Greetings Heaviest of Heavy Bloggers! Let me be the last to wish you a Happy New Year and welcome you back to Doomsday, our monthly roundup of the most noteworthy doom-centric releases from the past few weeks that deserve special recognition. As you may have already noticed, 2018 is starting out with a bang and there have been some killer albums already released even this early in the year. Be sure to take the opportunity to check out some of the fantastic records that got the full Heavy Blog review treatment in January. Also, be sure to comment with your favorite doom releases of the month and albums you anticipate for all of 2018. Enough chatter – grab your earplugs, it’s Doomsday!
Hamferð – Támsins Likam
You guys, I’m worried about funeral doom. Even as Doom Metal continues to enjoy a well-deserved resurgence in recognition, appreciation, and fandom, I can’t shake the nagging feeling that funeral doom is getting left behind and is slowly being forgotten by critics and fans alike. I have a few pet theories as to why this is happening, but regardless of the “why,” I’m officially concerned that funeral doom no longer connects to the cultural zeitgeist and is becoming a dying genre. I hope I’m wrong about this; yes, Mirror Reaper, for example, topped many year-end lists of 2017. But for every chart appearance and article of praise the album received, I have just as many anecdotes from well intentioned, open-minded metal fans who just didn’t “have the patience” to make it through the album or, even worse, found it boring. And fair enough, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. Me? I’ve come to praise funeral doom, not to bury it, and 2018 has gifted us with a great first opportunity to sing the praises of a genre I love with Támsins Likam.
Admittedly, the label “funeral doom” is nowhere to be found in the press material for the album or on any of the Hamferð social media pages. But the slow tempos, melancholic tone, gorgeous melodies throughout, and vocal deliveries alternating between gravelling growls and soaring cleans are all straight from the funeral doom playbook. And boy is it affecting. In maintaining a focus on melody and streamlining (almost) all the songs under the 10-minute mark, Hamferð may well have bridged the funeral doom sound closer to the sweet spot of accessibility while compromising none of the emotive, punishing hallmarks of the genre’s traditional sound.
Hailing from the thematically bad-ass Faroe Islands, Hamferð use the isolation and nautically-indebted nature of their homeland to good use throughout Támsins Likam. The songs rock and roll like a literal water vessel: cresting waves, searching for horizons, calling out for shelter. “Fylgisflog” begins the album softly and sweetly: clean picked guitars accompany clean mournful vocals for nearly four minutes before the track crashes in on itself with a thunderous wave of guitars, percussion, and growls. The hypnotic guitar lines on “Tvístevndur meldur” further help create a sense of ocean-bound with waves crashing all around. And vocalist Jón Aldará deserves special recognition, not only for his ability to alternate between nearly operatic cleans and gritty growl, but for the emotional resonance he conveys in his delivery, regardless of the delivery type. Támsins Likam is an album grappling with incredible isolation, loneliness, and grief and Aldará’s vocals are the perfect vehicle for the band to explore those emotions.
It’s always exciting to hear a band deliver some well-written, well-executed doom and even more so when they’re operating within a sonic framework that needs new heroes to keep the tradition alive and well. Hamferð have done both and delivered, to my mind, one of the first great albums of 2018. Támsins Likam is heavy, gorgeous, and absolutely worth every doom fan’s time.
Weedpecker – III
Every time I feel like I can safely seal the stash bag that is my understanding of stoner metal, a band comes along with a fresh perspective that makes me rethink the entire genre. We’re a long way from Jerusalem, folks, and as much as I love amp-blasting, riff-worshiping repetitive stoner doom, it’s a relief that there are bands not content to simply zone out and flex their sustain pedals. Enter Weedpecker, a band that not only wins the “Band Name Most Disparate From The Band’s Sound” award but, more importantly, is a group legitimately challenging and expanding on what the definition of stoner metal can be.
Weedpecker are a Polish four piece specializing in a unique brand of psychedelic stoner metal that emphasizes an airy, atmospheric, progressive sound as opposed to the laden, earth-bound riffing of traditional stoner metal. Everything about the band telegraphs standard riff-heavy weed worship (the group’s logo contains a leaf and their press email is [email protected]) except, importantly, their music. III is an album that deftly blends elements of prog rock, stoner psych, and honest-to-god ramshackle jamming to create an uplifting, transcendently colorful sonic palate that celebrates all things curious, cerebral, and, yes, marijuana.
Album opener “Molecule” sets the breezy, laid back tone of the record perfectly with its bright and clean guitar tones, gently meandering leads, and shimmering layered vocals. When the distortion and groovy sprint kicks in halfway through the track, it’s a genuinely surprising move from the subdued, beauty soaked beginning. That dichotomy between beauty/heaviness is explored across the entire album and while the band tends to favor the glistening glory of the former, the heavier moments of III – the classic rock-tinged jam “From Mars to Mercury” for example – are a refreshing change of pace that keeps the 45-minute runtime from ever feeling too shaggy. And the album’s closing track, “Lazy Boy and the Temple of Wonders” is the most enjoyable and effective channeling of Pink Floyd in a metal context since Black Judd got bored with black metal.
It’s hard to describe a record like III but, luckily, it’s much easier to simply enjoy it. Weedpecker have tossed aside all standard stoner metal conventions and, instead, aimed for something more cerebral, cosmic, and awe-inspiring. This is a gorgeous album full of expansive soundscapes and progressive-minded musicianship that will challenge and reward fans of classic rock, traditional doom, and everything in between.
