Hello, assorted hooded smoky black figures! It is I, Pete Williams, come to darken your doorway! Yes, we all devoutly mourn the loss of our good friend Lincoln (who likes Auburn for some reason no one will EVER understand), but hopefully I can fill his shoes and make him proud. I probably won’t, but a man can dream. To the riffs!
October is my favorite month. Weather starts cooling off, the trees change colors, horror movies are on television, and people don’t look at you quite as strangely when you’re wearing metal band t-shirts. It’s been a solid month of riffs across the board. I think there are a couple solid entries on anybody’s end of the year list. We of Heavy Blog have been throwing around that phrase a lot lately, but that doesn’t make it any less true. 4 solid entry, just one 1000 word article. Now that’s a deal you can’t beat.
And you dumb dumbs thought you were safe from me with your doom. “Oh, the thrash guy won’t bother us here!” MWA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA-HA! How wrong you are.
High on Fire – Electric Messiah
Maybe a little outside of doom, but I’ll take some sludge here. And good, sweet, merciful Flying Spaghetti Monster, this record is a damn beast. Matt Pike and crew bring the hammer down with this record. The riffs are gigantic and absolutely blasted at you. Pike definitely shows his Sleep roots on this one, infusing it with the speed and brutality in a way only he can do. Everything on this record is just big. The riffs are big. The bass is big. The drums are deep and big. It just grabs your face and crushes it in a vice like grip.
The trio are incredibly talented at slamming together such a unique blend of references and inspirations on here. Making the sludge all stoner and psychedelic like they can is such a unique strength. No one else can do that. It makes the more aggressive hardcore punk-style songs seem a little spacey while also making the psychedelic stoner sections seem belligerent. Much of it has to do with bringing out Jeff Matz’s bass in the mix. He plays pretty prominently on all of the tracks, serving both as your average metal band’s bassist while also taking on rhythm guitar-style responsibilities of giving the lead guitars a base of operations and keeping him in line. It has just as much to do with the recording of Pike’s vocals with heavy amounts of reverb making it seem far more omnipresent.
Seriously, this record is top of the year. There’s a lot to dig into with the record, but it’s also a ton of fun. High on Fire is the metal fan’s metal band: anything you could like about a metal band, High on Fire does. Honestly, if you don’t like this record, there’s something wrong with you and not the band.
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats – Wasteland
Did you ever wish that 70s Italian horror movies were less cinema and more like a band? Then Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats is what you need. There’s something about their retro production style that harkens back to a more vintage classic rock-style metal. The stoner and psychedelic elements are so easily grasped in their discography, but it’s most apparent on the latest record, Wasteland.
While many metal fans of the “trve kvlt” persuasion might turn their noses up at something like Uncle Acid, there is something incredibly fun about what they do. Everything sounds spooky and occult and gives off a kind of witch rock vibe: somehow both dour and upbeat, embracing the lighter side of metal and the darker side of rock. Their music lives in this uncanny valley-style zone where they sound like a whole lot of things but also don’t really sound like anything you’ve heard before. It is the height of originality. They aren’t doing something just to be different for the sake of it. This is just what they sound like.
King Buffalo – Longing to Be the Mountain
So maybe I’m stepping on Post Rock Post’s toes with including this, but this is the stoner column. IT’S MINE! No, seriously, I love this record. I own it now. There is something very special about desert rock like this. King Buffalo makes it just spacey enough to really sink your teeth into but they don’t get too bogged down so they don’t scare away the n00bz. By not spacing out too much, they allow themselves to taste a little bit of everything. However, it’s all very groovy stuff in just the right amounts.
King Buffalo does what a lot of really spacey psych bands have done before them: soak everything to the bone in reverb and you’ll have yourself a huge record. Everything just sounds gigantic on Longing to Be the Mountain. It all feels like you’re standing in front of a 10-foot wall of Marshall cabinets and letting the music wash over you like an audio shower. It’s completely enveloping in a delightfully heady way.
How this band isn’t the biggest thing out there, I have no idea. While it doesn’t drift too far away from a kind of mainstream and accessible sound, there are post rock bands out there with similar vibes getting a lot of mainstream attention. A lot of this music could easily be used on Planet Earth 3 or some other kind of monumental nature documentary. It’s truly a great record to space out to and think about the deeper thoughts.
Windhand – Eternal Return
Windhand aren’t a band built for rapid change. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find any aspect of the band that doesn’t crawl at a snail’s pace. With each new album, the band has added minute new details to their established sound, moving ever so slowly toward new levels of refinement. 2015’s excellent Grief’s Infernal Flower seemed to me the apex of the sound the band was attempting to achieve. Their fourth full-length effort, Eternal Return, puts those thoughts of the band having reached their peak to rest. It’s filled to the brim with all the fuzz doom-lovers could want and represents the latest slow-motion phase of the band’s deliberate evolution. In short, it’s real good.
While on an emotional level I found more resonant material in Grief’s Infernal Flower, Eternal Return is without question the band’s most adventurous album. Vocalist Dorthia Cottrell has never sounded so enthralling, and this time she’s surrounded by instrumental performances that more than pull their weight. The mix of monstrously heavy riffs and lilting melodies in “Grey Garden” is a fairly representative taste of all this album has to offer, which at an hour-plus runtime is a lot. As is expected in a Windhand record, despite the raucous riff-fest of opener “Halcyon” or the fuzz-filled, Electric Wizard-inspired menace of “First to Die”, Cottrell’s vocal work is the focal point of the songwriting here, and rightfully so. Her voice serves as both anchor and incantation, grounding these tracks in a consistent melodic presence while simultaneously transforming them into pieces of music that far surpass their genre environs. “Pilgrim’s Rest” could belong to a Cat Power or Jamey Johnson record just as readily as a traditional doom one, showcasing Cottrell’s impressive range as well as the band’s willingness to follow where she leads. It’s an impressive outing, front-to-back.
If you were waiting for a seismic sonic shift from Windhand, Eternal Return might disappoint. But those who’ve followed them from the beginning will find an album replete with all the riches that make this band so special in the world of doom and then some. It’s another small step in the evolution of Windhand, and a journey well worth taking.