While the ol' scriptorium here at the Sleeping Village has been scantly populated this week, fear not. This particular reeve* has spent the past few days embroiled in pre-review fury--i.e., I’ve been listening to a whole lot of good music, so get ready for some appropriately complementary reviews. In the meantime, however, we’d like to direct your attention to a three-track EP that always finds a way to reinsert itself in the rotation. For demo peddlers, Merlock display resolve and remarkable staying power.
Merlock EP is a fun lil’ demo without pretension or sophistication, the kind of music that results when a band throws down and simply plays a blend of genres that pleases them. In the case of Merlock, that formula is equally influenced by the spaced-out aura of psychedelia, and the hard-rockin’ momentum of trad metal. Merlock is subtly off-kilter in the best of ways, an odd amalgamation of The Jesus Lizard’s intrinsic weirdness, and the astral wanderings of Merlin--albeit abbreviated, and sans brass. The result is a kind of caustic, trippy, and rough-around-the-edges stoner doom, and it lights a little fire in my heavy (metal) heart.
While I wholeheartedly recommend you spend the time and give the three tracks herein their due, a personal favorite from this project is opener “Spiral Nemesis.” Constructed around a bouncy and certifiably hooky central riff, this track is particularly effective at presenting a balance between a rock-solid template and a psychedelic edge. While “Spiral Nemesis” is fairly straightforward--despite a slower psych-oriented passage midway through--it never loses its structural integrity. All told, a very enjoyable track, and suitably representative of a sound I’m hoping Merlock will continue to produce. Listen to it here:
*Effectively a village administrator, a position held by a man of otherwise low stature, responsible for overseeing the manorial motley crew. Sleeping Village Reviews: expanding your medieval-specific vocabulary since 2018.
The Sleeping Village owes a massive debt to Black Sabbath…& not just because we blatantly lifted our moniker from their plunder-worthy supply of deep cuts. 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 the Sabbathian mantle of doom. Today we review 1455, the second EP from Purification, a Cromwellian-by-way-of-Portland doom outfit of the trvest order. Welcome to Sabbath Sunday. Let’s get our St. Vitus dance on.
I’ll make one thing clear from the start: if you’re one of the (very few) doom purists out there who gives a damn about production value, you’re a. doing it wrong, and b. probably not going to have a good time with 1455. Bottom line, the mix is appropriately medieval, and the master is nonexistent. However, judging a band’s worth by the amount of money they’ve poured into the production is supremely antithetical to the aesthetic, and with that, it is this Sleeping Villager’s honor to speak on the important matters. Namely, the ways in which Purification’s 1455 is a release worth your witchfinding while.
Purification is a two-piece, which means the bassist (Marshall William Purify, for the uninitiated) is pulling a lot of weight in the riffage department. In fact, the only guitar present on this puritanical display is acoustic, featuring exclusively on ambient number The Night March. Much like Pagan Altar’s use of acoustics on Volume 1, the effect here is immediate--a reprieve from the downtrodden tracks proper. With traditional doom, there is all-to-oft an emphasis placed on the sheer heaviness, while the more naturalistic elements of the environment is never adequately conjured. Not so here.
Focus on the bass doesn’t, of course, discredit Lord Donanagato, whose subtle technique in the drum department allows the sonic weight a little room to ebb, flow, and otherwise breath. Look to closing track 1455 (A Call to Christian Thanes of Noble Blood) as a prime example. Despite a generally dark ambiance, the cymbals throughout, combined with (frankly chilling) vocals, lend the track an uplifting air. Viewing the EP as a whole, the traditional cultist doom aesthetic--lordly titles, olde-timey language--feels utterly persuasive. Liberal use of samples, while a feature that originally seemed heavy-handed, feels necessary over the course of multiple listens. Purification made a smart choice here. A concise and explicit narrative arch works well in the context of a band taking a seemingly overwrought subject with such solemnity.
Purification assuredly claim that they walk in the footsteps of their--as they say--"coven elders.” This isn’t mere talk. Bands such as Cathedral, Witchfinder General, and Pagan Altar rose to heights because they knew intrinsically how to construct a catchy tune within the confines of their narrow traditionalist appeal. Here, tracks such as Marston Moor (An Exhortion of Cromwell) and the aforementioned title track are, put simply, catchy as hell. Marshall’s distant, sorrowful warbling contain that certain irresistible hook--these choruses have been stuck in my head for the better part of a month now. Given the number of choruses that traverse this ol’ noggin, that’s no small feat.
Purification have set, defined, and met the demands of their aesthetic. These practitioners of true doom are the real deal, and this Sleeping Village recommends them highly on this doomy day. Head over to their bandcamp to drink deep of their archaic concoction, and expect a debut LP this coming year, may Cromwell’s will be done.
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry