Written by: Volt Thrower
If you want to cook up some hype and expectations for a stoner/desert rock album, Albuquerque desert doom purveyors Red Mesa could do far worse than starting off with features from scene legends Wino and Dave Sherman, of essential acts The Obsessed and Spirit Caravan. Throw in recording and production by Matthew Tobias at Empty House Studio, who has handled massive recording projects like OM/Al Cisneros solo projects. Sprinkle in some mastering by John McBain, original guitarist of Monster Magnet, and baby, you've got a stew going. A stew absolutely bubbling over the brim with sky high expectations. Let's hope it can provide some meaty heartiness, not just a weak broth.
Written by: Volt Thrower
Let's just get this out of the way first: that artwork. Lordy it's stunning, and sets the bar high without a single note even being played. I own this record on vinyl and like 80% of the decision to buy it was based on the artwork alone. Designed by Toronto based tattoo artist Arthur Mills, it perfectly captures the haunting, war-torn, cosmic yet industrial landscape the band lays to waste on their second EP now, Pale Mare II. Pale Mare instantly get compared to High on Fire, which is lofty and can be a bit unfair, but the band themselves don't seem to shy away from the comparison on their bandcamp page.
So, lets dig into some High on Fire worship, shall we?
Written by: Continuous Thunder
If you told me at the beginning of the year that one of the best sludge metal albums I’d hear in 2020 would come from two Japanese girls… I’d lean in closer and ask you to tell me more. I don’t know about you, but in my experience, when women are involved in making hard rock and metal on the doomy side of things, it tends to be pretty damn good more often than not. Some of my favorite albums from the past couple of years have been from bands like Windhand, Castle, and Electric Citizen. And this year we’ve already had great albums from Konvent and Lucifer. Well, get ready to add BlackLab to the pile.
As mentioned, BlackLab is a doom and sludge duo from Japan, made up of guitarist and vocalist Yuko Morino and drummer Chia Shiraishi. Abyss is their second album. Being a duo in the doom metal world requires some sonic creativity to get your sound sufficiently heavy and thick. I’m not sure what witchcraft Morino has employed, but her guitar tone is freakin’ huge! And these riffs aren’t just fuzzy, they’re downright filthy. We’re talking trve slvdge, Houdini-era Melvins levels of nasty. Along with down-tuning, a sub-octave can be heard filling out the bottom end. I don’t know if Morino dubbed in a bass guitar or if she split her signal into an octave pedal, but there is certainly no lack of low end here. She’s also the kind of guitarist who uses feedback to her advantage.
Written by: Volt Thrower
“In the novel, Frankenstein's creation is identified by words such as 'creature,' 'monster,' 'daemon,' 'wretch,' 'fiend' and 'it.'” Thanks, Wikipedia, for describing this album cover so that I don't have to. I know these guys don't take themselves too seriously, and I mean no disrespect to the artist, who upon a cursory search has some really nice artwork, but this is just too cheesy. Maybe I'm just a lame grouch, taking it too seriously. And I get that they're going for the old school sci-fi horror covers look, which are usually cheesy, but just slapping the antagonist of each song onto the cover, feels like a bit of a blunder. Let’s hope that the tunes are out of this world.
The album itself is a bit of a mishmash of songs, a new tune in the album opener and title track, two reworked songs from their 2017 demo For God Snakes, and a couple other tracks that the band has had in their back pocket for a while, giving them a little modern touch.
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.
Written by: Volt Thrower
Stoner rockers Psyclops come out of the gates swinging with their debut LP Amalgam. Blending elements of prog, psych, stoner, doom and hardcore, the 4-piece out of Portland, Oregon certainly have created an amalgamation of sorts with their first long offering. What that process of fusion has yielded remains unclear to me, but it is an enjoyable process to figure out.
