Like mud-encrusted creatures rising out of the New Jersey swamps, Maegashira drag the essence of Southern sludge across the Mason-Dixon line with their striking debut album, 2009's The Stark Arctic. But there's more to it than that, since, along with a select handful of genre-crossing bands (Rwake, Zoroaster, Deadbird), Maegashira dare to flirt with the progressive mindset and more evanescent sonic textures common to the post-metal scene, which results in a few esoteric creative flights atop the more disciplined simplicity of doom, and other pre-metal foundations on hand. Sure enough, after opening with the brief instrumental build-up of "Ongoing Corneal Erosion," the quartet whips out psychedelic guitar licks and thundering riffage right out of early Sabbath/Pentagram/Sleep for next cut, "Caribou Crossing," which is then capped by the ragged screams and croaks more common to Southern sludge fiends like Cavity and Eyehategod. This willingness to shake things up sets the tone for the entire album, as ensuing tracks almost always find curious ways of mixing and matching those pre- and post- influences while showcasing the players' innate songwriting talents and individual talents to boot. Taking them one at a time: the Rwake-like "Ammonia for Sweat" deals in space as much as crushing concrete sound blocks, while showcasing both JJ Koczan's clean vocals and George Pierro's excellent wah-wah guitar work along the way; the two-part "Baggage Claim/Skin Slip" follows a fast-paced sludge-core first half with a creeping lysergic second; and the venomous "Hi from Jersey" takes prefab Williamsburg, Brooklyn indie rockers to task, via tortuously slothful sludge-doom spiked with useful career advice such as "F**k your band, f**k your scene, and your sunglasses." Heck, even when Maegashira seem bound to try the listener's patience with 22-minute closer, "Back to Muro," they still manage to beat the odds, for the most part, with a diverse sequence of alternating heavy/light textures, grinding riffs, and sublime melodies that gradually escalate the tension, almost all the way through. All this helps The Stark Arctic make quite a strong statement for a first album, and bodes well for Maegashira's chances at longevity in this competitive and ever evolving generation of heavy metal bands.
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AllMusic Review by Eduardo Rivadavia