Many good tidings unto thee, heaviest of all bloggers! It is that most blessed occasion of the month where we discuss the best of our favorite genre, and a fun thought occurred to me. In previous columns, I have discussed how winter is the best time for listening to doom. It makes a lot of sense, I think. After all, many of us get stuck indoors on frigid snowy days, and it isn’t uncommon to lose electricity during such a day. What better way to burn the hours away than consuming the slow and low? However, I recently got back from a wonderful road trip to several of America’s most beautiful national parks, and I believe a summer road trip is the actual best way to listen to doom.
From my personal perspective, I was driving through the open plains of Wyoming and the rolling farmland hills of Montana. While there were many beautiful and awe-inspiring sights on the grand journey, even the most patriotic of Wyomingites and Montanans would have to admit there are some rather long drives without much to look at. Seems like the perfect opportunity to listen to a single hour-long track and contemplate the insignificance of the majority of existence. (So there were some really fun times on the drive for my girlfriend, clearly) Despite that depressing thought, it did help me dig up some really choice records for the month. To the riffs!
Flesh of the Stars – Mercy
If you’ve ever wondered what a terrible doom band sounds like, it’s pretty easy to identify. They write long songs for the sake of it. Not the case for Flesh of the Stars. Longer tracks are required to get all their ideas across, and the band has a lot of ideas to get across on Mercy. The group weaves an interesting tapestry of heady doom that combines progressive and atmospheric elements into an extremely interesting and satisfying intellectual exercise of a record.
The sprawling epic “Mercy” is the exemplar of this band. Psychedelic stylings on the instruments lets you know this isn’t your typical doom record. They have their own unique voicing they want to show you. You don’t realize how epic the track is until you’re about halfway through it. It’s not just the length that makes it so incredible. There’s a focus on musical drama and making sure you feel the highs and lows just as much as you hear them.
This style isn’t just limited to 22-minute tracks. It’s spread throughout the record. Each song has this kind of progressive songwriting that works really well for the doom side of life. The songwriting is equally compelling for its grasp of melody. It touches on the intellectual and base parts of your brain so that you can appreciate the complexity of the record while also tapping your foot and singing along. This incredible combination makes this a record not to miss this year.
Faerie Ring – The Clearing
Along with road trip soundtracks, summer is also a perfect doom season specifically for big and fuzzy stoner doom. Blessed be Indiana’s Faerie Ring for their first LP release, The Clearing. This is the spaced-out heavy psychedelia you need in the summer. You have to keep the love of metal alive in the season of life. What better way to do that than with an amazing record of stoner delights? No better way, that’s how. The Clearing may be the perfect example of what a record like this is supposed to do.
What makes this record so impressive is the size of it. There is a real depth to what Faerie Ring does such that every ringing chord and riff sounds like it’s at the bottom of a great chasm. The sheer volume of what they do makes everything huge, but nothing is bigger than a big riff played with a lot of reverb. The vocals make the tracks feel like they’re coming from a voice on high. The sky and earth rattle with the stoner riffs of Faerie Ring, making this an impressive debut and building out expectations for what Faerie Ring is capable of.
Just listen to “Lost Wind”. The track touches on a little of everything the band can do and where stoner metal records should go. A nice slow riff combined with atmospheric sounds eases you into the track before slamming you with a HUGE riff. Vocals come in from on high, and if your mind isn’t already focused on an old school audio visualizer by now then I’m not sure how much I can help you here. Big slow chords then go into an excellent groovy bridge that requires a solid head bob. The whole record is littered with this kind of excellent songwriting, and I’m looking forward to hearing even more from Faerie Ring.
This Gift Is A Curse – A Throne of Ash
Few things go better together than black and sludge metal. There’s an oppressive atmosphere each one can create that few others can, and combining the two makes for a pretty unique experience in sensory overload. A Throne of Ash from Sweden’s This Gift Is A Curse really burns down the house in June 2019 (if you’ll pardon the pun). Their latest record is an incredible work of organized chaos that smashes blackened elements with sludge riffing.
