyone who is anyone heavy wants to record there…
This release see’s Undersmile moving forward and out of the more sludgy area of doom they were occupying during their last full release. They are still very much in the doom bracket but this is all a bit cleaner. There’s less distortion but with the creepy dual vocals from Hel and Taz taking centre stage, this is an unrushed masterpiece that still cooks up an uneasy atmosphere throughout.
‘Anhedonia’ plays out almost like a film score. You’d imagine that the movie it would accompany would be the darkest of horror with a less than happy ending; but the slow building atmospherics would be a perfect fit to some Japanese black and white occult piece.
You can’t be in a hurry with this either. There are no poppy lead single to hook you in. This is an album you sit down with for seventy-odd minutes and listen to it all the way through. Preferably in a dimly lit room with a glass of red, or something similar. That just so happens to be one of CB’s hobbies…
This is an album in the traditional sense; one to be absorbed over several listens and one that sparks the imagination and conjures up all kinds of doomy visions.
There’s the odd nod to older ground. The end of the album suddenly erupts into a flash of Cobain inspired contempt with the repetition of “I don’t feel anything” tying up the feeling and theme of the album. It’s still unmistakably Undersmile on ‘Anhedonia’ but it’s a little fresher and the whole album requires you to get a little more involved to appreciate it.
The simplistic riffs and beats tied together with the chilling vocals are enough to make this a nightmare of an album without any need for over the top aggression or angst. Undersmile have tapped into a magical little vein of naturally doom-ridden music with mesmerising results.