Written by: Volt Thrower
As a kid the countless hours spent driving under starlit prairie highways in the 90’s, on the way to various campgrounds and theme parks, laid the foundation for desert rock being able to bring a wash of fuzz driven comfort later in life. There’s something incredibly soothing about being able to lose yourself in a locked in groove, essentially time traveling through the hundreds of km’s of nothingness. Heavy rockers Heavy Hands from Boston, take a stab at a classic style with some modern flair with their latest self-released offering “Through the Night.”
A rolling drum groove, with some fuzz drenched bass open things up on “Devil Nets”, sure to make Brant Bjork blush. Kicking things off with a nostalgic blast is a great hook, but they build upon that opening, with a really unique sound that the band feels out across the dozen fleeting minutes. The soulful delivery of the vocals on “Villain” really compliment the underlying bass and drum groove, but the guitar is the real scene setter for most of the album. Ranging from bluesy psychedelic washes, to straightforward riffage, to a near black metal tremolo picking style, giving it another layer with a sense of urgency and despair. Lyrical themes starting with, of course a desert highway cruise with your girl, to a poetic exploration of the plight of the never good-enough, ending in a mental “Breakdown.” Clean production wraps it all up into a nice, tight little package.
Written by: Volt Thrower
Unabashed stoner doom has always been one of my favorite things ever since I first heard Tony Iommi hacking up a lung on "Sweet Leaf," circa grade 9 out back behind the auto shops. But by now, the book on stoner doom has long been written and published. Through the annals of history, an innumerable amount of bands have knelt at the altar to pay homage with their Sabbathian smoke fueled riffage. Cliches, puns and cheesy lyric runs, all a staple of a genre intended for mind bending fun. Hailing from Kiel, Germany, Earthbong bring us their second full length Bong Rites. Will it bring us towards the crimson light, or will it fail to ignite?
First impressions are everything in a genre overflowing with copycats, and I was instantly pulled in by the album artwork. It reminds me of Slaves BC cover art, but just splashed with enough purple to remind you that you’re “Goddamn High” while being pummeled to death. The aforementioned album opener starts off with a thunderous intro that seems absolutely blistering in pace after it pulls the rug from beneath you, and you're left trudging through knee deep molasses. A hazy atmosphere built on swirling layers of guitar lulls you into a sense of zen before that too is swallowed whole by the demonic vocals rising from the crust of the earth. Two vocal styles, a Dixie Dave Collins like harsh bark and a barbaric cave-echoing howl, work together to deliver some of the finest dope doom riff worship of the new decade.
Sometimes a track is entirely made by its intriguing instrumentation, its complex composition, or an otherwise original modus operandi. Sometimes a unique voice or lyrical theme serves as the hook that gets you in the door. Not so here. In the case of True Enemy, the latest single from Budapest’s Vanta, we're here for one thing and one thing only: that goddamn riff.
Yeah, you know what I’m talking about--or you will in short order. Just hit play below and succumb to that inevitable bludgeoning. This is a gravel-crushing steamroller of a riff, plain and simple, and nothing stands in its way. Like a mossy sasquatch stomping around whilst strapped into mechanical armor, Vanta is seemingly bent on wanton destruction. Your eardrums (and spinal column, no doubt) stand little chance against this churning distortion and brobdingnagian swagger. Seldom is the Sleeping Village’s conclave of ink-splattered scribes slapped upside the head with such massively belligerent riffage, so if I’m blathering at this stage, just assume I’m utterly concussed.
The vocals are appropriately violent, working with the guitar to provide an absolute sludge onslaught. A filter effect gives the vocalist a particularly intimidating aura, and lends the entire package a distinctly industrial persona. Vanta describes themselves--perhaps obtusely, but honestly accurately--as “Black sonic river.” I’ll be damned if I know what that means per se, but it sounds about right. These guys rip, tear, and obliterate their way through the doom/sludge umbrella, leaving little behind but shreds and twisted metal. If you’re feeling like a pick-me-up may be in order, we highly recommend you try on True Enemy for size.
Look, we've got a lot of stoner metal to get through today. Rather than bore you with a vaguely tangential introduction, let's just get to it, shall we?
earthdiver's Leave Something Witchy is one helluva EP, taking the smudgy groove of stoner metal and infusing it liberally with the glorious devil-may-care vivacity of punk. The entire 3-track is delightfully raw, rough-edged, and nearly feral in its execution--like if Pan, the God of the wild things, decided to throw away the pan pipes and start a garage band. Angsty vocals and slightly goofy samples are upheld by the loosest and otherwise grooviest bass I've heard in a long damn time. This thing grinds and bounces around with a deliciously organic bent, keeping the low end moving forward with an egregiously thunderous confidence. Indeed, the bass forms the backbone of earthdiver's approach, with the uber-distorted guitar appearing more as embellishment to the groove.
It's seldom that I encounter a fresh-faced band with such jubilant energy behind them. Doom benefits greatly from a swift kick in the ass, and earthdiver might just be the ones to deliver. If you like a little zest and zeal in your stoner doom, this particular Villager highly, highly recommends you check this one out. Listen to the title track here:
There’s a certain timeless appeal encapsulated by Ireland’s Withered Fist. Their doomy approach isn’t drenched in excessive distortion, nor tempered by stoner metal’s typical head-in-the-clouds mentality. Rather, assertive melodic overtones, attention to compositional interest, and a seemingly no-nonsense attitude, sets apart their debut EP--entitled This is My Mountain--in an admittedly crowded field. This Irish doom rocking duo is, simply put, solid.
The forward-facing vocals, while not flashy or aggressive, get the job done with a workmanlike flair. Harmony and melody reign, regardless of the weight of the track in question--look to the contrast of “The Dread” and closing track “The Journey” for an indication of Carl King’s obvious abilities in the vocal department. The former is markedly hefty and aggressive, yet never feels bogged down in its own presence or import. On the latter track, King deftly handles a simple chorus and some particularly gentle passages on the back half, seemingly approaching the affair in a straightforward and upbeat manner, which feels, I must admit, quite fresh.
The instrumentals, which are all handled by the multi-talented Justin Maloney, are simultaneously monolithic and lighthearted. Truly a quality that, when combined with the aforementioned vocals, lends This is My Mountain an understated dynamism. The title track, by way of example, has moments that soar, and moments, in turn, that feel mere steps away from sludgy peat-bog thick riffage. Withered Fist avoid stagnation with grace. As a result, the lengthy tracks contained herein feel nearly half their respective lengths. All told, this duo has set themselves up quite nicely for a debut full length. This EP has been gaining a lot of airtime as of late, and I’m anxious to see what more they are capable of.
Withered Fist - This is My Mountain was released January 2019. Listen to "The Journey" below, and check out Withered Fist on bandcamp.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!