Greetings unto thee, heaviest of Heavy Bloggers! Hopefully, the majority of you have emerged from your wintry dens of protection and gotten some sun on your bodies. Maybe you even enjoyed that special holiday in April that doom dudes are really into. I’m speaking, of course, about Earth Day. What else could I have been referring to? Certainly not a day that a subgenre of our beloved doom has spawned that refers to April 20th constantly. What even is April 20th? Who knows?!?
After a few months of getting our shit together, 2019 is now spitting out truly great records at a faster clip. More higher profile bands are putting out return records that are truly exciting spins on the record player. A lot of big sounds have graced us this month with all the fuzz and riffs you can possibly stand. Enough of my yappin’. BRING FORTH THE RIFFS.
Druids – Monument
I think we could all use a little extra progressive sludge in our lives, right? That’s a very common phrase we say here on Doomsday, so let’s discuss Druids. The Kansas City-based trio has been concocting some sweet fuzzy tunes since 2008, but Monument sees the group charting new and spacier territory. The EP is 27 minutes of exploration of all things doomy, and it was easily one of the more intriguing releases of April 2019.
This record spans the gamut of what this kind of sound can do. There are tracks with whiplash-inducing riffs of incredible speed and slow progressive explorations of the darker side. All of them make you struggle to stay on top of what’s happening while also being amazed by it all. Explorations into this kind of psychedelia rarely come along so it always makes the top of my list whenever it does.
2 tracks really stand out on Monument. “The Whip” is what you should be expecting on this kind of record. The acrobatic riff combined by the driving pace set by the drums and bass remind one of Mastodon or High on Fire. So it’s really just a very fun track to hear while also being intensely interesting to listen to. At the other end, you have “Mirrors of Trigon”. This track is an exercise in slow and methodical songwriting. The song reminds you that it’s okay to have space in a track. It lets the song breathe and allows everyone in the band to have their moment. My only problem with Monument is that it’s too short. We need more Druids in all of our lives all the time.
Cities of Mars – The Horologist
In a huge error on my part, this record and band caught me completely off guard. Cities of Mars have been putting out some really solid space opera doom since 2016, but I was completely amazed by The Horologist. This is a very spacey and heady record that embodies what it means to be a doom band. The record is very thoughtful and fuzzed out, letting the psychedelia show and really letting the listener get lost in the tracks along the way.
While the riffs and the musicians are all top notch, the songwriting is what is key here. Sometimes these kinds of theme records don’t make music to match the story they’re trying to tell. You don’t have that problem with Cities of Mars. The songs have a good and slow pace that allow you to really digest the emotions and thoughts involved with them. You have time to ruminate on the story while you’re taking it in, and there’s enough space to let the thought and feelings play out in a way that only adds to your experience.
You can really get lost in these tracks, and “Hydrahead” is a perfect example. Sure, it starts off with a the fuzzed out chords and slow but driving drums combined with the dual shouted lyrics. But then a very interesting spacey bridge comes in soaring above the mix. You can almost see the visualizations that should accompany such a cool psychedelic riff with a nice grooving drum backing. The track weaves in between these two concepts and makes for a pretty delightful song. A lot of the record follows a similar journey, and it’s definitely required listening for all the doomy space cadets out there.
Blind Monarch – What Is Imposed Must Be Endured
Nothing can really get the doom flowing in the literal sense of the term than sludgy blackened funeral doom. The plodding nature of funeral doom mixed with a huge fuzzy guitar and the oppressive atmosphere of black metal combines to make you feel as though an inevitable end is near. Blind Monarch certainly made me feel that way with What Is Imposed Must Be Endured. If that album title doesn’t seem oppressive enough, then wait until you click play.
The atmosphere is readily apparent from the moment the record begins on “Suffering Breathes My Name” and the real doom kicks in with the gut punch of loud fuzzy riffs. Gritty blackened vocals just cement the atmosphere further. There’s no escaping whatsoever. It’s truly incredible just how well the band nails the environmental qualities of this sound. What makes this successful is that it does create the kind of atmosphere worth exploring.
“My Mother, My Cradle, My Tomb” is a very interesting track to really look at. The tempo is slower than winter molasses, and the atmosphere kicks you in the face from the first down-tuned chord. Everything about what they’re trying to achieve is in this track. Scratchy distorted lyrics shout about the oppression of all things. Humongous chords pound your ear drums coupled with the drums that further accentuate the pounding. And it’s all delivered at a snail’s pace that makes you feel that there’s no way out other than the end of all things. Funeral doom at its blackened finest.
Inter Arma – Sulphur English
Inter Arma’s Bandcamp biography is pretty accurate. The band really does defy generalization and categorization. It’s a lot easier to describe the band as Inter Arma than as brutally heavy sludgy psych doom with just a smidge of blackened sensibility. Honestly, my fingers just got tired typing that. Regardless, let’s all be super grateful that Inter Arma is back with Sulphur English. The lead up to the record gave us all some high expectations of the record, and the Richmond group did not disappoint.
Much like my inept attempt at categorizing the band, the record takes a whole lot of bits and pieces from everywhere. First, it’s a brutally heavy record. Many of these doom-inspired riffs are an absolute assault on the ears. They hit with a very heavy punch and don’t let up. And thankfully so as these songs are very craftily written. In some ways, they’re as traditionally written as their musical style can allow for. But most of these tracks have some inspired moments of true progressive songwriting that take very interesting turns as they plod on to their conclusion. These songs are true works of art that must be experienced.
What’s so cool is how Inter Arma can constantly take established precedents of doom, turn them on their heads, and still be verifiably doomy. “Citadel” is a great example. The track is a driving sludge-fest that sounds closer to blackened death doom than anything else. They inject a fair amount of psychedelic concepts to keep it strongly rooted in the slow and low, and the twists of the songs keep it all so fresh like you hadn’t heard them do this before. It’s wonderfully entertaining and invoking your inner rage monster. If you haven’t already listened to Sulphur English 12 times this month, ya done screwed up, ya dingus.
Solar Haze – Solar Haze
What I like most about writing Doomsday are all the different kinds of sort of related bands I get to talk about. Having a nice stoner metal band like Solar Haze is fun to talk about because they just make really fun music. Their debut album is a great example of this kind of high energy psychedelic stoner metal everyone needs in their lives.
This record is cool because it could seriously be the soundtrack to Dazed and Confused if they ever tried to remake that (please don’t, Hollywood, no more remakes). There are wonderful moments of both high energy 70s-style rock and spacier psychedelic moments with much slower tempos. It’s a great mix-up from a band making this kind of sound and really doing their best to combine a traditional sort of heavy metal sound with a modern stoner and desert rock mentality. And being able to run that gamut is what is absolutely key to that sound.
I’m personally a sucker for a good intro track, and “Hawk in the Wind” is nothing if not an incredible intro track. It takes absolutely no time for it to go 0 to 60. A pounding beat and driving guitar rhythm tell you to strap in because we’re taking the top off the convertible and cruising down the strip at 100 MPH. Everything about this song screams primal nature of just good stoner rock music. I’m really looking forward to hearing more from these guys. Please tour Denver, Solar Haze!