Cell Press Refine the Sludge on 'Cages'

BY Mark TremblayPublished Mar 12, 2024


An album that prides itself on being an old-school sludge-fest and manages to deliver the goods from start to finish, Cages finds one of Montreal's best live acts in fine form. With blistering riffs, gut-wrenching vocals and a few unexpected twists, Cages captures Cell Press at their height, the ultimate sludge metal experience that captures their on-stage fury. 

The riffs on Cages are top tier, with guitarist Sean Arsenian delivering punishing guitar parts in a variety of ways, never satisfied with settling into place. Whether it's the chug of "Disco Naps on the Devil's Bedpost" or the melodic dirge of "Things They Do in France" Cell Press cover a wide variety of moods while working in a restrictive sub-genre. POG pedal is used expertly throughout the album to thicken up guitar parts, creating a fullness and facilitating a number of melodic moments in places one wouldn't expect. The most satisfying riffs on the album are on opener "Adult Baptism," where a mix of frenetic tremolo picking collides with plodding sludge — Cell Press have nailed the fundamentals so fully that they're able to twist them just so, finding new textures in the process.

Drummer Mark McGee puts in some excellent performances on Cages; the chemistry he shares with  Arsenian is on full display, whether on the nauseating waltz of "JOI to the World" or the frenetic Motorhead march of "Recoil (A Collective Behaviour of Violence)." 

However, the star of the show is vocalist PQ, whose Quebec-centric lyrical focus never feels corny or insincere. The record's high-water mark is "Dark Side of the North," which tackles the lack of clean drinking water promised to Canada's northern communities over various election cycles, and yet has never been delivered. The way PQ's voice crackles on the line, "There's no trust / You lied to us / You light the fire / Now burn the pyre" highlights the immensity of this betrayal, a light shone on decades of oppression.

Cages is a no bullshit record, an exciting new chapter in the story of Cell Press that promises a bevy of possible avenues. Sludge rarely sounds so invigorating.  


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