Greetings, heaviest of Heavy Bloggers! Welcome to Doomsday, our monthly roundup of all new and noteworthy in the world of doom. There’s no denying it; we are officially in the dog days of summer and, believe it or not, the only way to beat the heat is to fight fire with fire. So leave the black metal at home and get ready to embrace the sticky riffs, thick tones, and suffocating atmosphere perfectly made for hot summer days. We’ve given the full review treatment to several great high-profile releases over the past month (Spaceslug, anyone?), but there are still plenty of other releases that shouldn’t be lost in the blinding sunlight.
Enough chatter! Grab your earplugs (and a frosty beverage); it’s Doomsday.
Bongripper – Terminal
Nobody can ever accuse Bongripper of trend chasing. The long running doom lords have always marched to the beat of their own severely slowed-down drum and – from their twisted kitsch-focused early years to the more sinister, unsettlingly straight-faced output kicked off by their breakout Satan Worshipping Doom – the Chicago-based crew have always been led by an unwavering allegiance to riffs. Punishing, back-breakingly heavy riffs. Riffs that don’t give a damn about traditional song lengths, genre trends, or making you feel better. Bongripper create doom in the purest sense: music that is bleak, foreboding, hypnotic, and heavy enough to conjure Satan himself from the bowels of hell. Terminal, the band’s newest album, more than ably continues that tradition.
More of a single or EP in structure, Terminal is split into two sides: “Slow” and “Death.” Don’t be fooled by the format: even with just two tracks the album’s runtime is well over 40 minutes of grueling instrumental doom. The tracks, unsurprisingly, feel related: two sides of the same drone-filled coin where the structure and riffs don’t exactly mirror each other as much as feel like warped, funhouse-mirror call and response reactions to each other. “Slow” is dominated by a relatively up-tempo slinky, serpentine riff line that weaves in and out of the booming rhythm around it while “Death” features an oh-so-slightly more accessible bright riff that serves as the track’s backbone. The album’s most predominate feature, however, is its percussive nature. Daniel O’Connor has always served as a thunderous kit master for the group, but this time the whole gang gets in on the action. Every instrument seems to be employed as percussion: super high-impact drum and bass tones dominate both tracks and guide the waves of crashing guitar support across the craggy soundscape. Doom regularly strives for heaviness, but few bands can achieve the visceral like Bongripper.
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Tomistoma – Forteana EP
You’ll probably need to clear your head a bit after the oppressively delightful assault of Terminal, so what better time to do a bandcamp dive and see what treasures pop up? With any luck you’ll stumble on Tomistoma, a self-described “reptilian piano-led doom” outfit from the UK. This is truly the stuff that makes blind bandcamp trawls rewarding: confidently bizarre, self-aware but not jokey, and, above all, committed to a unique artistic vision free of any commercial expectation. Charles Fort himself would surely be proud.
Forteana’s template is unique from the start: no guitars of any type appear on the album. Instead, electric pianos and organs do the heavy musical lifting, accompanied by understated percussion and one-man bandleader Cai Brown’s dry, lulling vocal delivery. The three tracks that comprise the EP are jazzy and riff-focused, full of psychedelic and cult-like wandering grooves that fully lean into the organ and keys-led nature of the band. The result is something like doom by way of The B-52s if, instead of devoting themselves to fun loving kitsch, the Athens new wavers slipped down a rabbit hole filled with conspiracy theories and mescaline.
The centerpiece of the EP is “Serpents and Rainbows,” a ten-minute epic anchored by a snake-charming organ line, hypnotic drums, and a sinister tale about a medicinal healer in a remote village that secretly poisons his victims in order to corrupt and enslave their souls in the afterlife. I think. While the narrative details may be fuzzy, the ominously dark carnival atmosphere courtesy of the unique instrumentation and vocal delivery are unmistakable. Most doom bands that employ keys use them to boost the otherwise guitar-led sound or to add some occasional spooky atmosphere during song lulls. Tomistoma turns that paradigm on its head and boldly gives the eighty-eight their long-overdue time in the spotlight, to fascinating and refreshing effect.
