A most spooky and haunting greeting unto you all, heaviest of all bloggers! The days are shorter and the nights are longer. You might even be able to fit an entire funeral doom track in an evening at this season. I really love this time of year. First of all, I look really great in plaid. Secondly, I can finally grow out my beard again without getting weird looks and questions like, “Aren’t you hot?” (Yes, I am. Both in temperature and in physical appearance.) Third, you can tell people you’re doing nothing but watching horror movies and it’s not weird. But fourth, and maybe most apt, it is the perfect time of year for metal.
It seems like we’re missing some heavy hitting releases this month, but if you’re only looking for huge releases then you’re missing out on a lot. We had some great bands bring out the R I F F S this month. A few bands are living up to the reason of the October season and bringing some spacey and spooky tracks. But enough of all the yapping. Let’s get some fuzz. To the riffs!
Holy Serpent – Endless
Oh man, what a sound on this one. Endless is going to be hard to ignore in December when I’m putting together the best of 2019. Australia’s Holy Serpent has put together one of the best psych doom sounds I’ve heard this year. Endless is a wall of riffs hitting you for 6 tracks over about 40 minutes. These are some great riffs, brilliant beats, and spacey vibes that just cannot be denied if you’re a regular Doomsday reader.
The heavy psych influence is so obvious from the get-go. No need to think about any kind of reference points when you start up Endless. It’s immediately psychedelic and almost spooky from the opening moments of “Lord Deceptor”. It seems like the goal for this record was to just let everybody turn everything up to 10 and see what comes out on the other side. That’s what gives this record its legs: you just have to know what the next note is, hear the next lick, and just embrace the space.
Holy Serpent strikes a very unique balance with Endless. Frequently, you can either do great big ol’ riffs or create a spacey vibe. You’re either really good at one or the other. Holy Serpent decided to throw out that entire notion and really do both. If you’re really into stoner doom and psychedelia, you absolutely cannot miss Endless.
Stew – People
Every once in a while, I need a really good palate cleanser. 2019 has been a really great year for metal overall, but (personal opinion) not so much in the rest of the music world. So I get a lot of metal in my system and really need something to break up the pattern. Stew is one of those bands. It flirts with stoner rock sounds but stays focused on heavy blues. What is more doom than heavy blues? I’d argue very little since pretty much everything we all love comes from it.
Much of this record just feels comfortable. It feels more like a summer record to me, like it has to be performed at an outdoor amphitheater on a summer afternoon. People is a great collection of late 60s heavy blues and 70s riff rock. You can just see the blacklight posters hanging themselves on your wall and your nose gets tickled by the handlebar mustache that spontaneously grew on your lip. If Eric Clapton decided to turn up the bass and just write riffs, it would sound a lot like Stew.
“Goddess” is a personal can’t-miss. I really love it when bands like this decide to slow down the tempo just a little. There’s something about writing a song with a lot of space in it that really gets me. “Goddess” is cool because of the rhythmic interplay between the drums and bass while the guitars are just noodling throughout the track. It’s got a fun lazy feel to it like spacing out on a Sunday afternoon. Then it just kicks it up a notch for a truly ripping blues guitar solo. There’s nothing to not like about Stew. Dig it, people.
Blackwater Holylight – Veils of Winter
It’s very rare indeed for us to talk about an all-female metal band, so let’s take our chance with Blackwater Holylight. The five-piece from Portland makes some super heavy psychedelic doom, and I could not possibly think of a better record to throw on for your trick-or-treaters (apart from Electric Wizard, but duh). There are riffs, perfect atmosphere, and an incredible group of women making some incredibly intriguing desert rock-influenced music.
Veils of Winter shows the band just making a few slight tweaks from the previous record. For one thing, there is a clear upgrade in production value. As long as you have everything else, that’s going to improve your sound a lot. They also decided to really beef up the guitars and bass. On their self-titled first record, the bass was toned down and the guitars just didn’t have that wall of sound quality. However, that significantly changed to their second record. Every track just blasts you with fuzzed out guitars layered upon thick chunks of tasty bass. It is such a marked improvement in overall quality that’s rare.
The band makes full use of the spookier side of doom by really embracing all aspects of the sound. There are really spacey songs like “The Protector” that lay the atmosphere on real thick that just sells the vibe. On the other end, they crank up the energy for “Motorcycle”, a really fun venture through some stoner doom territory. It’s the entire spectrum over here. This band has some real versatility that still makes it seem like themselves. I’m really looking forward to seeing what they do on the road and getting attacked by their sound in person.
Looprider – Ouroboros
I’ve always thought about music intersections. When is a song one classification and not another? Or the other way around? One idea I always play with is the intersection of shoegaze, doom, and stoner rock. And now I have Looprider to look at when I ponder the thought again. Tokyo’s own has found the intersection of influences as wide ranging as Kyuss, Electric Wizard, and Slowdive to come up with a record that plays with as many different variations of these sounds as it can come up with. It’s just really great ear candy, and that’s only where this record begins.
With the kind of sounds the band is playing with, you’d think their latest record Ouroboros would come out like the mish-mash garbage you make drunk at 2 in the morning (Note: ketchup and ranch don’t mix as well as you think they would). As you’re going through the record, it begins to dawn on you that these sounds are so related that it’s a wonder there hasn’t been a band quite like this before 2019. These sounds survive on their relation to psychedelic riffs and production qualities, so putting them all together should be pretty logical. Finally, a trio from Japan agrees!
What strikes me most about the record is the variation. There’s a balance between the hard and the soft, the loud and the quiet, the chaotic and the serene. There are more shoegaze-style tracks and more riff-oriented rockers. But it never feels inconsistent. It always feels like it’s the same band performing different variations of their art. It’s a wonderful record, a great band, and just a pure joy to listen to.
Lowcaster – Flames Arise
Progressive doom is a subgenre I only have a passing relationship with. I’m not losing my mind over it, but when someone tells me there’s a good record then I take a listen. Every once in awhile, I’ll really lose my mind over something. Lowcaster’s second release, Flames Arise, is just such a record. It presents some truly impressive songwriting that never seems tired or boring. Each track really brings the heat and shows some very mature songwriting abilities.
Second records can always be a little tricky for bands. You never know quite what to expect, and sometimes there’s some unfair expectations. A band’s first record could be completely brilliant and then they drop a dud. In the best cases, bands really grow between their first and second records, and that’s what happened here. Lowcaster made some great psychedelic doom on The Vapor Sea, but they’re really stepped up their game for Flames Arise.
First, the production values are much higher which really improves upon the entire listening experience. But if you don’t have the chops, then flashy studio tricks won’t save you. Thankfully, Lowcaster didn’t get tripped up on that for Flames Arise. Their songwriting has gone through some maturing where tracks just feel more fleshed out. The whole record feels more organic as a result. It is a brilliant example of progressive doom in 2019, so drop what you’re doing right now and have a listen.