A distant bellowing greeting to you all, Heaviest of Bloggers! As we bring summer to an end, we’re in that long and miserable stretch of the dog days where you think autumn is just around the corner. Much like a funeral doom track, it just seems to stretch out further and further to the point where you never quite know if it will even end. Sure, you want to bust out your pumpkin spice sweater collection, but you’re also still going to baseball games and spending afternoons by the pool. Days seems to be getting hotter and more oppressive at the point where you think they should be doing the opposite. August is kind of the worst month, and I get to say that because my birthday is in August.
But don’t despair! I have brought unto you the best of the best doom this month. Just a few little numbers to keep your spirits high and your tunings low. Since we’re entering the time where doom metal seems more appropriate seasonally, this is the month where we’re going to be revisiting releases come December in a more “deep cut” kind of way. And boy howdy, do I have some serious riffs for you this month. To the jams!
Mary & the Highwalkers – Hounds
What better way to start off Doomsday this month than with some absolutely filthy sludge? I submit there is none, so I want to thank Mary & the Highwalkers for giving me the opportunity to do so with their second full-length, Hounds. This is just some dense and heavy sludge with little tastes of black here and there. It’s dark and brooding while also actively plotting your demise via Scanners-style head explosion from the sound waves in their riffs. It’s a very satisfying sound for a lot of Doomsday readers.
In some ways, Mary & the Highwalkers make some pretty straightforward stuff. Overall, their sound is pretty accessible if you like the darker and dirtier side of metal. Lots of good simple sludge riffs accentuated by deep and heavy bass and crashing drums. Anyone reading this column now could easily appreciate what the band does. However, it gets more interesting when they play a little looser with things and experiment in blacker sounds. They combine really well with this kind of sound.
What really caps this all off are the vocals from Rodya. Her personal style adds some great effect to the music. It can serve as both a great contrast to the aggressive form and an accentuating addition. Her singing voice is very reminiscent of Windhand and can serve as the melodic difference to big power chords of verse sections. However, it gets really interesting when she strains her voice a bit or goes into the blood-curdling screeches. Sludge is not an area where we hear a lot of female influence, and I found it to be a most welcome change. It really does add a new dimension to their music. I think you’ll agree.
Book of Wyrms – Remythologizer
Dang, y’all. Is there anything Richmond, VA can’t do? They’re giving us tons of great thrash and crossover bands, and now I think they might be moving into doom territory with Book of Wyrms. The band combines the best of psychedelic rock and doom metal to produce these fantastic adventure into the spacey parts of metal where the borders between sound are so murky that it’s difficult to fully encapsulate what Book of Wyrms is and isn’t. But honestly, who cares? We have Remythologizer, and we should be extremely thankful for that.
In Eden’s review of the record, he referred to experiencing Book of Wyrms to “hallucinatory fantasy”. I couldn’t possibly agree more or come up with a better term to describe the band and the record. With the fantasy fiction imagery the band comes up with, I’m reminded of the movie Heavy Metal. In a very similar way, there’s this combination of super fun riffs and rhythms with dark fantasy images like “Undead Pegasus” or the “luminary beings” of “Blacklight Warpriest”. And speaking of blacklight, have you seen this album cover? Nothing screams what this album can do better than a zombified flying horse in a color-by-numbers kind of background.
While all that imagery is wonderful, it would be nothing without actual good music backing it up. And boy howdy, does it have that in spades. It’s fuzzy, big, riffy doom combining the best of stoner metal with desert rock vibes. It has MASSIVE riffs that give the record some room for growth to enjoy spacey psychedelic moments. If you’re gonna have a great doom-ified desert rock record, it also better have some wah-wah riffs, too (thank you, “Spirit Drifter”). It all combines perfectly with Sarah Moore-Lindsey’s vocals narrating your fantastic journey. Please come to Denver, y’all. I need to see this live, post haste!
Grogus – Four Kings
Fine, yes, this did come out in July. But it came out on the 31st of last month! I think it counts. Besides, Grogus is great enough that we should talk about them a few times more. Their latest record, Four Kings, is a death metal-flecked piece of hardcore sludge that slams you with all the noise and riffs you could want for a blistering 35-minute record. The bass only promotes the audio brutality further, pummeling your brain and ears until some of y’all will have to tap out.