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Victus – Sacrifice
Its been barely a month since ASG put out their killer album of stoned summer jams, Survive Sunrise. Consensus opinion around the Heavy Blog office may be mixed, but I genuinely love the album and it has stayed in my personal steady rotation since its release. Those looking to extend the summer jam session will be happy to discover Victus, a relatively young four-piece hailing from the UK who play the same vein of blues-based sunburned stoner grooves that is sure to please fans of Red Fang, Black Tusk, and the aforementioned sunrise survivors.
The result of a band not even two years old, Sacrifice is Victus’s first proper release but it comes with a fully realized sound that pays equal homage to sludge, classic rock, power pop sensibilities, and stoner. The six tracks that comprise the EP have a decidedly “feel good” vibe that keeps the stakes low and the fun quotient high, even when the band peppers in blackened and/or more aggressive elements to their sound. The guitar tone is delightfully sticky, the riffs are seemingly never ending, and the tempo always stays upbeat to ensure the headbanging is accompanied by a smile. Really, this thing is just a lot of fun.
After a table setting intro of ringing riffs and crashing cymbals, the group quickly gets down to business with “Singularity,” a lightning fast, raging traditional-metal soaked anthem that highlights the disparate sonic elements the band successfully corrals together. Quick behind is “The Swarming” a churning sludge number that gives drummer DW a workout in its dual demand for precision and relentless momentum. The second half of the EP is slightly more fleshed out and down-tempo than the first half, but the breathing room allows Victus to show off the more menacing elements the band blends into its southern fried blues grooves.
Summer albums are difficult to pull off in the frostbitten, sometimes overly serious world of metal. As we ease into August and begin to see Autumn threatening on the horizon, it’s exciting to have a slew of 2018 summer releases strong enough to keep us warm all winter long. Count Victus and their excellent Sacrifice EP among that number.
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Coltsblood – Ascending into Shimmering Darkness
Standard operating procedure here at Doomsday™ is to cover the best and brightest of new doom as it is released throughout the year. However, given the insane number of albums that come through the heavy blog mail slot, sometimes even the most devoted (read: overwhelmed) doom shepherd can overlook high quality releases. As such, from time to time I may take the opportunity to highlight some killer releases that, for whatever reason, never got their rightful due within the pages of this column. Exhibit A: Ascending into Shimmering Darkness, the colossus 2017 release from UK’s own Coltsblood.
Not only did I blank on Ascending last year, but Coltsblood have apparently been releasing their blend of high impact, low velocity doom since 2013 while my radar remained woefully ignorant. Thankfully, Black Bow Records recently licensed Ascending for a vinyl release and pushed the band into somewhat greater exposure. After all, when Conan’s Jon Davis calls you “maybe the heaviest band in the UK” people tend to sit up and take notice.
As well they should. Coltsblood deliver a brutal, bloodcurdling strain of doom that combines hulking amp worship, menacing drone, raw lizard-brained aggression, and smatterings of furious, blackened explosions of speed. It makes for a dense and intense final product, one that is best digested over several listens but never taxes listeners beyond reason. John McNulty’s gravelly, ragged vocal delivery perfectly compliments the band’s wretched sound and serves as a grounding force during tracks that regularly extend past the ten-minute threshold. The cherry on top of this sick sundae is the top-notch production. Ascending sounds fantastic, full of gut punch of heaviness courtesy of booming percussion, deep resonate bass, and bright, distinct guitars. An album this deliberately crafted and sonically devastating deserves the production necessary to bring it truly to life, and kudos to Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studio for delivering the goods for Coltsblood.
Don’t let this one slip by you twice. This record is nasty, jam-packed with talent, and capital H Heavy. If, like me, you slept on the 2017 proper release of Ascending into Shimmering Darkness, Black Bow’s vinyl pressing is the perfect opportunity for a corrective. Just don’t say you weren’t warned.
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