Greetings heaviest of Heavy Bloggers! Welcome to Doomsday, our monthly roundup of all things slow, low, and demonically-toned. 2018 is already shaping up to be an incredible year for doom and, even though Heavy Blog has done an awesome job of giving some high profile full review treatments, here at Doomsday we like to highlight some of the releases from the past month that may have slipped under the radar. February may be our shortest month, but it certainly packed a punch with its offerings of heaviness; please sound off in the comments with your favorite doom-centric recent releases as well as your most anticipated releases for the entire year.
Enough chatter! Grab your earplugs – its Doomsday.
Marijannah – Till Marijannah
Do you like loud guitars? Good. This Singaporean supergroup is here to worship fuzz, horror, and weed with a potent offering of highly mixed riffs and crashing stoner bangers. Comprised of members of the mighty Wormrot and the recently defunct The Caulfield Cult, Marijannah teased an advance track last year and now have finally released their debut EP. Initially I was disappointed by the abbreviated format of the record, but it turns out good things really do come in small packages: Til Marijannah is an absolute blast and the good-natured charm it exudes only makes me more excited for the band to (hopefully) develop into a full-time project for its members.
The four tracks Marijannah offer are full of stoner swagger, carnival funhouse atmospherics, and so much fuzz this thing ought to come with a shaving kit. Opener “1974” instantly sets the stage for the band’s loud, high-energy riffing that’s both crazy catchy but also somewhat groove resistant. Marijannah command us to bang our heads, not zone out. Likewise, the previously-released “Snakecharmer” sounds even more muscular in the full context of the album and the song rides its two main riffs with increasing intensity into the smoke-filled horizon. “Bride of Mine” is a bit of a sonic departure, a blues-based, stutter-stepper that allows for a breath of fresh air after the unrelenting assault of the first two tracks. Plus, the dueling guitars! And closer “All Hallows’ Eve” is an unadulterated delight: a joyful celebration and retelling of John Carpenter’s Halloween, complete with character name checking, ramped-up filthy riffing for days, and a surprisingly emotional vocal delivery.
Doom detractors occasionally complain that the genre can get caught in creative and sonic ruts rendering the scene’s sound – gasp! – boring. Marijannah, consciously or not, forcefully push back against that narrative with a fresh sound that is high energy, loud, and fun throughout. The band employs yell/clean vocals that pleasantly harken back to doom’s earlier ages but surround it with a modern, dirty, did I mention LOUD musical backing daring listeners not to have fun. Seriously, this EP is all riffs all the time with a crashing rhythm and massive low-end section to boot. Till Marijannah‘s sound is also a bit of a revelation considering the disparate genres of the members’ previous projects. No matter how they got here, let’s just be glad they did and hope Marijannah can bring their horror carnival on the road for some live dates and that they’ll continue to put out new material in the near future.
Coffin Torture – Dismal Planet
Long live the record label. At this point, more than enough handwringing and think piecing has been done about the sorry state of the label system and its long, slow slide into irrelevance. And fair enough, that is plenty true for major labels and the era of bloated budgets is likely over (good riddance). But leave it to the likes of The Sludgelord to boldly venture into the land of the dead and show that there is still plenty of need for smaller, focused labels even in the era of bandcamp and direct-to-fan artist models. And it makes sense that Sludgelord Records would recruit some actual down and dirty sludge lords in the form of Coffin Torture for the label’s first release.
Dismal Planet is an abrasive and confident collection of grimy death-doom and sludge tracks full of dense riffs, menacing screams, and a guitar tone so crunchy it nearly descends into static. Coffin Torture, natives of South Carolina, traffic in the kind of southern fried sludge that evidences reverent affection for the likes of Weedeater and Crowbar with bits of blackened psychedelia thrown in for good measure. It all adds up to seven tracks of punishing, mid-tempo horror/pysch accented by an urgent, wretched vocal delivery and absolutely filth guitar tone.
At a tight 40 minutes, its easy to let Dismal Planet wash over you as one cohesive unit – the tracks uniformly feature the same craggy low-end musical menace and head-nodding groove and it’s enjoyable enough to get lost in the swampy sludge. But there are highlights to be found even within the perfectly satisfying larger whole: “Bolted Down, Boiled to Grease” features not only the record’s best song title, but also a latter half that descends into true doom nightmare of lumbering tempos, sparse but potent percussion, and a nightmarishly ominous general atmosphere. And right on its heels is “Gustave,” the albums literal centerpiece that deftly and engagingly switches from a dour doom opening passage into a raging thrash/punk epic of murder in the jungle. The album’s back half wisely slows the pace just a bit to allow for longer song lengths, more digestible and slightly less manic riffing, and a more distinctly stoner influence, particularly on the closer “Trench Hog.”