Geomancer – Khatt Al-Raml
Although Denver is rightly becoming known as the new oasis of doom (and all things metal, really), there’s still plenty of noteworthy talent hailing from across the pond. The UK has always been fertile ground for doom’s development and the region has consistently produced incredible music, from elder statesmen like Electric Wizard and Cathedral to present day masters like Conan and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. Happily, 2018 promises no interruption in that tradition and one need to look no further than Geomancer to realize that the British doom scene remains as strong as ever.
A thunderous three piece based in northern England, Geomancer self-released their debut full length this month. Khatt Al-Raml is a hammering collection of riff-heavy doom that gracefully blends head-nodding stoner metal, spacey post-metal atmospherics, and oppressive, hypnotic rhythmic passages to create a sound that is undeniably reverent to doom’s fundamentals while simultaneously seeking to stretch into something unique and forward-looking as well.
Khatt Al-Raml is comprised of four proper tracks (all exceeding ten minutes), broken up by “Visions,” an interlude track of sorts that serves as an airy breather amidst the chaos. The remaining tracks are all variations on the same theme: swollen riffs, horrifically guttural vocals, and a thick, sludgy overall sound that belies the slim three-piece nature of the band. Anybody entranced by the spacy guitar-led crunch of Bongripper or anxiously awaiting the full-length debut proper of Denver’s Green Druid will find plenty to love here. But while there’s plenty of room for comparison in Geomancer’s sound, they have a signature approach that keeps them from getting lost in the (strongly populated) doom shuffle. As may be evidenced by the album’s name, Geomancer emphasize Eastern influences in their aesthetic and sound and, although the Eastern preoccupation may not be nearly as noticeable compared to a band like Nile, it’s a refreshing and fairly unique approach to the doom sound. Further, tons of post-metal atmospherics populate the album’s 50-minute runtime and, perhaps most interestingly, Geomancer frequently engage with doom’s traditional arch-nemesis: tempo. Deep into both “Geomancer” and “Grief,” the band suddenly erupts into a startling full-speed gallop that whiplash glazed-over listeners back into full attention and refocus the respective tracks into their colossal finales. It’s precisely this willingness to tinker with their sound and add unexpected ingredients into an already thick, satisfying doom stew that makes Khatt Al-Raml both immediately rewarding and also an album that continues to unfold and reward repeat listens.
In the nascent but already-exciting collection of 2018 doom releases, Geomancer have just confidently asserted themselves into the collective consciousness of metal heads everywhere. Khatt Al-Raml has the goods to stick around for the long haul and, personally, I wouldn’t be surprised to see this thing stick around all year to land on some best-of lists. We’re a long way from there, though. Until then, it’s plenty fun enough to crank the volume on this record and welcome Geomancer to the riff-heavy doom fold.
Druid Lord – Grotesque Offerings
It’s a pretty shallow critique of the metal community to say that there’s a joyless self-seriousness that infects metal bands and musicians. And, fair enough, a lot of metal bands don’t proactively combat that stereotype: from standard metal tough guy promo photos to lyrical content often preoccupied with the dark and violent, there isn’t always a ton of obvious levity to point out in the metal world. Just ask Dane Cross about metal’s self-imposed humorlessness. And yet, even as that critique has the slight sting of truth, it thankfully falls apart with even a slight bit of digging. Exhibit A: Druid Lord are here to have their cake and eat it too, delivering seriously grimy tunes infected with fun, humor, and enough pop-culture horror worship to fill a midnight movie marathon.
Grotesque Offerings is the group’s second full length and is nearly a full hour stacked top to bottom with dense, crunchy death doom, horror movie references, creepy audio samples, and a general b-movie atmosphere that perfectly straddles the demented funhouse combination of scary and fun. In an alternate universe where, instead of playing increasingly safe, quasi-commercial hard rock, White Zombie actually buckled down on their musical chops and released an album full of oppressively heavy doom, it’s not hard to imagine it sounding like Grotesque Offerings.
Album opener “House of Dripping Gore” sets the template for the entire album: haunting pipe organ intro, thick, double-bass backed riffing, howling lead guitars layered on top of it all, and Tony Blakk’s demonic vocals growling about rotting bodies, decapitated heads, and all other such horror movie fodder. It’s a potent combination and the band employs enough compositional diversity to keep things plenty engaging across the album’s 10 tracks. Tempos screech to glacial-doom stops and just as abruptly erupt into trashy sprints, eerie samples flicker in and out, and dual lead guitars wind together playfully, all in service of a greater cinematic atmosphere. And with kickass song titles like “Murderous Mr. Hyde” and “Evil That Haunts This Ground,” Grotesque Offerings may be the greatest horror soundtrack in search of a movie ever recorded.
As we Heavy Bloggers have noted before, we’re living in a golden age of death doom. Potentially to a fault, there’s a ton of top tier (and not so top tier) doom bands right now shaking up their tempos and riffage to bridge the gap into death metal. And while I’m a big supporter of the trend, it can be hard to separate the wheat from the chaff. Luckily, Druid Lord make easy work of it by putting a fresh – and, gasp, fun – blood-soaked sheen on the genre’s sound. It’s easy to recommend this one, folks. If you like horror, camp, gore, doom, death, or any combination thereof, check out Druid Lord and Grotesque Offerings.