A warm and friendly greeting to you all, you Heaviest of Bloggers! I thought I’d mix up my greeting this month a little more than I have been recently. There’s more need for some friendly mental health check-ins from us all as we continue down the horrible bullshit-lined road that is the year 2020. On my own front, I’m dealing with the world at large; my own unemployment and the associated feelings with that; and my all-too-serious fear of a crappy neighbor and the dangerous people he’s bee inviting to his apartment. Part of my own trepidation about life right now is that it’s so far beyond my control. I can’t make the orange idiot in DC stop being an outrageous dickhead for his own amusement. I can’t make someone hire me and put me back to work. And unfortunately, no amount of 911 calls or complaints to the HOA or property management company can’t make my drug-dealing neighbor stop dealing.
While that’s all a bummer to deal with, it’s nice to get the feelings off my chest and clear my head a bit. Some of you reading this right now might think this situation seems awfully familiar to your own. Maybe you’re dealing with the same problems I am. Maybe you’ve got a similar problem in one way or another. Or maybe you’re lucky enough to not have to deal with this kind of thing. Any way you slice it, we’re not alone in these kinds of situations. Having a sense of camaraderie can help us all out. And if you’re not in this situation, hopefully it makes you feel grateful for your own circumstances and make you remember about all the people who are. All this is to say that we’re all dealing with this together, even if you’re not in a country run by an amoral and illiterate egomaniac. Rant over, soap box returned to the closet.
We’re obviously here to talk about another month of the Slow and the Low. It’s a way better use of our time anyway, so let’s hop to it. As I’ve said already this year and every year, summer is an odd time for metal releases. We love them and go out of our way to listen to them, but they feel incongruous to the atmosphere and surroundings. The thought doesn’t necessarily equate to the kind of releases we ever see so much as it’s a nagging thought I have every year. Especially in July 2020 where I’m having to talk myself out of adding on new records to the column just so I can meet my deadlines. Let’s get some riffs, y’all.
Eremit – Desert of Ghouls
Yes, I know it’s just an EP. I’ll have you know that some of my favorite tracks from bands come from EPs, so that’s no reason to ignore the new music. I’m particularly excited I get to talk about Eremit again since they really get my head bobbing. It’s sludgy, fuzzy, slow, low, and just scratches a lot of itches I have when it comes to my metal. Considering you’ve read this far, you’re probably pretty down for this.
Eremit decribes their music as atmospheric sludge. I’m still kind of wrapping my mind around that concept, but it makes a lot of sense. The longer form tracks are more about setting up an environment than they are to just bust out cool riffs. Despite the fact that I unfortunately do not know what their lyrics are, it’s pretty plain to see that they are indeed telling a story with each song. In that way, creating an atmospheric vibe is exactly what they should be doing.
The other thing I can’t get away from is, got-DAMN, these dudes can make a groove. The entire 20 minutes of Desert of Ghoul was me swaying back and forth and bouncing the hell out of my head. Only 2 tracks from Eremit beats the hell out of a full-length album from a lot of artists, so my sludge fans need to hop on this post-haste.
P.S.: This is fantastic time to bump their previous record, 2019’s Carrier of Weight. Check it.
Kingnomad – Sagan Om Rymden
Personally, I’m glad that psychedelia is coming back. There’s so many musical ideas that have come from those elements, including our beloved heavy metal. So I’m strongly supportive of bands like Kingnomad who are bringing back a lot of these concepts and presenting it in a very unique way. Some say it doesn’t belong in the hallowed halls of Doomsday, but that’s because you’re an idiot. CHECK IT.
Yes, the record isn’t on the biggest label in the world (much love to Ripple Music, they’ve been putting out a LOT of super cool music), but don’t let that fact dissuade you at all. The Swedish quartet figured out how to do a hell of a lot with not much at all. If you want to stand out in a time of unlimited musical content, you gotta do something really cool. Every single track on their latest, Sagan Om Rymden, is an example of something mega freaking cool. For that alone, this is worth listening to.
The Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats comparison is a very easy one to make here, but it isn’t completely descriptive of Kingnomad. Yes, it’s a lo-fi almost garage rock sound and sensibility, but that would only be skimming the surface of Kingnomad. You’d be missing out on all the early prog rock ideas, string arrangements, and synthesizer soundscapes the band adds to their personal brand. This is one of the more unique sounding bands and records I’ve heard this year, making it well-worth your time, too.
Moribund Mantras – Golden Void
I know I’ve said it before but it requires repeating: blackened doom is criminally underrepresented. True, there’s not a ton of bands out there working on that kind of sound, but still. It’s really great, and I feel obligated to give it a bump when good stuff comes around. Moribund Mantras is without a doubt a damn fine example of blackened doom.
What sticks out to my about Golden Void is this conscious decision to build drama. Each track is designed with a goal in mind to really dig into your mind and pull out the dark. But it’s not as aggressively evil-sounding as you might think. There’s a contemplative aspect to it. It’s not coincidental that the band used “mantras” in their name. It does frequently feel like somebody was writing hymns for the darkest church you’ve ever heard of. The fact that the band showers everything they do in reverb gives it a much bigger sound, evoking the image of high vaulted ceilings in this church of the damned.
And that isn’t just a single track or moment from the record. Golden Void was designed around this concept. It makes for a fantastic listen into the darker side of the slow and low. Let Moribund Mantras take you to the Church of Doom.
