Greetings, heaviest of Heavy Bloggers! Welcome back to Doomsday, our monthly effort to highlight some noteworthy but potentially overlooked releases in this month’s wide world of doom. September has been truly a gift from the riff gods, and Heavy Blog has already highlighted new and upcoming releases from Mindkult, Big Brave, Usnea, Ufomammut, and Monolord in these very pages. But even with this embarrassment of riches, there’s still plenty of gold to be mined from the dark depths of the underground. Grab your earplugs and let’s talk doom!
Spaceslug – Mountains & Reminiscence
The fuzzed out Polish cosmonauts are back with an EP that proves that even their leftovers are worth their weight in space gold. Freshly off their fantastic February ’17 full length Time Travel Dilemma, Mountains & Reminiscences is a mixture of tracks recorded during that session as well as some brand-new bangers sure to please anybody who fancies their stoner with a healthy dose of sci-fi sheen and spaced out riffs.
There’s a reason Spaceslug are staff favorites at Heavy Blog – they take the well establish framework of bottom-heavy, rifftastic stoner doom and transfer it into the fantastic beyond, creating monster space-epics that somehow soar to the heavens while remaining punishingly heavy. “Bemused and Gone” kicks the EP off with an appropriately trance-like mood. The churning drums and slowly cascading guitars compliment Kamil Ziółkowski’s meditative vocals, allowing the track to lurch and slowly build over its five-minute run time. “Space Sabbath” is another album highlight that begins in a similarly muted headspace before exploding into pure sci-fi headbanging glory, complete with 2001: A Space Oddyssey audio samples to add to the atmosphere.
Mountains & Remininiscence feels slightly more subdued that the typical Spaceslug full-length, but that’s likely more a result of the “odds and sods” nature of the collection than any artistic change of direction by the band. And regardless, it’s no far departure from Spaceslug’s typical blend of heavy riffs and stoner repetition; as with any Spaceslug release, this is highly recommended.
Monte Luna – Monte Luna
Bringing a healthy dose of Texas dirt to the punishing, riff-focused realm of stoner/psych doom, Monte Luna are a two piece from Austin who self-released a debut full length earlier this month. Monte Luna traffic in a style of doom that, stylistically, isn’t too far removed from Spaceslug, but whereas ‘slug will somewhat gently lead you into a curious space adventure, Monte Luna’s stretched out riffs and hypnotic grooves leave you with a sensation of floating alone, abandoned in space and potentially lost forever. But in a good way.
The album is filled with crunchy, energetic, heavy slabs of riff-lead doom that somehow never lose their immediacy even as the tracks extend into lengths that would make Bongripper proud. The tone is pure fuzz, the riffs are never ending, and the vibe is all fun. Even when traversing nightmare frontiers or sonically exploring a bad acid trip, the tracks on this effort exude a sense of joy, friendship, and fandom for the world of heavy sludge. The sheer weight of tracks like “Inverted Mountain” and “Nameless City” represent the best of what this style of doom can offer: earworm hooks drilled ad infinitum, a grounded and punishing rhythm section, and soaring vocals all colliding together to create a zoned out, transcendent listening experience.
Monte Luna may not break new ground or represent a completely revelatory take on stoner sludge, but that’s not really the point nor is it a particularly potent criticism within the genre. The is a record that knows exactly what it wants to be and revels in masterfully standing alongside it’s influences, happy to jam along with the best of them. Here’s hoping Monte Luna get picked up by a label soon – they really deserve a chance to shine and be heard by a wider audience. I’ll eagerly look forward to anything the band has to offer in the future and anybody even casually interested in hypnotic, fuzzy, long-form stoner doom should as well.
Cities of Mars – Temporal Rifts
Sci-fi stoner doom is really having a month for the record books – and the winning streak continues with Temporal Rifts, the latest full length from Gothenburg heavy hitters Cities of Mars. If you somehow overlooked the trio’s 2016 EP Celestial Mistress, do yourself a favor and revisit that before Rifts drops on September 29. Celestial Mistress is an epic sci-fi concept record about a KGB agent – Nadia – who is sent on a mission to Mars only to discover a lost civilization of alien beings already inhabiting the red planet. Do they launch an intergalactic space war? Do they recruit Nadia to be their queen? The details are fuzzy, but not as fuzzy as the crushing riffs that make the effort soar even higher than a mars-bound spaceship. It’s amazingly catchy doom backed by a solid and well-fleshed out narrative concept.
It’s unclear whether Temportal Rifts will continue the Nadia story or begin a new narrative of its own, but the pre-release track “Envoy of Murder” makes clear that the band intends to continue in the same heavy, catchy, cerebral mode of space doom as its predecessor. In particular, Cities of Mars have a distinctively bright sheen to their guitar tone that helps to make the hammering riffs that are the band’s calling card go down as smooth as silk. The foregrounded sing/shout clean vocal delivery also remains the same and helps maintain a sense of immediacy when things threaten to get lost in the space smog.
I’ve been spinning “Envoy of Murder” nonstop since it was released in anticipation of Temporal Rifts release on Friday. Based on the strength of the track, the band’s previous output, and the narrative innovation the band brings to their music, there’s no reason the record shouldn’t catapult the band to doom stardom. Hop on board now.
Talsur – Medieval Hero
I’ve sung the praises of this one-man doom project before and Talsur has already released a strong contender for funeral doom record of the year with January’s Slough of Despond. But the prolific Russian can’t be stopped and has just put out the (seemingly) stand-alone single Medieval Hero, his third (!) official release of the year.
Hero begins in the same gothic vein as July’s Offertorium EP, with syrupy-sludge pacing, eerie lead guitar lines, and the understated baroque baritone vocals fans have come to expect from the project. The sound is relatively straightforward, but what’s new is the thematic focus on medieval inquisitors who hypocritically doled out religious “justice” to the masses while hiding “more terrible and numerous sins.” Talsur has always been a restless and ever-evolving project in the most literal sense. Nearly all his previous releases have tackled a specific doom subgenre (funeral doom with Slough, Stoner doom with Inanitas, Gothic/Atmospheric doom with Offertorium etc) and explored the sound for the entire project. As such, sonic exploration has always been in Talsur’s toolbox, but it’s exciting to see the potential Medieval Hero displays for narrative exploration as well.
The second half of the track switches gears and transforms into an up-tempo stoner jam, focusing more on head banging riffs, playful drum fills, and a blues based swagger that mirrors the narrative table-turn of the song perfectly. By the time the track crescendos into the mammoth dual-guitar-jam finale, it’s clear that, no matter the song’s subject matter, Talsur can make it rock. Long live the hero.