Each track is absolutely pummeling on A Throne of Ash. The riffs just attack and attack and don’t let up. It is just a constant barrage of pummeling riffs and drums accented by the harshest vocals ever featured on Doomsday, I believe. It combines to create this completely consuming atmosphere that seems delightfully overwhelming. I am personally truly impressed by how the attitude and energy can be cranked up so high for such a great amount of time.
The band has a mastery of atmosphere, so look no further than “Wolvking” for what they can do. Atmospheric soundscape with minimal drums introduces you to the complete and utter mayhem of the first verse. It’s jarring on a number of levels, but it’s incredibly unique for its approach to the sound. The track continues as the rest of the album does in an aggressive exercise in sensory overload. You need to hear it to truly understand the chaos. Be prepared to bend the knee at their throne.
Eternal Black – Slow Burn Suicide
I’ll be honest with you guys: I’m not really sure what to write here about Eternal Black’s newest record, Slow Burn Suicide. The best thing I can think of is that it kicks so much ass that the band should be in a jail cell for assault. Just as the band describes themselves, they are strongly versed in traditional doom and shower you with it. It is an incredible combination of bluesy riffs played slow through heavily fuzzed out amps. If you’re reading this column, then you’re gonna like what you hear no matter the reason you tuned in.
Eternal Black absolutely nails the hallmarks of the traditional doom sound and let it mature in a modern setting. It’s exceptionally riffy stuff that really draws our attention away from everything you’re doing. It’s got more good hooks than a Bass Pro Shop. And while the riffs may come straight out of a 70s black light poster, it presents in a way that feels altogether modern. The guitars are completely crushing. The bass gives everything a good bottom layer to grow off. And the drums are slowly driving the car along with excellent little grooves. In some ways, it’s a very soulful record. There’s something about it that just touches something in your brain and keeps you grooving right along.
“The Ghost” is Eternal Black in all its glory. A fuzzed-out riff kicks the whole thing off when a matching bass riff comes in along with a loud but spacious drum line. There is a certain amount of reserve shown by each musician. Ken Wohlrob’s guitars are drenched in distortion certainly. But it’s not about constantly attacking you with as many notes as possible. Joe Wood’s drums give you enough to keep the song moving along but not so much that you’re trying to hear the rest of the track around him. Hal Miller’s bass is an excellent rhythm machine for Wohlrob to build off of without trying to explode your ear drums. It’s a fun record that has a lot of legs to it.
Slomatics – Canyons
Sometimes, you just need it big and heavy. You don’t need all those extra frills. You just need something heavy and you need to feel responsible for the noise violations. For those of you who fit that description, you need Slomatics and their new record, Canyons. The stoner doom of the day is fuzz worship at its finest. Big and slow fuzzed riffs complimented by spacious drums and deep, rumbling bass is exactly what you’d want when you pick up a record like this. And by the Flying Spaghetti Monster does it come in droves on Canyons.
This record is like a stoner trip to space. It’s very heavy on the psychedelic elements and drowns in the echo and reverb like they recorded the thing in a cave. It really helps that they are weaving incredible science fiction tales. It’s a stoner metal paradise of droning riffs and extended songs of space travel and aliens. In many ways, they are strongly reminiscent of Conan. While they don’t have the same kind of energy, they do produce the same amount of sheer volume. It makes a lot of sense why Slomatics recorded a split with Conan now.
“Gears of Despair” is a brilliant example of what this record is. It’s heavy riffs played really slow with a lot of echo. The track reminds me of older stoner metal records, Sleep in particular. It’s a droning fuzz chord repeated on itself over and over again, but it makes a lot of sense for what they’re doing. It’s more about the story they’re trying to tell. If the record is telling the story of a space travel, the music is incredibly thematic. This is just the intro track. If this sounds like it’s up your alley, you’ve got 7 more tracks to work with. Have fun!