Northless - World Keeps Sinking | Review

Heavy as hell and strange as sin, 'World Keeps Sinking' is a weird record. The latest from Milwaukie’s Northless, it trades in sludge of your Neurosis variety, but twisted in strange, delightful ways that turn what could have been an exercise into something genuinely exciting, if not exactly perfect.

That quality can make it tough to get into for a new fan. Opener “Last of Your Kind” moves in a bizarre syncopation that sounds completely tuneless the first few times through, as if part of a melody that refuses to congeal. Others throw strange, virtuosic whole-band runs into sludgy breakdowns, or deliver off-kilter guitar solos in middle-eastern modes, and flange effects are deployed to turn leads into 8-bit video game noises.

To a certain extent, I find this all strange because I began listening with my own idea of what ‘sludge’ means: typically, 3-4 dudes slogging through slow tempos, hitting slower mid-sections, howling about “GAPING WOUNDS” and occasionally employing a keyboard player. This isn’t to disparage the genre, it’s just that so many groups, good ones included, find a groove and build a career out of it, doing very little exciting with sounds that, even when tired, are very enjoyable to listen to.

What makes digesting 'World...' that much more interesting, even fun, is that it at the very least tries. The off-kilter solos, the decision to devote about fifteen straight minutes at the center of the album to clean guitars, and the employing of non-metal keys allow these songs to shuffle your expectations every couple minutes, and in doing so they remain fresh after multiple listens. No riff stays put for more than it needs to, and a song like “Communion” actually uses about six others’ worth of ideas between its 4 and 5 minute marks, somehow crashing doom into Black Flag into NWOBHM guitar harmonies in a way that works. At an average of about 10 minutes per song, that’s an awful lot to throw around.

Best of all, it seems like Northless is having a blast messing with their formula and morphing it into new territory. If only more bands had their mad scientist impulse.

Rob Rubsam 

Band info:
Label info:

Rob Rubsam is a freelance writer and itinerant resident of Upstate New York. His writing about music has been published at CVLT Nation, Tom Tom Magazine, The Rumpus, Burning Ambulance, and others. When not contemplating giant squids or erecting a standing stone in his backyard, he tweets at @millenialistfun. Do not contact him with your black mass-related inquiries, please.