By Jam Pascual
A reference to the goons of A Clockwork Orange would be painfully redundant at this point. It’s more fun to imagine the crew of Kapitan Kulam, usually decked in all white, as medical front liners in their off time, in PPE the color of spiked milk, moonlighting as mercenaries of sludge. It’s a very-of-the-moment image, even though Kapitan Kulam has been pounding away since pre-COVID, cementing themselves as the doom-adjacent instrumental act to watch out for.
So it seems 2021’s first gift to us, barring the glorious schadenfreude of the GameStop stocks debacle, is Kapitan Kulam’s first EP. Four instrumental tracks that run the genre gamut of sludge, punk, grunge, and thrash comprise this thunderous debut. It seems that Lourd De Veyra on guitar, alongside Kaloy Olavides, is eloquent in the language of the riff. Take a listen to the main driving riff of “Agimat”—it’s crazy, what you can do with just the first fret and an open string. Kapitan Kulam are artisans of the distorted low end, of brown note antics.
One would be forgiven for thinking that the weakness of funeral march metal would be a record that drags in its pace, but Kapitan Kulam gets around even that trap. “Metga” switches a lot in tempo and groove in its passages. Drummer Jay Gapasin holds the entire rhythm section of the EP together with tight fills and invigorating accents. And let’s give credit to the utterly corrosive guitar solo on “Paa,” which channels Kirk Hammett. The production on this bad boy sounds like the guitars were run through a meat grinder (a good thing!), and Eric Melendez’s bass mixing benefits from the Royal Blood-like tone it has going on, though I would’ve appreciated it if the bass were mixed a little chunkier.
For those who might be unaccustomed to this particular breed of rock, the kind that drones and pounds, I’d say the true power of this EP surfaces when you let the album loop. Residual distortions bleed into each other from track to track to form one continuous blob dirge. The genre is called “sludge” for a reason, after all, and at its best, Kapitan Kulam eats everything in its path, like an amorphous, slimy biomass from space. Cue time lapse of myxomycota fungi engulfing rotting wood.
It’s hypnagogic rock, but also a welcome change from all the wispy, gossamer shoegaze going around. And yet it feels wrong to say that what Kapitan Kulam has made is something ambient. This EP invites you to scream your own lyrical tirades above the instrumentals. It delegates the responsibility of throat-ripping rage to you, the listener, who is sick and tired of all the BS going on in this country, oozing at the seams with the bile of state corruption. Here’s to 2021.