SOMEWHERE BETWEEN TRASH and thrash dwell mythical beasts who pulse with life's chaos energy. Bringing to mind visions of robots battling dwarf aliens in misty bogs, these maniacs live and breathe metal through clenched teeth. If you pared down the soloing of the Fucking Champs and handed Lightning Bolt a fat joint a half hour before show time, you might get a sound like Portland's ultimate rulers of heavy metal, Under Mountains.

While lines divide the current metal underground between the slow sludge drone of stoner doom and the dark soul-searching atmospherics of black metal, Under Mountains kick it on the median. Their compositions primarily consist of clever instrumental chord progressions and Neanderthal rhythms. Daniel Abell's bass rumbles across the floor like bowling balls. Meanwhile, his brother Kevin's drum rhythms pound bold booms, occasionally exploring the quick release of the blast beat, but mostly keeping to the tenacious agenda of steady chop aims and dramatic cymbal splashes. Guitarist Adam Cornelius cloaks his high-end fretting with just the right amount of pitch bending. The guitar twists and blurts with unnatural sounds, spatters of grunge distorted high notes and chord-bending convulsions.

Their recently self-released split album, Under Mountains/Rabbits (exclusively on vinyl) bears the signature of Mike Lastra at Smegma Studios, who has an amazing gift for capturing the soul of bass and drums. Much like their brief live shows, the 45 RPM 12" side is a brilliant rapid run of six songs in just under 10 minutes. The flipside is owned by complementary black-soul metal kings Rabbits (currently on tour with Liars). Play it again on the un-intended 33 RPM and you have one of the heaviest slabs of doom sludge in your collection. And if you wanna double your pleasure, Under Mountains' recently released 3" CD-R, Granby is worth seeking out as well.