Valkyrie – Fear
Oh hell, heavy blues and stoner psych from a former member of Baroness? I was technically already there after heavy blues, but now you super have my attention. Valkyrie has been a super fun proto-metal project since 2002, but for fairly obvious reasons the band hasn’t put out a lot of material thus far. However, their little niche has a whole lot of life to it as the band shows. Get ready for some fun, bass-heavy hard rock riffage!
There is some kind of primal aspect to Valkyrie’s music that most people could find enjoyable. It’s based on a very established kind of sound, but that style is well-established because so many people love it. I’d say that’s a damn fine place to start. Because despite the famous and popular nature of the sound, the band is still able to put a new spin on things. I hear a lot of Baroness on Fear, usually arising out of the interesting nature of a song’s structure or just even the riffing.
I just love the space cadet feeling on this record. It made me think of Legendry and their record from last year, The Wizard and the Tower Keep. That record was a lot of fun and bold in its desire to stick with the sword and sorcery theme, but it also had that proto-metal sound that even people who actively hate metal could love. Same thing with Valkyrie and Fear. If you don’t like this record, I would question your ability to hear.
Mid-Year Doomsday Best Of 2020
I never do tie-ins with the rest of the blog until it comes to the end of the year. So if for no other reason than to shamelessly self-promote while also giving a little boost to the rest of the blog (please read our mid-year best of if you haven’t already!), here’s my Doomsday top 10 of the 2020 so far.
VERY Honorable Mentions
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Garganjua – Toward the Sun
Cream of the Crop
Huntsmen – Mandala of Fear
Holy crap. There aren’t many more words than that for Huntsmen. Especially since they can turn Fleetwood Mac into sludge metal. This is the sophomore release of the year.
My Dying Bride – The Ghost of Orion
Nothing shouts “DOOM METAL” at me like that gothic goodness. You simply can’t match the drama My Dying Bride creates, and that’s why The Ghost of Orion works so well. You live or die by your pathos, and the band thrives on it while also embracing a new spin on their sound. It’s just feels so good and right. You will love it.
Psychonaut – Behold the God Man
I remember writing about this band back in 2018, so it would seem that the 2020 release of Behold the God Man is more like a re-release. I’ve done some scouring of the internet to confirm that and found nothing. But that’s really only to do some due diligence for myself because this band and this record are awesome enough to talk about every damn day of my life. If you wanted a darker and trippier version of Tool, you’ve come to the exact right place. Behold the God Man might not be topping my personal list of the best of the best, but you best believe this is a record I’ve returned to many times since its 2020 (re)release.
Insect Ark – The Vanishing
If the goal of music is relay an emotion through sound, then pure instrumental music has a hell of a goal. Writing lyrics to express yourself is difficult enough without having music convey the same feeling. That idea is just so ephemeral. However, Insect Ark brings the heat when it comes to songwriting. The intricacies of writing music to convey the daydream of vanishing completely is no small task. The Vanishing is astounding despite it.
In the Company of Serpents – Lux
When I first heard Lux, I didn’t realize I had just come across my favorite band in In the Company of Serpents. I also wasn’t completely unconvinced that Queens of the Stone Age had gone into the underground metal scene, at least for a little while. I just love the atmospheric dark weirdness to Lux that’s hard to relate in words. I think it feels like a deeply dark western soundtrack and I just love it to pieces.
Vile Creature – Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!
Blackened doom, man. Twice in the same column! WE’VE FINALLY DONE IT! Everyone said it couldn’t be done. We showed them, huh? (Ticker tape parade ensues)
Anyway, Vile Creature. Holy damn on a stick. These two incredible people are making some mind-blowing music. I love how they are able to match their songwriting to their storytelling. That unique ability is reaching its apex on Glory, Glory! Apathy Took Helm!, and I could think of no better time than exactly right now for this record to come out. It reflects the feelings of a lot of people in society right now, and it’s a feeling some people have felt for a very long time. Having this kind of perspective in our music consumption is good for us all, so why not get an incredible example of it?
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin – Stygian Bough, Vol. 1
Everyone knows damn well that Bell Witch is a band you don’t/can’t ignore. Add in Aerial Ruin, and you’ve got something you would be a fool to let pass by. There are no two artists in the world more appropriate for this kind of collaboration. Their styles combine to produce something much greater than the sum of its parts, and the sum of its parts are goddamned brilliant.
Crystal Coffin – The Transformation Room
They blew me away with a demo. What was I supposed to think about a full-length release? Seriously, the blackened sludge trio is brilliant. They’ve nailed the atmosphere as much as they nail their riffs and melodies. Another personal favorite of the year for me, and one I’ve already returned to multiple times. Like right now.
High Priestess – Casting the Circle
An all-female occult stoner doom trio? Asking where I sign up is a waste of time I could use to listen to Casting the Circle. High Priestess has been at it since 2016, and I’ll be thoroughly damned for not jumping on their bandwagon immediately. This is some amazing work in its own right, but their style makes this version of stoner doom so unbelievably spooky and compelling. It’s hard not to see this record as everything doom metal has to offer.
Elder – Omens
This is the third time I’m writing about Omens overall and the second time this month. I think everyone on the blog has exhausted every single term of praise you could apply to a music release. Even in the library of the great Elder, this record stands out above the rest. It is captivating, mind-bending, and a true work of musical art. In the words of the philosopher Stan Lee, ‘nuff said.