It’s that time once again, O Heaviest of all Bloggers. Spring turning slowly into summer is such an odd time of year for metal, I think. Everyone else in the world is looking to get their beach bodies ready as the sun comes out more frequently and people get more active outside. Meanwhile, the doom fans wish to stay in the dark and brood over the end to the seasons of death and decay. Life is returning to the world, but let’s fight that feeling with the Slowest and the Lowest!
This was a heck of a month for our preferred subgenre. I’d argue there are two albums this month that everyone will be calling back to at the end of the year. One band making another incredible record as consistently as they do. Another band still on the up-and-up put together one hell of an album that I personally listened to about 10 times just to write my review. We’ve got albums from all kinds of different areas, so let’s get to those heckin’ riffs!
Spirit Adrift – Divided By Darkness
Traditional doom continues chugging along this month with Spirit Adrift. Unlike a lot of the traditional sounding doom bands out there these days, Spirit Adrift takes a decidedly darker turn with their music that ends up sounding both high energy and also quite gloomy. In the best sense of the term, it completely lives up to the term “doom”. It’s as though an unstoppable force is moving in on you, and your conclusion is completely inevitable.
What makes this record to me is just how consistent it is throughout. The sound doesn’t change so markedly that you double take or anything on it. Each track flows into the next in a way that just makes sense. The songwriting is strong throughout, making nods to the past while also forging their own future. Many of the traditional moves are here, like strong clean vocals and the twin guitar attacks, but they aren’t relied upon so heavily that the album seems gimmicky. Even without the nods to tradition, Divided By Darkness stands on its own.
Not only is it heavy on the metal, it’s also an emotionally heavy record. It’s pretty clear that some demons were being exorcised here, but they manifest in ways you have to dig deep to see. It can seem like a great epic doom song about great battles of time, but they can easily be reinterpreted for something of a more personal significance. That’s what makes this record so brilliant. It’s both deeply fulfilling for the average doom fan, but it’s also spiritually satisfying to relate to. If you haven’t yet listened to this record, you screwed up. How dare you?
Dreadnought – Emergence
Have you ever heard a song that made you angry at how brilliant it was? I get that a lot with classical music, but I also got it with the latest from Dreadnought. As an amateur guitar player and songwriter, I try really hard to put songs together in some meaningful way that absolutely pales in comparison to everything the band has produced. It’s not enough that the band’s releases started great and got progressively better. They had to put out ANOTHER best of the year candidate in Emergence. Makes you just want to give up on music because how could you possibly make something better?
Seriously, this band has to be the most hardworking and talented songwriters in metal right now. Their albums are more than just a collection of songs. They are pieces of art as a whole. Emergence is no different. The incredible song environments they create are nothing short of breathtaking brilliance. It’s more than collections of riffs and lyrics interrupted by guitar solos. Each of these tracks is a series of emotions and ideas layered together to relate feelings and thoughts. Obviously that’s what a song is, but just calling them songs wouldn’t entirely incapsulate what Dreadnought has done on Emergence.
It would be wrong to identify a single track on this record as a highlight. Each song is a true masterpiece of progressive doom. They are all encompassing and ignore genre conformity. Any influence to Dreadnought is a good one and has something to offer, and you can hear all kinds of sounds coming from each track. The band almost entirely defies labels of their own. They’re a great band that words can do no justice for. Just get your best headphones, plug into this record, and consume it entirely.
Thermate – Redshift City
While we all love bands that forge their own paths and create brand new sounds, we also love established styles that we can get back to like putting on an old t-shirt. Thermate is one of the best 70s-style stoner metal bands out there right now. They make some very slinky and sexy riff rock that I defy you to not involuntarily bob your head to. Their latest record, Redshift City, is a reminder that just because a style is established doesn’t mean it should go ignored.
I think what makes this sound so great is just how simple it is. Normally, calling something “simple” would be fairly offensive, but I truly believe there can be great beauty in simplicity. You don’t always need a lot of moving parts in order to be great. In fact, the fewer parts can usually grant great elegance onto anything you’re doing. There is a great benefit to Thermate being this way. Songs transition from section to section like water. It’s a very consistently fluid record that just makes a lot of sense.
There’s also absolutely no pretentiousness to it. It completely owns the swaggering sound and never apologizes for it. These Fins are just making music that’s big and fun. You can almost see this music as the introduction to the wisecracking hero in the next big blockbuster action movie. There’s a sultriness to it that is undeniable and wholly improves the sound altogether. Do you miss big 70s riff rock bands? You should check out Thermate.
Irata – Tower
While Thermate may represent an older sound for 2019, Iratarepresents the future of straight stoner metal. Tower is in line with a lot of recent stoner releases. It’s more about the twisting nature of post-metal releases. That style of songwriting combined with mammoth-sized riffs creates both bombastic tracks with lots of energy and spacey voyages of head-bobbing with modern stylings and sounds. It’s really the best of all worlds when it comes to this kind of songwriting, and nobody is doing it better than Irata.
Tower is an exercise in sensory overload. Whatever you like in a record, Irata gives you in spades on their latest release. The riffs are big and fuzzy and constantly moving. Even the slower tracks feel like they’re in a hurry to show you all the fun stuff they have. While all those riffs are fun, the vocals are pretty great, too. Stoner metal works best with clear vocals, and Irata brings that with great clean vocals with lots of psychedelic imagery. It’s a ton of fun to hear and imagine.
The production quality on this record adds to the entire show, and it makes a lot of sense that guitarist Ben McLeod from All Them Witches produced this record. There’s a lot of heavy psychedelia on Tower, and McLeod is the right person to help bring that sound out of the band. The sound is all-encompassing on this side of stoner sounds, and the reverb layered over the entire record gives it the size it needs to really show off what they can do. If you want a record to immerse yourself in, Tower is your option of the month.
October Tide – In Splendor Below
Even the most ardent death metal fan would tell you that summer is a weird time for metal music. It just seems so anti-thematic. Death-doom is of particular note here. So really you should be very impressed to see Sweden’s October Tide here with their latest release, In Splendor Below. This latest release sees the once-side project band really spread their wings and develop an even more wholly unique sound, and it is such a pleasure to hear this from the darker side of the doom crowd.
For those of you unfamiliar with them, October Tide began as a side project for members of Katatonia in 1995 by vocalist Jonas Renkse and then-guitarist Fred Norrman. The band released 2 albums in the late 90s then disbanded until Norrman amicably left Katatonia and reformed October Tide. They started out making death-doom closer to a funeral doom kind of sound and kept that trend into releases from 2010-2016. With In Splendor Below, that sound has expanded beyond the plodding pace of funeral doom into something more akin to gloomier melodeath in the traditional Swedish way. It’s a wonderfully refreshing sound that puts a new spin on the tradition and takes the entire genre in a new direction.
This latest record from October Tide does not disappoint. It’s got some serious tunes you can really sink your teeth into. They really lean into those parts of doom where you can get a little more aggressive and still seem very gloomy. It’s just a really lovely and satisfying feeling to lean into the more energetic side of doom metal and get really riffy with it. The melodic parts of Swedish metal also lend themselves really well to doom where songs often have an epic tone to them but not always the music to match. October Tide certainly doesn’t have that problem, and In Splendor Below is the proof. Death-doom records like this don’t come around often so you’ve got to strike while the iron’s hot. Surround yourself in the dark extravagance that is October Tide.