Stoner metal traverses a very fine line between sludge and doom metal. Pulling influences from both into the syrupy mix that makes it up as a subgenre, modern stoner metal owes just as much to the influential works of Saint Vitus and The Melvins as it does to Sleep. The genre is defined by the single most important characteristic taken from both: The Riff. A simultaneously lofty yet down-to-earth idealism, creating the perfect riff is the driving motivation of stoner metal as a collective. Many bands have tried, and some have gotten incredibly close (Dragonaut comes to mind as the closest any band has ever gotten) but the perfect riff is an elusive beast, indeed, and many bands still seek it.
Now, with their third full-length, Demon Lung are throwing their hand back into the competition to be the first band to find The Riff. Do they find it? Well, no, this certainly isn’t an end to that race, but it must be said that they get damn close. Propelled by incredibly catchy melodies, smart writing, and masterful instrumentation, this new album, A Dracula, has the potential to become a stoner/doom metal classic.
The first element of A Dracula to really catch the listener’s attention is the vocals. Mixing the hazy cough-syrup-tinged drawls of Electric Wizard with a healthy dose of soaring gothic melodies a la Candlemass, they pop out and suck the listener into the album’s smoky and occult atmosphere. One of the best features of the record, the clean vocals bring A Dracula to life and retain the listener’s attention. Standouts like the opening vocal melody to the first track, “Behold, The Daughter” and the verse on “Deny The Savior” illustrate the album’s themes perfectly, twisting their way into the listener’s head to stay (to break into first person for a second: I have not been able to get the opening melody to “Behold, The Daughter” out of my head for the two weeks since I first heard the track. That is how damned catchy it is).
The record soon opens up to reveal the multifaceted nature of the instrumentals, as well: this album may be carried by vocals, but by no means are the guitar riffs and simple-yet-driving drum beats less than excellent. The instrumentals are never overly complex, nor are they too simple. Everything feels perfectly designed to carry the momentum along from riff to riff to riff. And the riffs! The riffs! Every riff on this album is a display of how to create an album that doesn’t sacrifice atmosphere for accessibility; there are no overlong intros or boring moments here that break up the music’s flow. Speaking of flow, that’s another quality this album has in spades. Everything moves perfectly from one moment to the next; like a well-organized group of expeditionaries, it is paced to be constantly on the move, yet never going too fast and losing its bearings, or going too slow and becoming bogged down. A Dracula’s sense of pacing is impeccable because of its well-organized instrumentals that perfectly complement the vocal melodies.
Demon Lung have done incredibly well here. The powerful instruments, complemented by the fantastic vocals, perfectly illustrate what doom metal and stoner metal are capable of. Full of slightly-gothic atmosphere and amazing songwriting, A Dracula is a compelling piece of music through and through. To restate, this album has the potential to be a future classic in the field, based on how well it illustrates and utilizes the various components of the genre. For any fan of slow metal, this is one for the history books.
Demon Lung’s A Draculagets…