Any band that gives Jamiroquai’s Deeper Underground a doomy, sludgy ten-minute-long metal makeover gets a firm thumbs up from us. This delightful take on a classic song is intriguing enough, but it goes much deeper with Sheffield’s Kurokuma – a band so widely acclaimed as the best metal band from Sheffield that they named their latest EP accordingly.
Pure metal as you might think of it this is not, as their Deeper Underground cover is a testament to. Jay Kay’s up-tempo cries of “I’m going deeper underground” and that recognisably delicious original guitar riff are dragged down into almost unworldly drawls and booming low-tuned guitars in a mass of fuzzy doom goodness.
The band’s roots were formed when drummer Joe Allen moved to Japan to play the Taiko drum then, in collaboration with frontman Jake Mazlum, became inspired to add an element of exoticism to their dream of playing metal together. They added bassist George Ionita to the mix and began evolving the unique Kurokuma sound.
As Joe explains: “We were smoking a lot and listening to Electric Wizard and that was another big influence on our original sound. Early on we were a doom or sludge band with lots of tribal or exotic percussive influences; that’s set the template for us to keep adding and experimenting with ideas and sounds that are perhaps different to what you’ll normally find in metal. George has brought a lot of energy with the way he plays bass and his percussive abilities.”
The result? Filthy, ferocious, frenzied doomy goodness inspired by the likes of Black Tusk, Black Breath, Sepultura and the weird and wonderful, psychedelic world of Oranssi Pazuzu. Or, as Joe puts it: “A desolate hallucinatory trip through dystopia. Pulsing molten metal. Twisted doom. Sludgedelia. Psychedelic, textured, dominating.”
RVN, the opening track from Sheffield’s Best Metal Bands, Vol. 1, their latest EP released at the start of last month, personifies this chaotic excellence. It opens with stabbing synth sounds, wild bird calls in the background, then building drums are eventually – nearly two minutes in – joined by booming low-tuned guitars. The low riff growls its way along, with intense cymbals coming in to complete the prolonging sense of doom.
The drums suddenly drop out leaving a faster riff underneath wild vocal cries. The riff intensifies under the call-and-answer vocals, with crashing cymbals and increasingly relentless drums building the atmosphere. It’s a breathless, brilliant, intense introduction.
Their previous music, such as last year’s Dope Rider two-track single and the excellent three-track EP Advorsus, is equally laden with doomy heavy guitar riffs and intriguing percussion experimentation. And if you really want a full-on intense metal experience then wrap your ears around the wonderful 18.2 Tons from their 2014 self-titled debut below. So it’s exciting to see where their music is going, especially as the most recent EP was produced by Tich, of Sheffield electronic music label Off Me Nut, who the band met in Tokyo.
In terms of what inspires their music, Joe explains: “If I had to sum it up it’s about a feeling of absolute power or being overwhelmed by… something. Weakness has no place in our sound. We don’t tend to write about anything personal. Our lyrics – at least – tend to deal with themes of nature, philosophy or hallucinatory experiences.”
The band is now hard at work on their debut album, and we can only imagine a long-form edition of the intoxicating Kurokuma sound being an overwhelming experience.
As Joe says: “I’d just say check out the music if you think you might like something heavy and twisted. It’s not for everyone but that’s the point.” But if you do like heavy and twisted, then Kurokuma is very much the band to fill that particular void.