Hello heaviest of Heavy Bloggers! Welcome back to Doomsday, our monthly roundup of All the Doom that’s Fit to Print.™ October is a special time of year, particularly in America: the weather is turning colder and gloomier, horror movies show up in earnest in theaters and cable networks across the country, and the general anticipation of Halloween fills the air. October 2017 was particularly special for doom heads as both Bell Witch and Primitive Man unleashed career-defining tours de force upon the world. But wait, there’s more! Lots more! Grab your earplugs, it’s Doomsday.
Slomatics – Futurians: Live at Roadburn
Live albums are a tricky proposition. Particularly for metal bands of the extra-heavy variety, the challenge of harnessing all the power and low-end weight of a studio sound and successfully transposing it to a live setting can prove near impossible. That challenge would seem to only increase when the band is a “mere” three-piece and can’t rely on multi-instrument layering to thicken the on-stage sound. As such, it’s really a feat worth recognizing that Slomatics have managed to jump these inherent hurdles to produce one of the best live records in recent memory with Futurians: Live at Roadburn.
For those uninitiated, Slomatics are a three-pronged monster behemoth from Belfast who traffic in slow, thudding, fuzzy doom. Their 2016 full length Future Echo Returns is a modern riff masterpiece and absolutely mandatory listening for any fans of hypnotic, mountainous doom in the vein of Conan, Monolord, and Cities of Mars. And although it would be perfectly reasonable for the band to lean heavily on that record in the live setting, Live at Roadburn samples liberally from the bands extended catalogue, including EPs and split releases recent fans may have not sampled yet. This turns out to be a wise choice, allowing the band to flex their discography’s full muscle while simultaneously giving fans a reason to further explore the band’s past output.
Slomatics sound fantastic on Futurians and it’s a real treat to hear the tracks in the live setting, slightly more energetic and rough around the edges than on record. Even accounting for the live environment, the mix is surprisingly heavy and the low end does more than carry the weight in guiding listeners to the same path of mesmerizing transcendence the band regularly achieves in the studio. It’s also worth recognizing the band’s compositional restraint: although they traffic in repetition-heavy trance doom, Slomatics never let the tracks slip into boring, redundancy-for-its-own-sake territory. By keeping their songs in the (relatively) trim 5-7 minute territory, Slomatics find their own doom sweet spot: plenty of time to crush with massively catchy riffs, let the rhythm section marinade a bit, then get out quickly and move to the next neck-crusher. Particularly in a live setting, the premium on sonic immediacy over length can go a long way to keep a set from crushing under its own weight.
Live metal albums are something of a rarity and good live metal albums are nearly in mythic unicorn territory. That makes Futurians: Live at Roadburn particularly special as it’s just as heavy, entertaining, and worthwhile as any Slomatics studio album. And that’s a lot. If you didn’t previously know these guys, this is as good a sampler as any to get you familiar with one of the best doom bands currently active.
Antarktis – Ildlaante
One of the more beautiful aspects of metal music is how heterogeneous it is. For all the (worthwhile) handwringing about preoccupations with “purity” and the inherent problems that can and have resulted from the more intolerant corners of metal, the undeniable fact is that – musically speaking at least – metal is more diverse and disparate than ever. Rigid genre divisions seem quaint and antiquated in today’s metal landscape that houses descriptions like “folk black” and “cyber grind” without a whiff of controversy. Genre bending and blending is a positive and necessary reality for any type of music looking to progress forward and remain relevant. Doom is certainly no exception and it’s exciting to hear the myriad of sounds converging together on Antarktis’s full length debut, Ildlaante.
Hailing from the great Nordic doom goldmine of Sweden, Antarktis was originally conceived as a side project of sorts from In Mourning members Björn Pettersson and Tobias Netzell who, apparently, were looking to expand beyond the palate of their original band into something a bit slower, groovier and also a bit more anthemic. Antarktis certainly gives them room to stretch their legs: Ildlaante is an album that may be indebted to doom but is in no way shackled to it. Indeed, the most prominent characteristics of the record include cascading post-metal passages mixed with more muscular traditional/extreme metal. The songs lumber with the deliberate pace of sludgy doom but build to beautiful and emotionally intense climaxes that share much more DNA with Satanist-era Behemoth than any hazy stoner doom.
