Greetings unto thee, Heaviest of All Bloggers! Come with me as it is nearing our time once again! The summer is slowly fading, the heat gently abating. The longer the days get, the shorter the wait until darkness comes! Autumn really is one of my favorite times of year. There is a crispness in the air that exists at no other point in a calendar year. Leaves fall off the trees to add their colors to the earth. But most importantly, it just feels like the right time of year to listen to metal. Oh, and horror movies are in season. But that’s for another column somewhere else.
Damn, September. You really brought the heat this month. This is the perfect time of year to release anticipated albums. You’re landing in time to be seriously considered as a best of the year record. It’s just recent enough that you actively remember it when coming up with your list, but old enough that you might think it’s fair to compare to other records as a best of thing. For 2 of these records, we would be talking about them regardless of the month on the calendar because they were straight bangers. But all of them brought the slow and low. To the riffs!
Isole – Dystopia
Traditional heavy metal sounds are still making a comeback, and Isole is doing what they can to bring back that traditional doom sound. Dystopia is nothing if not a wonderful tribute to those sounds from bands like Candlemass and Saint Vitus. There’s something about their sound that feels like you can really sink your teeth into it. It’s big and thick and has a lot of pieces to pull apart, and it can get epic without getting cheesy. It’s a really nice place to sit.
The thing about Dystopia that really stands out to me is the incredible depth of the record. If you’re going to create a great doom record, you’d better invest heavily in your bass. Isole knows to do this and makes sure the bass is given the room it rightfully deserves. It makes sure there’s something that can carry the melody sections with the guitars and contrast well with the vocals. If you don’t base a doom record on the lower end, you’ve really got nothing.
The other defining characteristic doesn’t hit you until you polish off the entire record. Isole does a really good job of making some sweeping epic doom that stays on the right side of cheesefest. There’s a gravity to their songs that takes itself seriously enough that it never gets to the level of silly melodrama. You can either fully embrace the cheese and go whole hog on it, or you can make sure you stay serious with your songs. It’s difficult to describe any other way, and it’s a subtle line between taking yourself seriously and trying really hard to seem serious. Whatever that little je ne sais quoi is, Isole avoids it and still makes some awesome epic doom.
Lochness – Black Smokers
Don’t worry, folks. I’ve got some stoner doom for y’all. It’s some really heavy stuff, too. Lochness from Montreal just came out with their first record, Black Smokers, and it is some mega heavy stoner doom. In fact, this might be some of the heaviest music I’ve heard (with the huge exception of Primitive Man, obviously). This trio has some huge riffs and a ton of bass punctuated by some seriously slamming and crashing drums. It’ll make your teeth rattle through your headphones, and that’s really saying something.
What’s to say about Lochness that hasn’t already been said about sledgehammers? It just hits like a ton of bricks. The riffs keep on coming in all of their down-tuned glory. It’s a damn good thing killer soundwave emitters aren’t available commercially because Black Smokers would accidentally kill a lot of too-eager metalheads. Much like Isole, Lochness heavily relies on bass to pummel their riffs into your brain. But as I was listening to Black Smokersthe second or third time through, I made a huge realization. It’s not the bass that gets you; it’s the fuzz. It just adds the little extra grit you need to make everything just that much punchier.
Another thing about the fuzz is it gives an excellent atmosphere to the record. There’s an obvious water theme going on with this record, given the band’s name and titles like “Sea Weed” and “Alien Deep”. The fuzz makes everything seem like it’s blasting its way out of the depths. Much like their namesake, Lochness becomes a mighty behemoth of the deep, ready to rise and lay waste to the cities of man. Only instead of death and destruction, Lochness leaves busted ear drums and rattled skeletons. Although probably also a little bit of destruction, like a blown speaker or a scared pet.
Monolord – No Comfort
Truly, the fuzz lords have blessed us. Monolord came ripping back into our lives this month with No Comfort, their fourth full-length and possibly their best record to date. The groovy doom trio have added a new idea to their sound: true melodic lines. As much as we all love a good fuzzy riff and a grooving drum beat, it’s nice to hear a little mix-up and some experimentation in songwriting. No Comfort is both fun and mesmerizing for the combination of their established sound and these new elements in their songwriting. Blessed are we, O heaviest of bloggers.
In their infinite wisdom, Monolord decided for this record that their song library was in desperate need of some slower tunes that beef up their abilities. These tracks dip their toes into more melodic lines that combine really well with their overall tone. They add a little psychedelia to a sound that could really use it. “Larvae” is a great example of the melding of these two ideas. Every riffs is heavily fuzzed out, of course, but they’re slowed down a little that lets things just breathe. It lets you take in the more serious and thought-provoking lyrics, another new thing for the band.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Monolord record unless they really rock out the riffs. I mean, I’m all for artistic evolution, but we all know why we’re picking up a Monolord record. “The Bastard Son” is just the perfect Monolord track. Big and brash power chords bring you in with some spaced drums and general atmospheric noise only to really kick it up with some bass. I couldn’t imagine a better track for them if I tried. This is what you signed up for. Enjoy it.
Mizmor – Cairn
Rarely is there a record that has the grasp of the dramatic like Cairn. Mizmor just knows how to put a song together. Previous records have shown this as well, but there is something about Cairn that just holds it all together. Not only are there these swells and recessions in the song, but they carry on throughout the record. Simply put: Cairn is a work of near masterpiece proportions.
Blackened doom is a subgenre where it’s often difficult to maintain cohesiveness in sound. It can get a little garbled to the point where it’s so dense that even the most ardent of underground metal fans can get lost. Mizmor avoids that problem by allowing for room to breathe on their records. Every riff and lyric is given its place and due respect so that you can fully take in each part.
At the same time, there is a conscious effort to keep the production value fairly low. While everything is still clear enough to hear, the lo-fi nature of the record makes everything so much more visceral and real. The emotions that the artist is trying to express hit you in a way that you truly feel the melancholy and despair from the drama of the tracks. Those feelings are further enforced by the atmospheric nature of the tracks from the environmental sounds included in each song, like the heavy reverb on the drums at the end of “Cairn to Suicide”. You just get completely wrapped up in all of it.
Cairn is clearly a labor of love. Each little aspect of it was carefully and thoroughly worked and planned out in a way that makes the whole album seem like a single work instead of just a collection of songs. It’s difficult to talk about the brilliance of one track over another simply because they all just go together. Not only is this a personal favorite of the month, but it could well be an album of the year. A work like this deserves that kind of recognition.