Happy new year to you, heaviest of Heavy Bloggers! Time for that fresh start you’ve all been waiting for. New year, new Doomsday! January, much like December, is a weird time for music. Everybody has that refresh period after the holidays to get their heads back together. You will see the occasional huge release in January, and it definitely picks up as the month goes along. But this is the time to find those diamonds in the rough.
So here’s to 2019! Let it be a stoner’s delight of all things doomy, sludgy, and heavy. May all of your riffs be full of bass. May your blues be heavy, your death and black metal be doomy, and your stoner bass rattle your bones. Let’s start off your year in doom right with some top picks.
Wardehns – Now Cometh the Foul
Unfortunately, I missed this December release. I humbly ask for your apologies for missing this ripper of a record. Wardehns have such an epic sludge sound that’s fast-paced and riffy and is borderline thrash. Thankfully, it’s fuzzy and riffy enough that we can talk about it as a great sludge entry here.
What strikes me most about this record, and this band really, is their understanding of harmony. Very rarely do you see bands outside of melodic subgenres who have a good feel for how a harmony can benefit your sound and songwriting. Wardehns don’t let themselves be held back by the notion that they can only be dirty and straightforward. No one is making them just be sludgy and grimy. They’re allowed to have their own take on any sound or quality or songwriting tool.
Listen to “Denim Dogs” for the best idea of what these guys can do. If you thought this was a lost High on Fire track, you wouldn’t be the only one to think that. It has that same driving quality that more aggressive HoF tracks have. They all feel like they’re really going somewhere, even if that means just running away from whatever foul beast is chasing the narrator of any given track. Now Cometh the Foul is a wonderful collection of heathen barbarian sludge tracks that are more than ready to destroy your ear canals.
Mount Saturn – Kiss the Ring
There’s such a negative connotation to the term “space cadet” when you’re not talking about someone who works at NASA. Usually it means someone whose head is in the clouds, and it’s not the greatest descriptor of a coworker or neighbor. In doom metal, being a space cadet can do you a world of good if you’ve got the juice to back it up. Mount Saturn definitely has the chops needed to make you go into orbit with their reverb-drenched heavy psychedelia. Kiss the Ring really establishes their sound.
Imagine a more energetic Windhand and you’ve got Mount Saturn. It’s just good dirty heavy blues without the darker overtones. While there are certainly times where the band can play with gloomier sounds, overall this is a solid album of heavy blues and psychedelia. It’s best listened while in a hazy cloud of…well, your pick, I think. Guitarist Ray Blum definitely has a good feel of what makes a big and fuzzy rock riff, and Violet Vasquez can belt out vocals necessary to match the music. For a band who has only put out a single demo track prior to this EP, this is an incredibly developed sound. Get in on Mount Saturn while they’re young!
Uluru – Acrophilia
Personally, I like a good instrumental album. It’s always good when you can relax your brain a little and not worry about wrapping your mind around lyrical content. You can thank Uluru this month for some really genuinely fun instrumental stoner rock on Acrophilia. These psychedelic stoner rockers bring some wonderfully refreshing and simple music out of Istanbul that will get your head bobbing and feet tapping.
Guitarist Ege Çaldemir has clearly taken a page out of 70s guitar rock. The heavy blues guitar work he produces is just fun stuff. There’s no other words to describe it. How would you describe a wah-filled guitar solo that absolutely demands you air guitar at your desk? Even the simple riff jams are enough to give you a bad case of the low level head banging!
And let’s not skip over Uluru’s rhythm section of bassist Ogulcan Ertürk and drummer Ümit Büyükyüksel. Çaldemir wouldn’t be able to translate his jams without the wonderful bass tracks and slamming cymbals. It just wouldn’t have the same value without it. The sum of Uluru is truly greater than its parts. I’d say this is the best entry of January for some good instrumental stoner rock.
WOORMS – Slake
Did you ever want The Melvins to be a little darker? Then let me introduce you to New Orleans’ WOORMS. The sludgy doom trio put out their first full length release this month and is it ever an interesting listen. They do strongly resemble Melvins, though they do have their own unique voice that’s both comedic and dark. It’s extremely heavy and fuzzy stuff, slamming you face with as much bass and distortion as it can handle. It also has the attitude needed for a sludge band. Playing this record once will make sure you know that WOORMS is a band to look out for.
“Find a Meal, Find a Bed, Find a God” is just such a fun track to my brain. The best way to describe it is pure swagger. The riff moves at a very confident tempo, always trusting it’s in the right and you need to deal with it. It hits consistently hard even as it goes through changes throughout the track. Joey Carbo’s vocals really sell a lot of the song. It’s gruff and aggressive to match the overall feel of the track and the album. I don’t think this record would be as good as it is without that influence or its own weird sense of humor. Get a little sludgy and weird with WOORMS.
Swallow the Sun – When a Shadow Is Forced Into the Light
After a three year break following the release of the epic triple album Songs from the North I, II, & III, Swallow the Sun is back with When a Shadow Is Forced Into the Light. Their particular brand of doom is noted by its melodic qualities and progressive songwriting, often choosing to let their songs breathe and develop. Unlike other doom bands who think that riff repetition qualifies as prolific songwriting, Swallow the Sun doesn’t draw out their song for the sake of it. Every track length is absolutely necessary for the song to reach its emotional denouement.
That’s the one thing we don’t really get to talk about on Doomsday: emotion. Don’t get me wrong here. It’s not like doom metal is devoid of expressions of feeling. Bell Witch is nothing if not an expression of emotion at all times on every track. But overall, deep wellsprings of emotion are rare in doom metal. Every track by Swallow the Sun is a tale of longing and loss and tributes to the night. It might be the very essence of doom as a song dedicated to the loss of a loved one might be the best description of failure and futility.
These tracks are not only gloomy because of their lyrics. The songs are equally sad as a result of the music and songwriting. Everything is a reflection of the lyrics. When the lyrics are discussing some huge issue or evoking imagery of a “sea of stars,” the music gets big and booming. When it’s time for deep reflection, the music has a quiet quality. Theme is clearly important to Swallow the Sky, and it shows. This album requires you to pay attention at all times in order to take it all in. I couldn’t suggest that strongly enough.