Greetings, heaviest of heavy bloggers! Welcome to our very special ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY of Doomsday. Stifle your gasps and crack your smelling salts; what you’ve heard is true: it has been a full 12 months since Doomsday began highlighting the very best of underground slow and low. It’s been a blast and a true pleasure bringing Doomsday to your eyeholes every month and I hope that you’ll continue with me on this dismal journey for many months and years to come.
As you are undoubtedly aware, Doomsday highlights doom, sludge, drone, stoner, and any other weird, rifftastic releases from the past month that may have slipped under the radar of Heavy Blog’s normal coverage. The albums herein are by no means exhaustive, simply a collection of what has pricked the ears of your humble doom deacon over the past few weeks. Suggestions of other releases are heartily encouraged, as are disagreements, affirmations, and general ramblings from the masses so please chime in down in the comments.
Enough chatter! Grab your earplugs; it’s Doomsday’s birthday.
Faustcoven – In the Shadow of Doom
Although doom generally plays well with others, black metal is perhaps the genre’s most sporadic and counterintuitive melding partner. Superficially, this makes sense: like the proverbial oil and water, the inherent characteristics of each genre seem to be too fundamentally at odds with each other to allow for a cohesive blending. Black metal’s focus on furious speed and righteous theatrics seems – outwardly, at least – incompatible with doom’s more deliberately laid-back, riff-focused wanderings. And yet, despite these seeming incompatibilities, blackened doom has existed for decades and continues to grow and evolve as much as any other hybrid subgenre. The tradition remains alive and well in 2018 with the release of Faustcoven’s latest full length, In the Shadow of Doom.
Rather than interspersing blast beats and tremolo picking into their decidedly doomy sound, Faustcoven incorporate a sense of black metal via nimble tempo adjustments, raw production, a devilishly distorted vocal delivery, and an all-encompassing sinister atmosphere that’s overlaid across the entirety of In the Shadow of Doom. The tracks are hulking and moody – largely down-tempo and riff-led – but there is a distinct tinge of scorched-earth atmospherics and searing emotionality usually absent from more traditional doom. This blackened “feel” is largely thanks to the record’s natural, organic production and band mastermind Gunnar Hansen’s guttural yet emotive vocals. The double bass kicks and propulsive tempo on tracks like “The Wicked Dead” and “Sign of Satanic Victory” don’t hurt either. And the ever-present waves of crunchy guitar tone married with wailing, bright leads go a long way to furthering In the Shadow of Doom’s enveloping, evil atmosphere.
Whether it’s black metal fans looking for a break from the breakneck or doom fans who want something a little more singed and decadent than the usual offerings, Faustcoven pack a lot of appeal for nearly all comers. In the Shadow of Doom is a high mark of hybrid styles and represents a more than triumphant return after the band’s six-year absence.
Primitive Man and Unearthly Trance – Split
Two of the heaviest bands on planet Earth converging for a split release of crushing doom and terrifying drone? Yes, please.
Primitive Man have been credibly laying claim to the title of “heaviest band on Earth” since releasing their debut Scorn in 2013. It’s hard to argue with the designation: the Denver three-piece traffic in such weight, despair, and pure aural nihilism that – in terms of sheer punishing brutality – its hard to think of another band making a persuasive challenge to that throne. But at least since 2015’s Home is Where the Hatred Is EP, Primitive Man have been dosing their crushing doom assault with bits of hallucinatory noise to add yet another claustrophobic and terrorizing wrinkle to their sound. To be sure, blown-out apocalyptic doom is still Primitive Man’s métier, but front man Ethan McCarthy seems increasingly interested (see Many Blessings) in exploring the ways empty space and foreboding anti-music can act as an effective compliment and/or antidote to the band’s usual brawny rage.
The primitive crew take the split opportunity to further explore their ambient noise side without completely abandoning the formative doom sound that made such an impact from the band’s inception. Two proper tracks make up the band’s offering and even the more “traditional” “Naked” is filled with tons of empty space and ambient drone compared to the band’s usual saturated sound. “Naked” is a killer deep cut for the band, but the song serves as a photo negative of Cautic’s maximalist, crushing doom in that the band seems intent on mining evil out of silence, odd sonic bursts, and droning feedback. The main thrust of “Naked” is still the same blistering hate-doom fans have come to expect but the eerie noises and quiet spaces that make up “Love Under Will” filter into the main course as well, to great effect. The most frequent criticism I hear leveled at Primitive Man, justly or not, is that the band’s “up to 11” approach can be a touch one-note and exhausting. This is undoubtedly by design (and, frankly, a feature rather than a bug), but the band has gone a long way in recent releases to mixing up their sound with silence, drone, and ambient noise to effectively muzzle those criticisms.
By contrast, the powerful, lumbering doom of Unearthly Trance sounds downright conventional. “Mechanism Error” kicks off the group’s back half takeover, a blisteringly bouncy track of demonic sludge that has been the band’s expertise for nearly twenty years. At this point, Unearthly Trance have elevated to the status of blackened doom elder statesmen and the confident competence underlying their four tracks of the split illustrate why. Songs like “Reverse the Day” are no frills, workmanlike seminars on crunchy, high-impact aural devastation that is just catchy enough to keep you coming back for more. It’s no wonder Ethan McCarthy has publicly acknowledged Primitive Man’s reverence for Unearthly Trance: McCarthy and Ryan Lipynsky summon a similar unholy maelstrom in their vocal delivery, both bands rely on suffocating and impenetrable walls of atmospheric distortion, and neither act is shy about leaning into terrifying noise to further up the sonic ante (See album closer “418”).
No excuse for sleeping on this one, fellow doomers. Two titans at the top of their game bludgeoning listeners into submission with chaotic, unhinged, and nihilistic sludge. Happy Summer!
Woebegone Obscured – The Forestroamer
Doom is a style of music that has an inherent reliance on fidelity. Whereas other genres in the metal universe may confidently forge ahead and perhaps even tie some of their genre’s identities with tinny, low-fi sound quality (looking at you, black and death), doom demands at least a modicum of production value and low-end resonance to fully communicate its burly power. And, in that regard, funeral doom may be the most demanding tenant even within the greater doom tent. Funeral doom, at its best, is massive: conceptually, emotionally, sonically. Those who seek to harness its great power had better have the technological capacity to do so.
Woebegone Obscured understand the inherent demands of their lush sound and have done well to fully capture it on their latest full length. The Forestroamer is full of richly produced melodic funeral doom that fully leans into the theatrical and emotive elements of the genre while also retaining plenty of signature touches that elevate the album beyond the realm of rote genre exercise. Guitar leads soar, the bass is a tangible presence throughout, atmospheric synths create a dense and hazy sonic environment, and Danny Woe’s vocals run the gamut from froggy belches to searing screams to passionate, mournful cleans. It all coheres into a beautiful, elaborate meditation on loss, isolation, and, especially, nature and man’s relationship to natural elements, courtesy of a massive assist from multi-instrumentalist bandmember Quentin Nicollet’s impressively hi-fi recording and mixing.
The title track serves as the emotional and thematic centerpiece of the album, but perhaps “Drømmefald” best illustrates all the diverse arrows in the band’s quiver. The lumbering meat of the track is interspersed with slinky clean guitar leads, blackened blasts, and, interestingly, a reversion back to the band’s native Danish tongue. It’s a high compliment that comparisons to Mournful Congregation feel inevitable. It’s not every day that a band can strive for the same resonant and gorgeously dense impact as the Australian masters, but with The Forestroamer, Woebegone Obscured make a more than credible claim to the upper echelons of funeral doom.