Review | The Rhubarb – Symptom of Failure

Milky Bomb Records

What’s in a name?

Well, in the case of Scottish based The Rhubarb, I’m led to think it is not about that hick reddish stalks of plant but rather about ‘variety’ or the (informal) reference to a theatre. Either way, this Glasgow band lands their debut with the theatrics of crawling doom and stoner sludge in their brooding cocktail that is `Symptom of Failure’. The Rhubarb are a welcomed and celebrated act in the UK club scene, expanding their reach building their careers as an intriguing live presence with a trade-off of vocals between bass player Hannah White and Sean Maguire. 

Judging their artwork, you inevitably get warped to the purple cult of Trouble’s `Psalm 9’ graphics of the stand-alone tree and `Run to the Light’ shining through. Blend into an ominous creation, the dark figure shines from underneath his hood amid the dark gloom and purple swirl. 


Much like the artwork, The Rhubarb delve from dark. Pouring with riffin’ rain their sound claws into the skin halting your pace and dragging you down into the depths of your soul. ,,Mist” crawls ominous with hammering beat and raw distorted riffs. Howling it into action, Hannah takes the helm to lead the way through this sonic scorched wasteland, sounding remotely like Kate Bush, with her echoing register. The interaction with her counterpart Maguire immediately sets them apart from the majority of bands, with increasing melodic whelm resulting as the pace goes up. Fused onto a guitar lick, their interplay is withering and hails with emotion. Discomfort cast, the song wails onward, into a short bursting marching rhythm and scattering guitar lick. 

The synergy between both voices is somewhat offsetting with registers aligning but a distorted gap in between. ¼ of a sec behind, Maguire’s voice injects the dismay in the harmony of voices. It is this tiny gap in style and tone that radiates an inequity in grief that works well with the low toned riffs roaring like on ,,Forbidden” that is dominated by Maguire’s vocals with White’s vocals cutting the density. Her bass plows through the sludge of Michael McConville’s riff delivery, and adds to Jack Donnelly’s daunting pace. His bass drum thumping, floors pondering, he maintains the gears and inserts solid dynamics with his drumrolls and fills. 


Intensifying the guitars, ,,Awful Deed” roars with ravishing poise while glooming deep. Echoing chants and moaning soar in the vocals, the song bowls with power and Donnelly crafting a progressive crave. The same intense strut is resuscitating the rip roaring loud ,,I wanna Play a Game”, with its heavier grooving pace and vocal interplay parting in tone. Angelic yowl and bass raw roar served up. ,,The Brines Effect” kicks up the dirt with heavier throb and discomforting tempo switches amidst the vocal howls. Wise move with the tempo and somber tone broken while agility casts dejection and agony. The lyrical content translated into the ominous tendencies and impact of mankind on nature.

,,I can’t Roll” is completely awkward with its polyrhythmic time changes hammered underneath McConville’s raw riff doom and intricate melodic luster. It just doesn’t gel instantly, which is exactly their goal judging the breakdown midway. So much gloom, so much doom, moulded into their musical dismay. Gelling as ancillary for the song’s dismay and perturbated spread. With Sean in preaching register pealing against White’s clean chants, the song disrupts the agony casted. Like Pink Floyd overdosed listening to old Black Sabbath, the psychedelic exposé is wonderous and awing. 


To show how well The Rhubarb handle their craft, they delve into a doom trip only lasting a mere 3:53 minutes, but crossing all the boxes. Pitched Tori Amos vocals with riff and drum break interplay. Stretching notes, the guitars creep atop the drums. Short-lived doom that finds its opposite on the closing chapter of the album; ,,Mother’s Ruin”. Epic the song opens with wonderful meandering guitar plucking subtle licks that starts to increase when they go all in. Sincere agony and pain well from the powerful vocal duet powering up. It’s perfectly blooming emotions with the guitars growing increasingly dominant injecting wonderful melodies and licks in the down tuned riff.

Swirling licks and a great short-lived solo part amidst the towering instrumental outcry revert the dismay of previous tracks. Psychedelic with Maguire echoing a Bowie-like vibe for White to resonate off of, the song soars onwards to make the album die out with glance and piercing somber despondency.

The Rhubarb’s `Symptom of Failure’ is far from failing and introduces fans and listeners to songs that are creeping slow but dynamic, gloomy but shining, sludgy but tractive driven. Sonically it is a dark canvas on which their wonderful melodic accolades are lit brightly, balancing the deepest shades of grey on an avantgarde piece of art with Claire-obscure adjectives. Check it out!

PS: please note the running order differs from this vinyl issue running list vs the CD. 

Release date: 24 March 2023



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