Good morrow to thee, Heaviest of All Bloggers. I have returned! Much like the earth, so too must I slumber and re-emerge stronger. I appreciate everyone’s patience and the back up from my fellow writers. My day job is tough work in the time of COVID-19, but somehow I survived and returned to you all renewed in my doomy spirit. I’m not sure what the future holds for us all, nor am I sure that life will ever return to whatever defined “normal” prior to the quarantine. But I am sure that we’re all going to get through this together. I’ll do my part to keep everyone sane during this strange time.
But I digress! Let us quarantine ourselves with our headphones and check in with the slow and low. This month, I’m getting some more help from a few friends who have some equally great releases to talk about. Some people want to avoid the gloom during this time, but I find that it’s fairly uniting right now. And boy we’ve got some great releases. Enough of my yapping, to the riffs!
My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion
If you’re looking for doom and gloom, you’re probably already aware of My Dying Bride. One of the seminal death-doom bands, My Dying Bride returns after some recent turbulence in their personal lives. However, that turbulence has resulted in a monumental work of aggressive gloom in The Ghost of Orion.
It’s really hard to describe exactly why death-doom always just hits me. There’s far more heaviness to the slowness. It’s kind of like shoegaze in a way. Shoegaze just has this hugeness to it that makes everything those bands do seem much heavier and more emotional. In my mind, that’s very similar to death-doom. They slow everything down to let you bask in their sound. The big riffs combined with the technicality helps express those deep thoughts. The Ghost of Orion is just a standard-setting record for that. If you want to have this kind of expression in your music, here’s your blueprint.
Merely copying The Ghost of Orion wouldn’t produce a record of this nature. The record exudes gloom. Your inner goth kid feels comfortable in a My Dying Bride record, and it’s instantly recognizable. The drama is laid on very thick and it helps the band do what they do best. Despite the personal drama for some of the band members, they were able to see their way through it and produce one of their career great records. This is one to just hang out and be sad and angry with. But, like, in a good way.
High Priestess – Casting the Circle
After finishing the final hours of the 7 work weeks from hell, I wanted nothing more than to listen to some dank stoner metal and play video games. My buddy said, “Dude, you should listen to High Priestess then.” I found Casting the Circle and pressed play. It was as if the fates aligned that Saturday afternoon. In my hour of need, the stars aligned so I could unwind with one of the best stoner doom albums I’ve ever heard.
This record is really a package deal. It’s not about any one aspect of it since they combine to create a unique image. The fuzzy riffs, slow beats, haunting vocals, and occult imagery combine to create a perfect genre piece, hitting all of the hallmarks for the stoner doom genre that doesn’t seem like a copycat at all. Every aspect of producing the tracks came together to create the perfect atmosphere.
Every track on here is worth mentioning, but I was completely floored by “Invocation”. Even for the biggest doom fans, a 17 minute song can seem like a bit of a chore. But there is a real flow to the song that keeps you engaged the entire time. It’s an incredible immersion into the ritual the band describes. You can’t help but be entranced by it. Casting the Circle is a can’t miss record this year.
Elder – Omens
Monumental works aren’t what Doomsday was designed to take on. Writing only a short snippet on a record can sometimes seem short shrift. But we’re not really going to go into great detail on the newest Elder record. Omens lives up to the hype and then some. The stoner progressive metal quartet continues to blow past any concept of an expectation we usually have for a record. It’s not at all about fitting into a certain sound or style. It’s about letting the music go where it needs to.
Elder abilities know no bounds. The depth to their music is legitimately stunning, and Elder could be the deepest of them all. The songwriting is at its most mature. There is both complexity and simplicity in what the band is doing. All of their songs have their moments of simple beauty, and they combine these parts in ways that make them dependent upon each other. Without any one part of the track, each song just wouldn’t quite work. These songs are complete works and simply perfect pieces of music.
Normally, I would probably point out a highlight track of some kind. But on Omens, every track is perfect in its way. What they combine to make is much more powerful and worth talking about. The thing that has stuck with me the most during multiple listens of this record is just how timely it is. Each song tells its tale of decline, and it certainly reads like a history textbook written in prose. And while that certainly seems dark, there’s also this upside to it on the second half of the record where the band talks about how there is always a comeback no matter how dark things may seem. That made me feel pretty hopeful right now.
Bell Witch and Aerial Ruin are Stygian Bough, release new single “Heaven Torn Low II (the toll)”
I’ve written a few times on the blog about the hardships I have with funereal doom or, rather, the extremely specific mood that I need to be in to enjoy the genre. That’s why Bell Witch’s latest album, 2015’s Four Phantoms, was something that I could appreciate for the great album it was but didn’t really listen to all that often. It’s just so much. Which is, of course, the point and perfectly for a band but I couldn’t help but pine for a different approach, one which would give me more hooks to cling to. Well, apparently Aerial Ruin (also known as Erik Moggridge) is my savior; the excellent, Portland-based project who has collaborated with Panopticon on a split this year, and have his own, illustrious career besides, has apparently teamed up with Bell Witch to create Stygian Bough.
What is Stygian Bough? It is Bell Witch’s cavernous, pondersome doom melded with Aerial Ruin’s folksy edges. It is slow and synth heavy and utterly beautiful, as we can hear on the first single from their upcoming debut, Stygian Bough Volume I (out June 26th). Listen to how those heavy, thick, honey-dripping synths work with the forlorn vocals. Hear how the guitar feedback undulates in the background of this thing, echoing away into the night. Especially moving is how these elements come together near the end of the track, around the five minute and a half mark, as the vocals sing their last farewell on this track and the guitars wail behind them. These sounds come together to create a more melodic feel to things, more like Ancestors or Yob than the “classic” Bell Witch sound.
All in all, this is fantastic. It is exactly what I needed, moving, evocative doom from some of the best artists this scene has to offer. Stay tuned for more as we near the release date. In the meantime, head on over here to pre-order it.