Considering that this particular villager is decidedly one of those “album guys,” for whom singles without context hold little intrigue, reviewing a compilation is a difficult affair. Jumping from artist to artist with nary a backward glance necessitates finding a common thread, and in the case of (fellow music blog) Alternative Control's excellent Volume Doom, that thread is obvious: despite a wide range of technique, application, and general sonic appeal, every band here exemplifies the spirit of the low ‘n’ slow. Even at first blush, you’ve got a fine range on display, from the rockin’ riffage of Owl Maker’s desert groove, to the gargantuan swampy bass of Gorge, to the ethereal tones of Eye of Nix. The stoner and doom umbrella is well represented herein, and with international, national, and local Connecticut bands alike, Volume Doom defines the ideal conglomerate.
While followers of said genres will undoubtedly recognize some names here (see Year of the Cobra, 1476, and the UK’s ever-intimidating Kurokuma) there are some greenhorns as well. The most obvious example of the unheard contingent is Low Moment, whose austere-yet-oddly-emotive “Plague, Take Me Low” is--I shit you not, folks--their first and only recorded track. Between exist a variety of other groups, all of whom make exceptional use of the platform this compilation affords. At risk of showing all my cards, it’s fair to say that Volume Doom contains no skippable tracks, and if we sway you to listen, you should listen to it all, dammit. That said, resorting to describing each track (and thereby band) seems unfortunately inefficient, so while I stress that each and every song here deserves a wholehearted shout-out, we’ll trim things down to three tracks that left a particularly prominent impression.
First up we have Howling Giant, whose adventurous “The Pioneer” recalls, thematically, something Rush might have conceived in a blaze of typical lyrical prowess. While not narrative per se, “The Pioneer” makes use of tasteful samples and follows a distinct protagonist, resulting in a perpetual desire to return to the track time and time again. Call it akin to the satisfaction of re-reading a good book. Groovy yet progressively light on their feet, Howling Giant bring in both mighty riffs and subtle synths. Behind it all, at the helm of their galaxy-trawling craft, sits Zach Wheeler, bringing a level of subtle sophistication to the percussion that is, for lack of an appropriate metaphor, a genuine joy to take in.
Next up is “False Martyr” from Philadelphia's own Witching--a group that, evidently, knows how to kick in the door. Following a wonderfully misleading intro, Jacqui Powell lets it rip, self-exorcising vile caustic howls. A potent blend of blackened anguish and hardcore fury, if e’er there was. Whether reverb-stricken or charging forth with fuzzy angularity, the guitar tone is masterful on all counts, seamlessly maintaining a sense of direction amidst the track’s violent ebb and flow. “False Martyr” is doggedly forceful, and hits harder than anything else Volume Doom has on display. Despite sounding different, in the grand scheme, than its stoner-influenced brethren, Witching’s contribution works quite well as a focal point.
Lastly we have Dust Prophet, whose “Revolutionary Suicide” is an eerie (if irresistible) romp. Heather Lynn belts out a hook like few can, but that’s not the only draw: hefty guitar, massive drums, and a noticeable attention to detail in the ambiance department set Dust Prophet apart. All told, this track has a certain commercial appeal--and coming from an underground blog, I can see the implications, but bear with me. Few bands under the riff-worshipping fold can claim this level of sheer head-bopping ‘n’ air-guitar wielding gravitas. A spoken word intro and some squealing intrusions underneath the riffs provide the necessary balance--all the weirdness one needs to really stand out in a crowd. The result? A remarkably ear-wormy addition to the comp.
Because, alas, I must maintain a critical edge even in the midst of doomy excellence, it’s worth mentioning that Year of the Cobra’s contribution--opening track “The Descent”--doesn’t quite match my expectations given this Seattle powerhouse’s recent output. Here, the trademark genre-defying vocals carry themselves with less weight, particularly in the chorus itself. That said, YoTC has yet to put out a track that one could conceivably classify as “uninspired.” Otherwise, I sometimes found myself wishing that the album followed a more rigorous path of ethereal to harsh, as exemplified by the opening and closing bands--but even so, I’m not sure what a reordered tracklist might look like in practice.
Speaking to the overall mission, Jessie May--Alternative Control editor and holder-down of the Owl Maker low end--states that she hopes “all the bands on Volume Doom will gain new listeners from being part of this comp!” Frankly, every band here has contributed mightily to that end. If the point of a comp is to open doors and provide deserving bands with an audience, Alternative Control has done the doomsphere a substantial favor. As a direct result of this collection of tunes, I have been introduced to more than a few bands that will undoubtedly receive continued support. On a base level, as a consumer, its a fantastic feeling to be introduced to so many high-quality bands in a single well-curated package. Volume Doom feels like a preemptive peek into the future--a future where the bands before ye sit atop the veritable mountain of doomy competition. Highly, highly recommended.
1. Year of the Cobra -- The Descent
2. Howling Giant -- The Pioneer
3. Mourn the Light -- Embrace the Darkness
4. Owl Maker -- Sky Road
5. Gorge -- The Great Dying
6. Witching -- False Martyr
7. Pinto Graham -- High Flyer
8. Eye of Nix -- Lull
9. 1476 -- Winter of Winds
10. Dust Prophet -- Revolutionary Suicide
11. Low Moments -- Plague, Take Me
12. Kurokuma -- Dope Rider, Pt. 1
(If you’re not already a reader, check out Alternative Control for thoughtful discussions of metal...and everything else you need to live.)
