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CD Review: BATILLUS – Furnace

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Lurching entreaties to rage and windswept howls of purging catharsis are two of the many pleasures offered up by Brooklyn bootstrappers Batillus.  With a diminutive back catalog of EP's and a new record simultaneously released through micro-indies Seventh Rule (North America/UK), Vendetta (Europe) and Bandcamp (digital), will Furnace gain the exposure necessary to break the band worldwide?

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Beginning life as an instrumental avant-doom ensemble with sludge-like tendencies, Batillus began to add distant, abrasive vocals for texture on last year's split with Hallow Butchery… namely on the song "The Division", which is reprised on Furnace in a re-recorded – though not necessarily retooled – version.  The current rendition does forsake the original's straightforward feedback intro for a synth-like wobble that gradually transitions into a guitar drone, a token example of the quartet's new found attention to detail.

And whereas on previous efforts the band were largely content to allow structureless, cinematic ambiance to do the talking for them, the six tracks on Furnace are largely given over to more accessible riffing, the first sign of overt grooving out of the Batillus camp since 2009's one-off Tunguska single.  Only the closing track, "Mautaam", lingers too long in an expectant build up that fizzles out before it ever really materializes.  There is, however, a somewhat epic heft to the eventual vocal melody… it just takes forever to kick in.

By far the album's most accessible, comp-ready song is "Deadweight", at less than six minutes the second leanest Batillus song to date.  This track also gives vocalist Fade Kainer the greatest chance to shine, especially considering the colossal, hulking riff he's competing with.  Kainer's vox shift throughout the album from an in-your-face frontal mix to more of a layered, tactile quality, the latter approach featured prominently in the next track, "Uncreator".

With an excess of talent and a newly mature flair for song craft Batillus is poised to go places.  The biggest remaining hurdle is getting their material heard by the masses in a market glutted with similar material (in 2011, doom metal – particularly of the sludge/stoner variety – is arguably the most widespread, overdone subgenre in the underground scene).  In spite of being a small scale, boutique release, Furnace is hardly an underdeveloped, demo-like product: the record has been more than capably mastered by legendary Chicago producer Sanford Parker (Pelican, Yob, Nachtmystium; also bass player for Minsk) and the band itself has gotten enough studio time under their belt over the last few years to make full use of Parker's talents.

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Nonetheless, short of a much larger record label picking this up for distribution, Batillus will need to rely on a combination of word of mouth and relentless touring to launch themselves into the elite tier of American doom, at least from the standpoint of audience perception.  Based on the objective quality of the work itself, Furnace proves they're already there.


Furnace is out now on Seventh Rule / Vendetta (physical media) or as a pay-what-you-want digital download via Bandcamp (and for fuck's sake, if you go the latter route kick a little something their way… it's called "pay-what-you-want" instead of "free download" for a reason).


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