Submerge: a short work of power and melancholy musing on the fate of ships lost at sea

Uzlaga, Submerge, United Kingdom, self-released limited edition cassette (2022)

Not for the first time was my attention to an album or cassette drawn by its cover artwork: for this short recording, the colours and the abstract style capture perfectly the black and cold crushing gloom upon the lost ships lying on the sea floor, their crews cruelly abandoned to their fate. Such is the concept behind “Submerge”, the debut release from Uzlaga. An atmospheric BM project of Bristol-based musician Hydrophant, Uzlaga aims at exploring naval history and warfare, shipwrecks and the nature of the briny deep; unusual perhaps for BM but given where Hydrophant lives – Bristol has a long and, it must be said, not always noble maritime history (the city was once a major centre of the trans-Atlantic slave trade) – not really that surprising.

Most of the actual BM music – and very harsh scourging raw music it is, with riffs scraping the insides of your skull squeakily clean – is concentrated in three tracks. “HMS Devonshire” combines raw lo-fi BM guitars and fairly basic percussion with the most horrific and ghastly sighing ghost vocals and an atmosphere of deep murkiness. A cold creepy edge is present on all the instruments. The music is driven by a dominant repeating riff and the seething voices. “Unsinkable” is similar in structure: a number of riffs repeat, this time with a lot more urgency and ferocity, while gnashing voices float through the blackness. The ambience at the end of this track fair drains the life out of you with its coldness. “HMS Colchester” initially does not seem very different – it’s a bit more doomy and the guitars and cold formless voices are still prominent – but listeners need to pay attention to the ambience and droning guitar in the background. The closing track is a mournful dirge of looping guitar and drone for the ships lying in the dark beneath the cold ocean, slowly and silently disintegrating, all evidence of their existence gradually disappearing.

The music is very powerful, dark and melancholy, and the voices, ghastly though they are, can be pathetic in their own way, attempting perhaps to call attention to the plight of the ship their former human owners once crewed. The spaces between tracks and within the music, with creepy drone ambient effects, add a sinister feel to the whole work. While the recording isn’t long – it falls shy of fourteen minutes in total – it does feel complete and for such a short work its immersive vision is very strong.