Volume Doom will be released Friday, Feb. 22nd. Preorder here at a ridiculously fair price. Like, seriously. How can you go wrong?
Sometimes, a conceptual underpinning is all a song has going for it. Not so in the case of Glow, a walloping track that comes to the Sleeping Village by way of Chicago's own Cloud Cruiser.
Steeped in a thick desert rock fuzz and convincingly constructed around a monolithic central riff, this track chronicles the protagonist--a young man--as he seeks out powers of flight. It's everything one wants out of hard-rockin' desert rock, plain n' simple. A top-notch job in the production job makes for an aggressive low end, and vocals are mournful, gruff, and just reminiscent enough of Red Fang to pass you firmly into the genre's windswept (yet assuredly badass) embrace. It may sound a little trite, but my only critique of this track is that, as a stand-alone, it could definitely use some company. This particular villager eagerly awaits developments in Cloud Cruiser's "I: Capacity" installment.
Give Glow a listen here. For those of you in Chicago, Cloud Cruiser will be playing a show on February 8th at Burlington Bar.
Despite Homme’s declaration that Kyuss was inspired more by Black Flag than the progenitors and perfectors of psychedelic heavy rock--say, Blue Cheer or Black Sabbath--the desert rock scene’s worship of the amp and riff are surely tied to the ingenuity of early doomsters. Because Sabbath have left such a veritable canyon in the firmament of heavy music, we dedicate Sundays to highlighting a lesser-known band that carries, in some fashion, the Sabbathian mantle. Today we review Electric Mountain’s s/t debut, straight outta Mexico City on the wings of inspirations aplenty. Welcome to Sabbath Sunday.
At this point in the Sleeping Village’s doomy coverage, it feels a little cliche to declare, but here goes: Electric Mountain doesn’t deal in subtilty. Borrowing Kyuss’ thick riffs and Orange Goblins aggressive percussive flair, this meaty and otherwise fuzz-tastic take on the belov’d stoner rock template remains a highly enjoyable listen, despite zero intention of breaking the mold. And yes, I can harp on the unoriginality here, but while the formula remains consistent, there really isn’t a bad track on this slab. Upon many repeated listens, Going Under and Green Mountain Side are clear standouts, especially if you’re particularly diggin’ the crunchy Black Pyramid vibes. Into the Maelstrom provides that crisp mid-album acoustic flavor, and Free Woman/Space Rocket provide that feisty one-two punch in the album’s early stages. This is a lesson in hookiness--with riffs characterized by near-sensual groove and a near-impenetrable haze, fuzz idolatry is the name of the game.
Gib’s filtered vocals are distance and tinged with a forthright familiarity, serving as an effective sidekick to his joyously energetic guitar. Bouncing from riff to lick and back again, there are no slow moments here. While the occasional riff does recall earlier tracks, each song has its own unique identity. Electric Mountain as a whole squarely hits the mark in terms of length--long enough to satisfy, brief enough to incite a round of questioning: what will they deliver next?
If your relationship with rock of the overt desert and psychedelic varieties can be qualified as mere flirtation, Electric Mountain might not be the introduction necessary to sway you over into the riff-filled land. That said, fans of the genre with undoubtedly find this debut a significantly worthwhile affair.
Upon fishing Psychlona’s debut from the Global Stoner Conveyor of Kyuss-ian psychedelia, my initial (& unfair) impression was that they sounded a whole lot like Fu Manchu, otherwise known as the okay-ist desert rock group of the decade. Upon further inspection, however, something became remarkably clear: Psychlona is not a middling band. The result? Mojo Rising makes a colorful addition to this year’s coffer of pleasant surprises. While this groovy outfit from northern England does feel, at times, like the aforementioned Foo,’ their sonic radius is actually fairly large, & they possess the ability to reach beyond obvious influences.
Take, for example, the back halves on Big River & Burning Cave, which both sound like Jethro Tull & Merlin (referring to band and warlock both, I suppose) had a multigenerational lovechild. Down In The Valley, a slightly cautious shroomy celebration, (This is the valley where the fungi grew/don’t overdo it boy, just try a few,) exudes that fuzz-bathed early Truckfighters vibe to a tee. Black Dog has that groovy 1000mods riffage similarly pegged, before breaking into a mean solo that remains both appealingly trippy & assuredly grounded. A common pattern here is for the back half of each track to revert into instrumentality, which, while always pleasing, eventually turns monotonous--granted, this from the perspective of decidedly sober critic.
In a similar vein, towards the end of Mojo Risings’ 45 minute length, the tracks become less distinct, & thus less memorable, with little variation in tempo. With that said, this is more a critique of the subgenre in question--ultimately, this Sleeping Villager remains suitably impressed by Psychlona’s abilities, both instrumental & compositional. While the album cover honestly tells a pretty accurate story, this outfit still has some secrets. Despite Ripple Music’s already stacked roster, Mojo Rising is certainly unique enough to merit worthy addition. Recommended both to fans of the genre, & to those of you looking to try a fresh-faced band on for size.
Released Nov. 9th via Ripple Music
Psychlona can be found:
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!