Coffin Torture’s filthy attack is all the more impressive realizing that the band is a mere duo. Dismal Planet is thick, heavy stuff for a two hander and is stuff of wet nightmares for any modern sludge fan. Kudos to Sludgelord Records for (1) braving the hostile environment and setting up shop to put out records focused on “everything . . . that’s crushing” and (2) for giving Coffin Torture a platform for the label’s inaugural run to showcase their commitment to all things dark and dirty. Give this one a shot, folks, it’s got something for everybody.
Many Blessings – Ripe Earth
Who knew Ethan McCarthy could get more terrifying? Despite fronting Primitive Man, the undisputed heaviest band in metal, and the grizzled crust purveyors in Vermin Womb, not to mention being an accomplished visual artist (more on that below), McCarthy seemingly still has artistic demons that need to be exercised. Enter Many Blessings, a solo project focused on the atmospheric and abrasive noise passages that fans of Primitive Man (and its predecessor Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire) have come to expect. And, impossibly, it may be Ethan’s most unsettling work yet.
Equal parts drone, noise, and ambient atmospherics, Ripe Earth operates as a genuinely frightening soundtrack for the horror movie that is waking life. Electronic and otherwise synthetic sounds completely replace any recognizable instrumentation and passages alternate between relaxed but ominous ambiance to abrasive and chaotically loud mechanical screams. It’s hard to overstate how unnerving the listening experience is; there is no quarter given for safety and no notice for when a track may erupt into a nightmarish, howling soundscape. Even the relatively calm passages in opener “Darkness is my hand” and “4 Sisters” are infused with an ever-present sense of menace and foreboding uncertainty. The truly unadulterated terror, however, kicks in with the album’s final three tracks, from the opening atonal screeches of “Infantile Wool” to the last, gasping moments of closer “Human Egg.” Across these three tracks McCarthy largely dispenses with any low volume ambiance in favor of loud, immediate, inescapable noise that creates an increasingly claustrophobic atmosphere, only relenting with the conclusion of the record, presumably with the listener curled into the fetal position.
Not much more to say here. Ripe Earth is a record that’s hard to adequately describe and is best to simply experience. Many Blessings may not be palatable for everybody (or, really, anybody), but it’s easy to stand in awe of the hallucinatory, caustic nightmare of sound McCarthy has offered up. Listen to this one with the lights on.
Oryx – Stolen Absolution
Corporate policy here at Doomsday is to generally reserve our coverage for bands that didn’t get a full review treatment within the pages of Heavy Blog over the past month. But, as the official Doomsday calendar keeper I reserve the right to deviate from that policy as I see fit. As such, I wanted to take a quick moment to give another shoutout to Stolen Absolution as it is officially my current “record to beat” for 2018.
With only their second release as a band, Oryx have delivered an incredibly well-executed and fully realized collection of raw, unhinged hate sludge that takes stock of modern society and sees little reason to keep hope alive. Stolen Absolution staggers through its 40 minutes with searing, darkly melodic guitar lines, drummer Abbey Apple’s crashing, propulsive presence behind the kit, and a vocal delivery so urgent and unhinged it makes every song seem like a call to action. But beyond the beastly sonic template there’s a palpable raging energy coursing through these tracks that belies the two-piece nature of the group and makes Stolen Absolution an absolutely exhilarating and irresistible listen. Sludge has rarely felt so furiously alive.
Recently relocated to — where else? — Denver, it makes sense that Oryx employed fellow mile higher Ethan McCarthy to handle the artwork for Stolen Absolution. Oryx follow the same filthy, nihilistic footsteps as Primitive Man but with more manic energy and slightly more melody, however sour and darkened. They also recently announced a show supporting both Primitive Man and doom thundergods Sleep which, I was just able to confirm, is the greatest lineup ever. Here’s hoping Oryx continue to accrue the recognition that an album like this deserves and are able to do some decent touring in support. In the meantime, if you haven’t yet, do yourself a favor and check out Stolen Absolution. It’s your doom duty.