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Wallowing Planet Loss

Framing the lyrics of their 2019 debut Planet Loss in the context of a dark sci-fi parable about social injustice, UK blackened sludge noisemongers Wallowing are taking their bludgeoning cacophony into a graphic realm that visually matches the scale of their crushing tones.

Released: 29 January 2021
Planet Loss

Describing world issues through the eyes of a disillusioned worker (the ‘Wobblenaut’) rebelling against his home planet’s authoritarian regime, the story in the Planet Loss comic – drawn by Luke Oram – mirrors aspects of our own reality, as well as acting as a “dark foretelling” of a scarily plausible future.

It’s not hard to pick up the scathing social commentary from both the music and the words. Noise and feedback drench the prologue, as the scene is set of a smoggy desert civilisation, overpopulated by overworked, underpaid inhabitants. The drawings are rich with linework, with colours striking enough to denote an alien world and yet toned to invoke the feeling of an ancient society crumbling under brutal tyranny.

Cracked and worn buildings, seemingly hewn from stone, are vast and looming above the crowds, creating an impressive sense of scale. It may seem lazy to refer to the most successful sci-fi franchise of all time, but seeing human rebels banding together in their sandy dwellings to overthrow corrupt systems has an air of Star Wars about it.

The six movements of the audio component of Planet Loss run together as an unbroken 32-minute behemoth of nihilistic sludge, soundtracking our protagonist’s awakening. The thundering chug of the opening riff to ‘Earthless’ is the first properly heavy moment on the album, and its raw intensity highlights the despair that drives the rebellion in the comic, as well as adding to the domineering presence of the architecture and the powers that be.

It’s fitting for Wallowing that the initial taste of metal music is when the Wobblenaut first dons his iconic uniform. Oram’s art convincingly links the bizarre aesthetic of the Wallowing live show, in which the band dress as beekeepers, into the comic. Beekeepers are a functional shorthand for lone individuals doing work that is often overlooked, while male bees themselves are the archetype of the faceless drone worker.

In typically satirical style, the corrupt overlords of this planet are depicted as ugly lizard-and-pig-people, clad in rich purple robes. It’s like the Skeksis from The Dark Crystal mixed with your common or garden Illuminati conspiracy. The text is philosophical but littered with blunt expletives to match the lumbering riffs and pained screeches, as well as the visceral turmoil of the story. Full-page spreads blatantly compare the overlord monstrosities to politicians and world leaders, all in league to mislead the proletariat. “Surpressor, drown. We bare this no longer.” The Wobblenaut packs a few belongings and heads out to help change the planet.

Many grim milieus later, the sparsest guitar line yet opens ‘Vessel’, soundtracking the destruction and the corpses littering the barren land. The devastating noise of the riffs up to this point is finally joined by emotive, post-metal chord sequences befitting the culmination of the story.

It’s a simple tale, but one which is elevated to poignancy by the swirling mass of Wallowing’s harsh tones. It’s also a story which lifts Wallowing’s blackened sludge into more expansive terrain, as the narrative forces focus on the storytelling and atmosphere provided by the episodic music. Alone, Wallowing’s music is crushing and nasty, but their combination of squalling noise and hefty chug is not earth-shatteringly original. In multimedia form, both parts benefit. This is a dystopian sci-fi triumph, with a sense of enormity beyond its runtime and page count.

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