MERV, a sludge and grindcore band hailing from Kamloops, British Columbia, Canada, is part of an increasing group of British Columbia bands (including Six Brew Bantha, Violent Restitution, Mass Grave and AHNA) that offers compelling evidence of the province as the next go-to destination for creative (and often destructive) extreme music worldwide. Musically, MERV sits on a continuum somewhere between many of these bands, and serves as a key piece to anyone interested in understanding (if such a thing even exists, or needs to) the BC extreme music "sound" at this point in time.The four songs on this demo are sludge metal stretched out over a grindcore framework, resulting in one of the more synergistic examples of this pairing of styles in recent memory. Sure, it's stoner fuzz propped up next to eardrum-popping blasts, but with both halves fully formed and shouldering the weight of the songs equally. In the sludge and doom sections, MERV is a band fully committed to that style, but, more importantly (because so many bands get this part wrong), their grindcore counterparts are of the highest speed and intensity. Where so many who dabble in melding fast and slow splice their sludge with midpaced Nasum-isms, the band differentiates itself by making many of its "fast parts" truly fast, allowing for a sharper contrast between the two speeds.
"Baptized" opens as a classic grinder, exhibiting a bludgeoning singularity of purpose straight out of the Insect Warfare playbook. As artful pauses and swung notes start to creep in, the song becomes an agony of Southern riffs and phrasing, channeling misanthropic greats like Grief and the untouchable Eyehategod. Enter the song at either its first 30 seconds or its last minute, and you'd think it was either a grindcore song or a sludge metal song, respectively. This is MERV's real strength, and one that could make them great if expanded upon in the future.
Aside from several brilliantly brief, pace-adjusting breakdowns, "Wrought in Depths of Time" is a 47-second stampede of barks, riffs and blasts. Here, pace-adjustments are a strength, rather than a copout: the song melts triumphantly into its final lurch, using the sudden change's drama to augment the moment.
The band ditches the stylistic point/counterpoint of the previous songs for stoned, swampy closer "Runes," the demo's sole moment of complete sludge metal subsumption. Led by a catchy Southern riff, it's a believable Eyehategod impression that works independent of the hybrid style of the rest of the material. While enjoyable, however, it's not one of the strongest moments featured here, highlighting the fact that MERV's biggest draw is its exploitation of extreme music's in-between places. Remove themselves farther from this conceit, and the band risks losing our attention.
Laid here are the building blocks for a weedgrind band of the highest potency. The buzzy stoner rock guitar adapts remarkably well to the Salt Flats trial that is grindcore. The band's other members show an equal flair for musical diversity; vocals (delivered by new Violent Restitution vocalist Jessica) run effortlessly through growls, barks, high screams and black metal-styled shrieks, the drumming sounds equally natural attending to time-keeping and atmospheric needs as it does jumping hurdles in search of the perfect blast or fill, and the bass rumble rounds out the slowed-down heaviness while keeping its tone from muddying the attack of the fast parts.
At the bottom line, this is an excellent demo, but a demo nonetheless. This is a highly listenable taste of what the band is capable of, but it will take a crystallization of that promise on future releases to prove that the band has the staying power of its British Columbia contemporaries.
Stream or download MERV's Demo 2012 below from Bandcamp.