Though album covers may not mean as much in the digital age, there’s something to be said about a band taking the time to package their music with a conceptual, well-crafted piece of art. For me, there are few better examples of this than Earth‘s The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull; seriously, if you haven’t seen it before, take a gander right now. Arik Roper‘s gorgeous painting perfectly captures the Bible verse from which the album title is derived: “Behold, there was a swarm of bees and honey in the carcase of the lion” (Judges 14:8). The execution of this concept in the cover art enhances the transportive nature of Earth’s music; every time I spin my vinyl copy and look over Roper’s painting, it further emboldens my vision of Dylan Carlson‘s guitar licks echoing over a deserted plain while the decay of carcasses gives way to the bustling life of honeybees under a searing sun.
As you can tell, I’m a huge fan of the album, which is why Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree piqued my interest from the moment I came across their Bandcamp page. Much of what first drew me to Earth’s masterpiece is present on BMHVT’s debut Medicine: an alluring cover, unique title and promises of an expansive, mesmerizing take on doom metal. It’s this last point that sweetened the deal like hemp-infused honey candy, and if you’re at all a fan of all things sludge and doom, you’d be wise to succumb to what this psychedelic dose of Medicine has to offer.
The dusty, resonant arpeggios opening “Every Night I Walk the Same Trail of Thought” confirm BMHVT’s heavy influence from Earth. But while the spirit of Earth’s savanna blues permeates throughout Medicine, the record makes prominent strides in adjacent directions, taking transcendental, post-rock notes from My Brother the Wind and paying doomed, sludgy homage to the likes of Sleep and The Melvins. The result is a quintet of tracks that feels just as comfortable floating like a stray feather in the breeze as it does brewing bee vomit in a rotting feline. “Burn the Sun” accomplishes this superbly with the way the band builds a rumbling riff underneath blissful, effect-laden guitar riffing, until they finally erupt into a trudging riff that hearkens back to a jam session during a Red Album-era Baroness rehearsal. The title track amplifies this formula even further before two-part album closer “Sail Away” maximizes everything the band established up to that point.
Considering everything I just typed, you should’ve already been convinced enough to press play and experience what BMHVT has to offer. Medicine would be impressive as a second or third installment in a seasoned band’s discography, let alone as a debut record from a band that clearly has even more invigorating ideas still on the horizon. Pallbearer may deservedly retain their crown as doom metal’s dominating force this year, but don’t let Heartless and the general flood of exceptional metal releases wash out what could easily become a personal favorite for fans of the genre. Anyone craving a fresh blend of blues’ derivative genres won’t need a spoonful of honey to help the Medicine go down.