The soft opening instrumental of “Fabricated”, being overlaid with a thunderstorm in the background, does a pleasant job of setting the scene in the Pacific Northwest. A bluesy little riff by guitarist Guerd Alberts gets the party started and we are off to the races with lead vocalist Chris Jackson coming out of his spoken word intro, to guide the band with a howl charged assault. A straightforward rocker comes to a close with a hardcore frantic finish. Before you have time to think about what just happened, the rhythm section of bassist Brandon Peterson and Alex Flatt on drums, are guiding you through the ultra groovy psychedelic intro of the un-googleable track “ ”. Another straightforward if unremarkable groove rocker, which does finish with a nice solo and full band freak out, ending in feedback.
Like any good pseudo-medieval village of our size and prosperity, we highfalutin peasants abide by a certain standard of hospitality. For those bands that pass through our palisade time and time again, we gladly offer up a spot at our roughly hewn and ovular-if-not-round table.
earthdiver are, without a doubt, such a band within the context of Sleeping Village lore. I personally have been a fan since hearing their rambunctious three-track EP, and was subsequently thrilled to have interviewed 'em. Hell, I'm wearing my earthdiver t-shirt as I scribble away--a pure coincidence born of the reality that I wear this shirt, like, at least once a week. Needless to say, this particular scribe has been very excited for the advent of their all-important debut album, both because I've been itching for new tracks, and because I'm excited for the stoner/doom community to witness the set of chops on this talented trio. The wait is over. Lord of the Cosmos is (almost!) here. Time for that hospitality.
Our motley township owes an obvious debt to Black Sabbath…but Sleeping Village, today’s group in question, also lifted their moniker from Sabbath's plunder-worthy supply of deepcuts. And so, despite being prompted to do so by our friends at Crypt Guard, it was inevitable that after reviewing Sleeping Village’s promising EP here at the Sleeping Village, we would end up writing about their future endeavors. On a #SabbathSunday, no less! Thus, on the docket today: Sleeping Village’s latest 5-track release, entitled Holy Water.
We all know what we’re getting into, from the logo, to the borderline occult atmosphere, to the riffage, to the Geezer-esque low end and the Ward-ish percussion. No question ‘bout it: these guys live, breath, and die by the monolithic template established by (Ozzy-era) Black Sabbath. Indeed, their bio indicates an unabashed acknowledgement of their particular station: Sleeping Village is “unashamed Sabbath worship.” With that in mind, is it worth listening to Holy Water instead of just throwing on Master of Reality for the umpteenth time?
The rubric that plays a major role in determining whether I will consider an album “good” is, as with everything around these parts, a little flexible and open to interpretation. That said, some criteria are fairly stalwart and unmoving. A good metal album must, in my eyes, have proficient instrumentation. It must display cohesion. The vocals need to be enjoyable--or, at the very least, they must spark some synapses other than those indicating that the vocalist in question can’t sing. It needs to elicit some sort of emotion response. Lastly, if it’s steeped in a genre that lives and dies by the axe, its gotta have riffs. Full stop. In the case of today’s artist in question, I’m happy to report that all of the criteria are present and accounted for...no, wait. We’re missing one. But y’know what? Let’s just roll with it.
As a pseudo-medieval Village inhabited by a motley crew of slumbering (albeit highfalutin) peasants, we've dealt with a lot of absurd challenges. And, to our credit, we've survived ‘em all--quite handily, I might add. Feudal serfdom? A non-issue: we deposed that sucker years ago. Blatantly nonexistent sewer system? At this point we can't smell, and we're certifiably immune to any plague these rats have to offer. Loot-thirsty marauders from the north? They leave us alone now; last time they attempted an assault, we armored up, threw on some Sabaton, and slaughtered their strongest warriors with ease.
But here’s something we have yet to deal with: Orcs. Y’know, the brutish and (typically) malevolent beasts of lore. Two be-tusked specimens have emerged from their slime-ridden dens, and, much to our amused curiosity, are currently sniffing around our hastily constructed barricade. They’ve killed some chickens, but beyond that, they seem...uncharacteristically friendly. This may be a terrible mistake, but let’s let them in, shall we? If we perish this fateful day, so be it.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!