Greetings, heaviest of Heavy Bloggers! Welcome to Doomsday, our celebratory roundup of all things slow and low, doom and gloom that may have slipped under the radar over the past month (or so). I’ll be frank, fellow doomheads: the month of June, at least for this author, was dominated by two ground shaking, high profiles releases by Yob and Khemmis. Both Our Raw Heart and Desolation represent high water marks on the already illustrious careers of each of these incredible bands and my 2018 album of the year list immediately got more crowded upon their respective releases. It is your doom duty, dear readers: give those albums a listen if you somehow haven’t already and click the links above to check out the Heavy Blog reviews of each. You’ll be glad you did.
Even with both of these titans of riffage being released in June, there were still several killer releases in the larger doom universe that shouldn’t be overlooked. Below are some recently released albums that caught my ear and slammed my head in the best possible way. Be sure to comment with your favorite releases over the past month and any suggestions that I may have missed.
Enough chatter! Grab your earplugs; it’s doomsday.
Dopethrone – Transcanadian Anger
The Canadian workhorses in Dopethrone are back with a brand new full length of the crusty sludge doom they have been perfecting over the past decade. Despite its title and Québecian origins, Transcanadian Anger is more authentically grimy and decidedly southern fried than most albums originating south of the Mason Dixon line. Continuing the trajectory of their past releases, Dopethrone brew a potent doom stew out of blues, rock and roll, crust sludge, stoner doom, and fuzzy riff worship that prioritizes an atmosphere of midnight horror movie fun. Cut the lights, cue the smoke machine, and crack open a tall boy: Dopethrone want to party.
A distinctly blue-collar je ne sais quoi permeates throughout Transcanadian Anger that somehow both lowers the stakes of the band’s mission but also amps up the populist fun. Like Rob Zombie at his best, Dopethrone know how to mine the gutters of pop culture aesthetics to extract the most unapologetically degenerate, seedy-and-not-sorry elements to celebrate. Demon bikers, drug addicts, homeless tweakers, and Billy Gibbons acolytes all occupy the band’s universe and are throwing a backyard kegger filled with thick riffs and bong rips. Everybody’s invited.
“Planet Meth” establishes the album’s MO immediately with its thick riffs, rollicking percussion, demonic growls, and a call to colonize the titular planet, even if we “ain’t got no money honey!” Even the strongest of necks can’t resist headbanging to riffs as fun and supersized as are on display here. “Wrong Sabbath” keeps the fun in full swing with a spoken-word audio sample describing a grisly motorcycle mishap before the track proper kicks in to conjure “ancient demon fuzz” with a swaggering blues-based rocker. The party continues uniformly in this diabolical vein across the brisk 36-minute runtime, even allowing for a sneaky ZZ Top reinterpretation to rear its marijuana-addled head towards the end of the tack list.
Not every band has to revolutionize a genre. Throughout their career Dopethrone have served as a pleasant reminder that’s is OK to focus on the basics, have a good time, and simply enjoy dirty riffs and diabolical atmosphere. For those looking for a killer party soundtrack or simply want to soak inside some hyper-competent filthy sludge doom, Transcanadian Anger is a perfect summer surprise.
Chorosia – Chorosia
Rivaled perhaps only by hardcore, sludge has a homogeneity problem. I don’t mean that in a sociopolitical, demographic kind of way; after all, ALL of metal has that kind of problem, not simply sludge. What I mean is that sludge – unadulterated, hyphenless, pure sludge – can frequently sound the same regardless of whatever band is delivering it. At the risk of being overly subjective, sometimes sludge is too mid-paced, too grimily-toned, too reliant on shout-singing for its own good and my grumpy old man ears simply glaze over sifting through the seeming indistinguishable sounds within the scene.
All the more reason to celebrate, then, when I stumble upon a band breathing new life into the sludge game. Chorosia are an Austrian four-piece whose sound incorporates strong elements of energetic stoner and traditional heavy metal songwriting chops laid overtop the gruff fundamentals of sludge. In the same way that Spirit Adrift and even Khemmis are on a mission to blend conventional, long-established songwriting principles into their blend of desert rock and doom (respectively), Chorosia take bold progressive risks to ensure their sludge will stick. Bright solos, varied instrumentation, and extended song structures all get liberally added to the burly, roiling tempos and throaty bellows that traditionally signpost the genre. The result recalls the best of Intronaut and early Mastodon: invigorating and heavy, wild-eyed yet cerebral.
The band’s self-released debut full length, released in late May, is startlingly fully realized and confident in its sound. Opener “Priestess of Doom” is an exemplary beast of a track that nimbly transitions from a bouncy, riff-led intro to a more traditional palm muted, sludgy midsection before blasting off into a soaring, dual-guitar-solo-soaked second half that lets listeners know that Chorosia aren’t your standard sludge act. To wit: Dense and gorgeous acoustic guitars are displayed throughout the record, including “Aquilegia Vulgaris” and later-half highlight “Harm.” The album culminates with closer “Place of Planes,” a sprawling, haunted behemoth that highlights the band’s formidable rhythm section including an extended solo by drummer Gregory Reining. That’s right, a drum solo. And it’s awesome.
For a band that’s been active for barely a year, Chorosia seem incredibly confident in their sound and the direction they intend for the band. And why not? Chorosia is packed with heavy riffs, soaring solos, purposeful songwriting and, perhaps most importantly, a willingness to experiment with genre traditions in the pursuit of a more liberated sound. Don’t be surprised to hear much more from Chorosia, beginning with a label signing and hopefully some live dates soon. Until then, this debut release is a killer introduction to the band’s brand of progressive sludge.
Potion – Women of the Wand
Even with the band still in its inaugural year of existence, I’ve already had cause to sing the praises of Potion in these very pages. There’s a real thrill to have the opportunity to watch a band with such clear talent develop in real time and it certainly doesn’t hurt that Potion deliver the ultra-fuzzy, psychedelic-tinged, hypnotic stoner doom that hits me right in my cold black heart.
Fresh off their debut split single, the Australian slayers are back with a new two song single that continues to explore the riff-soaked, haunted terrain the band seems to be settling into comfortably. “Dead Mountain” is a bit of an instrumental table setter, but it’s hulking main riff, thunderous percussion, and crunchy bass line make it anything but a disposable intro track. The main course, however, is “Women of the Wand,” a crashing, saturated, up-tempo riff explosion that turns every element on display on “Dead Mountain” up to 11 and continues the band’s fascination with sorcerers, enchantresses, and all things devilish. This mix on “Women of the Wand” seems purposefully loud and listeners are assaulted with a wall of distortion, cymbal crashes, and the tortured wailings of vocalist Lee Jowono. For disciples of Bongripper, Conan, or Electric Wizard, it’s exciting to hear such a young crew bring the riff-worshiping goods and sinister atmosphere and here’s hoping for a full-length release in the very near future.