'-(16)- - Dream Squasher

'-(16)- has been around for quite some time, so it is a wonder this LA outfit hasn’t gotten more exposure as they’ve put out quite a few albums since the mid 90s. They don’t have as big of a discography as say a group like Dark Throne, but over a span of eight albums -(16)- have built themselves quite a discography of tongue-in-cheek sludge doom hardcore that has only gotten better as time went on. Listening to their earlier works definitely put them in the vein of more straightforward sludge metal along the likes of Eyehategod or even Crowbar, but recently it seems they’ve expanded a bit more on their sound, breaking away from the traditional gritty drag of ‘everyday sludge’ and added a few tracks on “Dream Squasher” that really stand out to make -(16)- a bit more unique. It is still gritty and the lyrics will still make you smirk a little, but it is fresh enough that those who felt the group was king of getting stale will find renewed interest.

For those who have not heard -(16)- by this point, their work can be described as a combination of Throwdown (“Deathless” era which everyone seemed to love or hate) and a little southern groove from a group like Down. Vocals are mostly the long, drawn out gritty bark that makes sludge so popular amongst chugging, dirty riffs and crashing drums such as on ‘Candy In Spanish.’ Yes, the track titles are a little ridiculous but don’t let that turn you away (if porngrind can succeed with their titles then -(16)- shouldn’t have any issue in the sludge world). The guitars kind of overtake everything next to the vocal so despite the rather catchy chug these kinds of tracks kind of herald back to earlier work and unfortunately don’t really stand out on the album. Others like ‘Sadlands’ is where stuff gets interesting. Moving away from the rock oriented churn, backing keyboards and very doomy guitar passages with a shift in more cleaning singing suddenly it feels like a whole new band. More stoner doom here with a cleaner sound, -(16)- has finally broken the typical mold and given listeners something more interesting to listen to.

Other tracks that stand out include ‘Acid Tongue’ which is a heavier sludge piece, but has a much more foreboding tone, shedding the rock elements and just chugs along with some echoing chants among the snarls with repetitive, but still catchy notes. ‘Agora’ opens with some jazzy notes of what sounds like harmonica meets saxophone, and though it only lasts a slight bit, it is unique enough that it will stay with the listener even as the track descends into its usual churning sludge chug. The other tracks between ‘Ride the Wave’ and ‘Screw Unto Others’ feature more tongue in cheek lyrics but go back to the mid paced heavier sound that is more like what is heard early on. While definitely more straightforward sludge, the unique touches are gone save for the closing reverb vocals that are a big psychedelic on ‘Screw….’ ‘Kissing the Choir Boy’ at least closes on a strong note, featuring some pretty good riffs that are still gritty but have a little cleaner sound, adding back in doom elements with hints of crust and vocal manipulation ranging from doom choirs to the ‘electronic vocal effects.’

Ultimately, while a few of the tracks definitely sound the same, -(16)- have done well with their sludge metal here. “Dream Squasher” does a decent job at basically crushing any issues that they are a run of the mill sludge band and giving listeners something that is pretty funny, but heavy at the same time. Certainly not a joke band, those that like their music grim sounding but not so lo fi and raw it is painful to listen to will enjoy their style. For those who have never heard sludge before this is a nice start as -(16)- starts out raw but has the slower tracks to ease one into the genre who might feel a little overwhelmed by the ferocity of the gritty style of the genre. It isn’t as serious or politically stabbing as other bands, but the humor in the music will definitely have its own bite in a sardonic way to get the band’s point across.

4 / 5 STARS 


1. Candy In Spanish
2. Me And The Dog Die Together
3. Sadlands
4. Harvester Of Fabrication
5. Acid Tongue
6. Agora (Killed By A Mountain Lion)
7. Ride The Waves
8. Summer Of 96
9. Screw Unto Others
10. Kissing The Choir Boy