Santa Ana, California’s 16 has built up an impressively long history of darkly churning noise rock grooves, bowel-distressing low-end riffs, and the hopelessly menacing groans of vocalist Cris Jerue. That’s been the band’s primary M.O. for 24 years, and though a band member here and there has left or moved on, and a five-year hiatus took place between 2003 and 2008, that guttural, vicious stomp remained constant. It’s a testament to the band’s commitment to brutality that never has their sound allowed for anything gentler, lighter or sunnier. Tempos shift, riffs mutate, hooks congeal, but meaty sludge is always 95 percent of the approach.
With Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds, 16’s sixth album, the SoCal foursome haven’t made any radical changes. It’s loud, ugly, harsh, and belligerently drunk, and that’s more or less why it succeeds. The mood on Deep Cuts is largely one of spite and anger, a violent and brutal outlook from a dark and distressing place. But that vitriol fuels what’s ultimately a cathartically heavy and dense chunk of sludge-metal crunch. And it’s everything you’d want it to be: Unsane-style shriek and throb on “Her Little `Accident’,” headbanging post-hardcore grooves on “The Sad Clown,” and even a slight touch of psychedelia in “Ants in My Bloodstream.”
On Deep Cuts From Dark Clouds, 16 are almost certain to darken your day with their relentless embrace of anger and lyrical venom. But there’s something definitely cleansing about letting this kind of brutal sludge-metal take over where common sense and a cool demeanor just won’t do. It’s the 40-minute musical equivalent of standing on the edge of a cliff and screaming at maximum volume. Once you let 16 do their thing, afterward, you’ll feel much better for having done so.
Stream: 16 – “Her Little `Accident'”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.