Doom metal can sometimes become a catch-all term. Bands just get that label because they don’t clearly fit into something else. If it’s not fast-paced or evil enough, then you can’t give it the death or thrash or black label. But you have to give it something. If it sounds a little too close to a traditional sound, then you’re a doom band. However, sometimes it happens because there’s just nowhere else to put it in the best way possible. It’s on the slower side, but it’s not one of the traditional labels or one of the cores. These records often become some of the more interesting ones to listen to. With that in mind, let’s get real riffy with Asthma Castle.
Asthma Castle is a sludgy and doomy supergroup of sorts. It includes Pig Destroyer and Misery Index drummer Adam Jarvis and Integrity touring guitarist Justin Ethem, along with a few other musicians in the Baltimore, MD area. The sound they make is giant and fuzzy sludge riffs mixed with a few more traditional metal ideas and modern harsh vocals. It’s both a throwback sound and extremely modern at the same time.
Holy damn on a stick, are these riffs gigantic. And there’s no build up to it. It starts immediately with the intro track “The Incline of Western Civilization”. Out of a generic recording of a party comes big but slow drums and a very bluesy sounding big bass riff. Combine that with the guitar intro licks and the dual harmony attack, and that’s all the preparation you get for this band’s big ol’ riffs. They lay everything on pretty thick throughout the record, but there’s an interesting mash up of sounds here that makes this a very unique record.
We should definitely address the elephant in the room here though. While it’s super interesting to hear this band establishing a unique sound, it’s incredibly difficult to describe. To a certain extent, it’s a pretty straightforward modern rock record. The riffs are there, and it’s not so dark that you can just say this is a metal band and nothing else. At the same time, it’s a pretty good metal record in its own right, but there’s something that might keep the “true believers” from embracing Asthma Castle. I don’t mean to criticize the band for not being “trve kvlt” or anything, but it’s best to describe this sound and how borderline it is because it’s integral to understanding this record.
The title track is the perfect track for Asthma Castle. “Mount Crushmore” really lives up to its name with absolutely brutal fuzzed out guitars slamming you with a chugging riff that feels like it’s attacking you. There’s a nice depth to the drums that accentuate the rhythms and riffs in a way to make them even more brutal. This is the perfect example of what this band is capable of. It smashes together a lot of tropes from established sounds on the doomy side of life and uses them in a way to make everything just sound fresh. Hopefully this track is the sign of great things to come.
All in all, this is an incredibly enjoyable record. If you enjoy a little variety in your headphones, Mount Crushmore will keep you thinking. I didn’t think it was possible to infuse a heavy yet traditional sound with metalcore ideas, but these guys do it in a way where it compliments both sides. A lot of different fans are going to dig this record. We could always use a band to help these bases recognize each other and hopefully spawn some new sounds in metal.
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Mount Crushmore is available March 15 via Hellmistress Records.