Album highlight “Svalbard” display’s the groups various powers best: aggressive and sludgy verses, throaty screams, and a generally front-loaded, brawny first-half performance gives way to a more contemplative instrumental passage, complete with slinky lead guitars and restless drum fills. All of it explodes around the five-minute mark into a visceral and soaring soundscape that can stand toe-to-toe with any post passage in recent memory.
The record delivers six tracks of visceral post/doom/extreme/whatever-the-hell-you-want-to-call-it-just-call-it-good metal, well produced and delivered with palpable conviction. It may not fit squarely into traditional “doom,” but that’s a good thing. Whatever your metal leanings, give this a shot – it’s got something for everybody.
Neither God Nor Master – EP1
Ah, where would we be without bandcamp? Most likely, not listening to badass anarcho-occult doom. At least not in the form of Neither God Nor Master’s moody debut EP. NGNM (from here on out) hail from New York and, as far as I can gather, are just getting their lo-fi, riff-heavy cauldron warmed up as a cohesive unit. They released EP1 this month, a mere few days after the band itself sprung up online on, appropriately enough, Friday the 13th.
There’s not a ton here to wet the whistle, but the two tracks served up on EP1 act as a satisfying appetizer for what is hopefully more to come from the band. Both songs traffic in the same slow-paced, lurching doom taken directly from the Black Sabbath playbook, but each track offers a different possibility for how NGNM may expand upon the tried and true sound. “The Weedeologue” is the longer of the two tracks and allows the band to test the boundaries of their sound, ride the riffs, and, importantly, gives vocalist Valerie Russo a chance to show off her impressive pipes. Her voice moans and meanders in a beautiful way and serves as a muse of sorts for the instrumentation as the vocal melody and guitar lines react to each other in a playful, nearly call-and-response relationship. “Who Placates the Fire” is the more direct and immediately groovy of the two tracks, the thudding rhythm commanding heads to nod as guitar leads squirrel in and out and, again, the cascading vocals ride directly to the top and beckon listeners’ attention like so many siren songs. And that gnarly solo that kicks in around the three-minute mark ain’t too shabby either.
With a name taken directly from socialist/anarchist/political literature and theory, it’s safe to say that Neither God Nor Master are hoping to bring more than just groovy riffs to the metal conversation. Regardless of how overt their future political messaging will be (hopefully very), I’m excited to watch the band develop and eagerly anticipate more music. This is your chance to get in on the bottom floor, folks: if Windhand, Acid King, or good ol’ Sabbath frequent your playlists, this is required listening.
Green Druid – Ashen Blood
Seriously, what in the hell is going on in Colorado? There’s a ridiculous amount of upper-echelon metal coming out of the Centennial State and the relatively recent legalization of marijuana seems like a lazy and, at best, incomplete explanation for the mountains of gold being exported from the area. Doom seems to be the crown jewel of the state’s metal monarchy with the likes of Khemmis, Dreadnought, Primitive Man, Spectral Voice, and In the Company of Serpents all hailing from the state and that is truly just a few among many.
Officially add to that list (and pretty damn close to the top) Green Druid, the mile-high doom juggernauts who aren’t exactly newcomers to Colorado’s doom scene but are the area’s most recent recipients of well-deserved praise and recognition via a world-wide record deal with Earache Records. Green Druid announced the deal this month and Earache plans to rerelease the band’s previous two albums – EP (2015) and this year’s Ashen Blood – as a joint album, complete with a double LP vinyl pressing. Green Druid are big-time staff favorites over at the ol’ Heavy Blog HQ and it’s exciting to see a major label like Earache give the group a justified opportunity for greater exposure and the opportunity to record music with the production budget a major label signee can presumably expect.
Musically, Green Druid traffic in tried-and-true longform, fuzzy, headbanging doom steeped in hypnotic riffs, lumbering tempos, and colossal guitar tones that belie some serious amp worship. Fans of Bongripper and Sleep will immediately feel at home in the Druid’s embrace and while the band’s blueprint may not be the most innovative thing to ever emerge from doom, the songwriting and general sonic execution are absolutely top notch. Far cry from simply being a carbon copy or retread of previous bands, Ashen Blood is infused with a sense of exhilaration, the product of a band with a deep and profound love of slow ‘n low doom and the talent to explore and carve their own path through the genre’s sound.
The album isn’t set for release until 2018 but the news is too exciting not to mention here. I’m sure there will be plenty of chatter leading up to and beyond Ashen Blood’s proper release, but you heard it here first: Green Druid are the real deal and any fan of doom owes it to themselves to get very familiar with the group.