-(16)- has an esteemed reputation as one of the main progenitors of sludge metal back in the 1990s, and 27 years after their first album they’re still at it: Dream Squasher is the eighth full-length instalment in 16’s catalogue, the latest in the eternal effort to ensure sludge doesn’t burn out and become sonically irrelevant. Out the gate, the genre’s trademark crawling mash is every bit there with numbers of the likes of “Candy In Spanish” and “Sadlands”; more driven numbers of the likes of “Me And The Dog Die Together” are closer to Helmet than they are to Down. “Harvester Of Fabrication” preserves the molasses-soaked essence of old-school Crowbar, a careful hybrid of throwback elements and contemporary production.
“Acid Tongue”, as its name would suggest is especially menacing, plodding along in a slog of down-tuned rage. “Agora (Killed By A Mountain Lion)” follows a similar path, with tinges of Death circa Symbolic and Individual Thought Patterns strummed into the mix. “Ride The Waves” and “Summer of ’96” offer some variety; the former jolting things up into a hardcore slam-down and the latter manifesting an Anselmo potpourri, hybridizing Down and Trendkill-era Pantera. “Screw Unto Others” follows the slow-grind formula of sludge to a science, leading into the grand closer “Kissing The Choir Boy”, an exercise in equally un-speedy time signature switches amidst decelerated though nevertheless pounding riffage. Building in its sinister energy, the track leads to an appropriately abrupt climax, rounded out by a brief, organ-laced snippet of unsettling lyrical matter: “Now that my life is a wreck/put the rope around your neck.”
In all its chugging, dark, abysmal glory, Dream Squasher reaffirms the place of -(16)- in the sludge pantheon as pioneers, inventors, and more importantly preservers of sludge metal. Their eighth sees them take the absolute root essence of the genre and keep it current without changing a thing about the sound itself; the production is fully appropriate and the crush and aggression released within the music is merciless and authentic. On the whole, it’s a solid listen.