What’s to know or learn about Richmond, Virginia’s multi-instrumentalist Fowst? Not much, except that he’s the brains and sole instrumentalist behind the so-fuzzy-it-must’ve-died-and-now-it’s-molding doom project that is Mindkult. The one-man band approach is something that never fails to pique my interest. I get the notion that it’s often viewed as less than perfect, a last resort to bringing a project to fruition, or the product of an egomaniac. Maybe these renaissance men and women are believed to be masters of none. Maybe the notion of a “one-man bedroom project” sullied the idea of going solo, because technology now allows people to skirt the hardships of finding bandmates to collaborate on a vision, arguing about direction, and all of the other shit that comes with dealing with people (ugh, people). At the same time, how much more perfect could this be? There’s no room for interpretation. This is straight from the source, a direct expression from its creator. Total creative freedom. No classic clashes of personality or infighting – just pure, uncut expression. It’s something to celebrate, and if we see more albums from Mindkult, we should hope to see the scale’s tip back in favor of the solo artist.
Atmosphere is the name of the game on Mindkult’s debut full-length, Lucifer’s Dream. Fowst deftly brings together a well-balanced traditional doom/sludge blend with a gothic, funereal vibe. It’s a hair too moody to be placed among revivalists like Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, but simply too nostalgic and caveman-friendly to be lumped in with the ethereal likes of Ancient VVisdom. There are moments where the record seems like it wants to veer into a free, Jesu-ish brand of doomgaze (see “Behold the Wraith”, “Infernals”, “Lucifer’s Dream”), but it’s conflictingly anchored to the confines of traditional doom. The vintage production becomes a dual-edged sword. On one hand, it makes the forays into atmospheric ‘gaze surprising and innovative, and on the other, it’s almost too traditional for it’s own good, and falls victim to so many of the pitfalls that make traditional doom unapproachable for some listeners. While there is a good amount of memorable riffing present on the album, from the weirdly catchy funeral rock on “Howling Witch” or the stompy album opener, there’s often a bait-and-switch feeling created by the satisfyingly fuzzy guitars. No doubt, there’s a persistent heftiness to the riffs, or a sensation that there’s some heavier, even more gigantic riff around the corner. But interestingly, Lucifer’s Dream defies expecting and deceivingly puts listeners into a heady wash instead of a neck-breaking trance. It’s a remarkable move, adding much depth and replayability to the album’s longer songs.
Much of Lucifer’s Dream’s well-roundedness brings to mind the full-length debut of another one-man creation (and one of my personal favorites of 2016), Spirit Adrift’s Chained to Oblivion. It has a grasp of what’s truly important to the vision, and creates an effective work in spite of its shortcomings. The drumming is basic, spartan at best, and suitably relegated to the background. Similarly, the vocals sit appropriately low in the mix, lacquered underneath thick, heavy guitars. Fowst’s delivery is in line with this, frequently wallowing in an almost energyless murmur, falling perfectly between a somber Layne Staley and the aforementioned Ancient VVisdom’s Nathan “Opposition” Jochum. His voice is not immediately impressive, arguably even insignificant for the first few listens, but as time goes on, he proves to create a ghostly foil for the burly guitars that command much of the record. His mid-range timber is a treasure that shines when it’s able to break through cake-on guitars. Listeners are forced to strain for every incoherent word not only because he’s buried beneath layers of guitars, but also because his despairing voice stirs up so much of the album’s personality. At the forefront of the record, though, a vintage buzz is matched only by the leads that dance as opposed to dazzle, inviting you to follow them along as they trickle through crevasses and fill gaps.
Mindkult’s first offering is a success demonstrating that there’s new and fresh ways to approach this 70s sound. Bringing together the unlikely partners of classic doom and shoegaze, Lucifer’s Dream unearths some truly interesting new ideas, but leaves room to polish things up. There’s a number of times where things feel a little bit long or too conventional. While many of the record’s interesting moments stem from having the table set in a traditional doom format, cutting a little fat or offering more in the way of instrumental variation could go a long way. While presenting a new take on an old style, the appeal primarily exists for fans of proto-doom, trad metal, and so on. There doesn’t appear to be enough risk-taking to welcome in outsiders. Not everything has to have broad appeal, but the high points on this record hint at something less tethered to structure and simplicity. Fortunately, the triumphs, greatly outweigh the record’s missteps, it’s a worthwhile listen for cloaked fiends beholden to the power of the riff. There’s not many artists that capture loneliness so beautifully without becoming cumbersome or outright exhausting (I’m looking at you, Loss). The haunting aesthetic of the record is paralleled by the disorienting nature of the songwriting, where familiar sounds melt into strange new forms and a solitary guide intentionally shrouds the path therein.
Get lost in a dungeon finding Lucifer’s Dream when it becomes available September 20 via Transcending Obscurity Records.