This record becomes so interesting because of all that Grogus can do. They don’t attempt to limit themselves to a single subgenre or sound type or anything like that. It’s very much about what they can do with their songwriting and where it can take them. “An Oceantomb of Centipedes” is a progressive track the mixes hardcore death-ified sludge riffs with a spacier bridge of calmly played chords. “Biovore” allows for time changes within a riff, far more than what you’d expect from a sludge band that dabbles in the hardcore scene. It’s a pretty intriguing record on top of being just an audio sledgehammer.
The standout track to me is “Goat Temple”. After getting everything AND the kitchen sink thrown at me, I was completely not expecting an experiment in feedback noise soundscapes. While it might not sound like the most gripping thing in the world, it fits in rather nicely between “An Augur of Ebrietas” and “A Call Beyond”. This is the kind of track that cements what a band like Grogus wants to do: lull you into a false sense of security before completely jarring you with big fuzzy riffs and crashing cymbals. And they certainly did that to me. Oh, to get to hear that for the first time again!
Besvärjelsen – Frost
In any other month this year, I’d be completely melting down for Besvärjelsen’s latest release, Frost. August was a surprisingly good month with some outrageous releases, but few of them touch the heights that the doomy witch rock group hits. It’s very slinky and groovy stuff capped off with some spooky vocals from singer Lea Amling Alazam. This sound is a big psychedelic adventure into the mystic side of things and conjures some wonderful images. This is the kind of record you’ll space out to while staring into your music player of choice’s visualizer.
The way this band can combine the traditional and modern sounds of doom make this a very original experience. Somehow, this is a witch rock record that gets quite dark. There’s a spooky aura to the whole record that neatly ties it all together. It’s the huge sound from the riffs combined with the sparseness of some of the tracks that give the songs a life of their own. Each song is almost like a magic spell that creates its own imagery and sense of style.
But damn me if this doesn’t really get you grooving. Several of the tracks have a nice bass line to them that gives the record a solid base to live on. Everything can build off of the base to really groove along and give the record a kind of soul to what it does. It works particularly well with Alazam’s vocal styling. That combination of moving bass with sultry vocals make the songs feel so organic and alive. It’s a wonderful time with your headphones and should be on everyone’s radar.
Conjurer & Pijn – Curse These Metal Hands
When I interviewed Dan from Conjurer, I asked him if the band was working on any new tracks. He mentioned they were working on something with another band. I didn’t realize that meant he was about to blow my got-danged mind with a beautiful work of art. The collaboration with post-rockers Pijn is an incredible work of doomy and sludgy post-rock. Both bands are incredibly capable songwriters in their own right, but they have created something incredible by working together to create songs that rise and fall in both emotions and sounds.
With Curse These Metal Hands, the bands are creating something wholly original for both of them by completely amalgamating their styles. From Conjurer, we get the big disgusting sludgy riffs that can formed into beautiful songs that really are more than just a collection of distorted licks. Pijn can chime in with their focus and direction upon a goal and the songwriting chops to get from point A to point B. The two bands clearly worked together to make the whole far greater than the sum of their parts.
I don’t think it’s a real stretch to say that this record should be on a lot of lists come the end of the year. You don’t normally say that about splits or EPs (whatever you might call this in particular), but this record is the exception that proves the rule. Obviously this isn’t a split since each song was a collaborative effort, but still it’s far more than any split since those are typically comprised of unpublished songs left over from a previous recording session. I guess you could describe this as an EP, but the sheer length and nature of this work of art is far more than the connotation of the term. These aren’t leftover songs. These are complete originals that express emotions in ways we rarely see.
If you haven’t listened to this yet, just know that this isn’t the kind of record you listen to driving to the store because you forgot a dinner ingredient. This is something you need to savor, another thing we rarely say about splits or EPs. This is one you need to sit with and ruminate. There is a lot going on here, and you need to treat it appropriately. Get a nice sipping drink, invest in a quality pair of headphones, and take it in.