Huge thanks to the illustrious Chris Latta for penning this guest review! If yer unfamiliar, Chris writes at Ghost Cult Magazine and makes music via epic doom outfit Lavaborne and acoustic project Christopher Steve.
Written by Chris Latta
I feel like Alice In Chains may be one of the more understated influences in the realm of doom, sludge, and stoner metal. The Seattle legends may have been grouped with the grunge movement, but their emphasis on crushing riffs and debilitating misery gave them more in common with the likes of Saint Vitus or Type O Negative than their contemporaries in Nirvana or Pearl Jam. With this in mind, it only makes sense for Magnetic Eye Records to release another one of their signature tribute albums covering what could be considered the band’s most impactful release.
What makes Dirt (Redux) particularly interesting compared to other tributes of this nature is how much liberty the bands have taken with their chosen songs. There are plenty of bands whose covers adhere to the originals as closely as possible, but a good majority of songs on here either exaggerate previously unexplored aspects or even sound like songs that the bands could’ve written themselves. This does make for a less cohesive listen and the overall effect is less viscerally personal than the original, but those are to be expected with any song-by-song recreation.
Written by: The Administrator
While we Villagers pride ourselves in having a solid familiarity with the content we critique, I'll be the first to admit that my level of familiarity with the 5 tracks contained within today's EP in question surpasses an acceptable level of sanity. Typically, in preparation for an in-depth review, I listen to the material around 10 times. Return From The Void, in drastic comparison, has entered these wretch'd earholes...well, significantly more frequently. All told, stating that I've listened to this damn thing upwards of 50 times doesn't sound terribly off base.
Why, ye may ask? In the year or so since I first encountered the hard rockin' Deserts of Mars, I've become oddly dependent on their (regrettably slim!) output. Return From The Void is what I turn to when I'm not sure what to listen to, when I'm feeling a little down, or when I just need a quick kick of stoner rock into an otherwise hard-hitting playlist. As a result, I've entered a strange scenario wherein a review feels somewhat impossible to write. Can I truly view this thing from a passingly neutral standpoint, or does my history color any interpretation with rose-colored glasses? Given the potential limitations, I'll do my best to be fair to you, dear reader.
Hey! We're a record label now!
SLEEPING VILLAGE RECORD’s inaugural release is a compilation of 10 previously released underground stoner doom tracks, curated--as always--by a highfalutin peasantry. Sleeping Village Caravan of Doom (Vol. 1) is an exhibition of like-minded tracks that balance sludgy heft with an earthy stoner atmosphere. These are songs that would feel at home in the midst of a bog or mire, and we’ve brought them together, drenched in murk and algae, for your gloomy enjoyment.
Rather than simply throwing as many artists as possible into the doomy stew, this compilation seeks to bring together and showcase 10 uniquely stellar bands that compliment each other sonically and aesthetically. While the runtime clocks in at a hefty hour and a half, the roster remains slim so that each band has appropriate time to shine.
Sleeping Village Caravan of Doom (Vol. 1) will be released digitally and available for NYOP on October 2nd, with a preorder going live TODAY for the measly sum of $1. All proceeds from this project will be split evenly between the bands and the label, with any of the Sleeping Village’s cut going to fund further compilations (or a possible physical release!)
TRACKLIST as follows:
Fostermother - Destroyers
Dizygote - Children of Talos
Doomfall - Why Fear the Godless
earthdiver - Blood Moon
Green Hog Band - Machine
Old Horn Tooth - Old Horn Tooth
Stonus - Mania
Jointhugger - I Am No One
Black Road - Radiation
Bog Wizard - Swamp Golem
Huge thanks to the Sleeping Village’s resident Volt Thrower for the assistance and much-needed wisdom in putting this together! Thank you also to the bands, who all deserve your love and affection, and lastly to you, who made the launch of this endeavor from the Sleeping Village’s fertile ground a possibility. Enjoy!
Check out our bandcamp!
Written by: Shane Thirteen
First things first: Seven Swords comes out August 21st, and I highly recommend you track down and reserve your copy now from bandcamp. This group from Savona, Italy has laid down a classic. Black Elephant has been around about a decade and as they grow they leap closer to being one of the world's best stoner/heavy psych bands. They describe their sounds as 70's fuzz stacked with Blues Psych Space Rock. All that is true.
What I gather from this album is Black Elephant is deep black warmth. The kind of warmth you feel on the first cold day in fall as you clinch into your bed and curl into the softness of your lover. It is sensual and the music wafts me away like smoke dangling on the rim of a bong. I tend not to think of albums as single tracks I like. But how do all the tracks fit into the feel of the album? What is this piece of music trying to tell me? Where does it want me to go?
Written by: Volt Thrower
Context and expectations are important when listening to an album. Similar to going to a cheap ticket Tuesday movie, (remember those?) and being blown away and thoroughly entertained. A self released debut desert psych rock LP doesn't exactly tip the scales of excitement for one such as myself, but I was looking for a nice palate cleanser after listening to theBible Basher EP on repeat for two hours, and...spoiler alert! German psychonauts Hammada immediately caught my ear, and didn't let go for the entirety of the record.
Right from the get-go on "Occasus," they have a captivating balance, finely teetering between the spacey elements of psych and the heavy push of desert rock, almost doom at times. A huge plus for the band is the standout vocal performance, particularly on "Nox"--which, when combined with an organ laced riff, makes for a terrific single.
Airy, whispery vocals can sometimes lose themselves amongst the music, not a concern here where the leads are absolutely commanding for the most part, while being able to pull back when best suited. There's an impressive symmetry at play as well, which should've been a little bit more obvious perhaps, judging by the artwork. The way the record is broken into four 15 minute sections across the 7 tracks is satisfying, but the way they connect each section with a synthy zip-tie builds a cohesive story from start to finish.
One of the highlights on the album is "Heliokratia," a song that actually comes from their 2017 EP Sfaira, albeit with a little modern polish. Low and slow to start, flourishes of synth buoy an intoxicating bass tone that I would swim in if I could. Some of the softer vocals on the record to start, but they work well to aid the buildup before the full band kicks into gear into a roaring wall of fuzz. They mention desert vibes and atmospheric riffs in their bio, and they are delivered in spades throughout middle tracks "Ether" and "Helios." They bring it back down to earth for the transition into ‘Azimut’. Another solid track, with an organ laced furious finish that would’ve worked well to wrap up the LP in a nice 45 minute bow. Instead, ATMOS gives way to one last final 15 minute epic in "Domizil," a mostly grooving instrumental, until some final transcending chants bring things to a close.
I generally prefer an LP in the 40-45 minute range, but Hammada have no issues providing a captivating listen for a full hour. The initial listen as a palate cleanser did exactly as it should, but the subsequent listens have solidified this as a must listen if you’re a fan of anything psych rock related. A solid debut has them firmly on the radar for future releases. Check it out!
Hammada - ATMOS was independently released June 26th, 2020
Written by: Volt Thrower
Skate rat doomers LáGoon are back again! Following up the maniacal mushroom meltdown of Maa Kali Trip from earlier this year, the two-piece has apparently one-upped into a power trio after seeing the light. They kicked ass as a duo, but have found that missing piece that will really solidify their status in the stoner rock world. Now with their fourth full length and seventh release in just a shade over two years, they remind me of King Blizzard and the Hizzard Whatevers...except LáGoon's music is actually enjoyable.
In all seriousness I do enjoy KG+tLW, I was obsessed with Im in Your Mind Fuzz in 2014/15, but have not been a huge fan of anything else until their latest. LáGoon, however, have been nothing short of a rocketship ascending.
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.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!