Welcome unto thee, Heaviest of All Bloggers! You may have noticed things have changed just a little around here. Every few years, you gotta look at yourself in the mirror and make sure you still look as cool as you feel. That might mean switching from glasses to contacts, getting that haircut you’ve always wanted, or finding that next good spot for some rad as heck new tattoo (I hate 2020 for that, by the way. Made me miss my birthday tattoo tradition. Screw you, timeline.). Here at Heavy Blog, the All-Powerful Editors decided it was time for a little digital makeover. To go along with that, we’re making a few changes to Doomsday as well.
First thing is the introduction of friend of the column Jordan Jerabek! HAIL JORDAN! There’s really too much doom for one person to handle, so Jordan is going to be a permanent fixture on Doomsday with his particular brand of the slow and low. It makes a lot of sense due to the fact that Jordan introduces me to about 30%-40% of what I talk about on here anyway. Y’all are gonna love it.
Second thing is that’s basically the only change. We’re still going to be talking about doom, sludge, traditional heavy metal, and all the variations of those. We’ll also be adding the occasional mid-month post, including an introduction from me and Jordan, classic album discussions, subgenre highlights, and whatever else you might desire. We live to serve on Doomsday.
Alright, all done with housekeeping. Enough of that crap, time for the R I F F S. Boy, we’re about to hit y’all with some real dingers. We got some nasty, dirty riffs, and we’ve got some high-flying heavy metal. We’ve got everything in between, too! LET’S GET FUZZY!
Primitive Man – Immersion
Pfffft…like we weren’t going to talk about a new Primitive Man release. This column is legally obligated to talk about them. Seriously, we could get a big fine from the FCC. No bueno.
Anyway, Immersion came out this month. When I heard the first single, I figured that’s partially all I needed to know. “Eh, it’s Primitive Man. I know what I’m getting from them, don’t need to hear the singles. I’ll wait for the release.” Which turned out to be an excellent decision.
To be fair to me, you hear Primitive Man, you do indeed have a damn good idea what you’re getting. Your eardrums will be assaulted. It will be slow and low, and it’s all coming at you in an uncomfortably angry way. That’s to be expected, so no surprises there. What is surprising about Immersion is that it’s the best example of a band implementing new ideas into their original sound. Immersion has some stunningly melodic sections, often veering quite a ways away from just the angry volume they normally pump at you. And the stuff they do you already know them for is all redone in an unexpected way for a band to do at all, much less Primitive Man.
Some folks might accuse us on Doomsday of playing favorites, and I’m not about to sit here and say I don’t do that. But at the same time, everything Primitive Man does is worth listening to. Unless they just shit out a huge hulking turd of a record, I will forever be this band’s greatest cheerleader. Go listen to Immersion already.
Dungeon Weed – Mind Palace of the Mushroom God
Sorry, I just couldn’t help myself. For my Doomsday debut, I couldn’t resist bringing in some of that classic stoner/doom kitsch. Dungeon Weed goes all-the-fuck-in and gets downright stupid with the aesthetic, and it feels sooooo good. The eyeball blasting black light poster artwork says it all. This is exactly what you think it is and frankly, it sounds even better than it looks. Mind Palace of the Mushroom God is a shamelessly nostalgic Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard trip, but it’s laced with enough synthy psychedelic touches that it’s not derivative rehash, but rather a iridescent melting of stoner/doom’s sturdy castle walls.
It’s a hella psyched-out record. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Dmitri Mavra (Skunk) totally nails the auditory atmospherics with a suffocatingly dank aura hovering about each track, regularly sounding like how every Sleep concert smells. In addition to a multitude of riffs big enough to incapacitate Zeus himself, Mavra’s not shy when it comes to dealing the free-spirited leads, either, functioning like a musical sherpa that guides you from the riff swamp and through Mind Palace’s neon Pac-Man maze of madness. Drummer Chris McGrew backs it up with deliberate beats loaded with plenty of heavy-handed fills that would surely make Bill Ward proud. And vocal backups courtesy of Thia Moonbrook provide a super welcome and sugary complement to Mavra’s dry croak, even lending a few truly killer moments herself with her Grace Slick/Janis Joplin kind of wail. Toss in a few colorful synth foundations, wonky effects, and baby, you got a stew going!
Dungeon Weed is a prime example of how to elevate a conventional sound. The funk emanating from the riffs on “Beholder Gonna Fuck You Up” is one of those crystallized, pure components that’s found on every good stoner/doom record. It’s basic, it’s simple, but it’s enough to fundamentally enhance the vibe, like salt for doomy soundwaves or some shit. It’s just perfectly skuzzy, creepy, and dazed. Likewise, “Sorceror with the Skull Face” leans into the woozy side of things with some spiraling, chunky riffs. And if you haven’t indulged in some evil wah in a while, I’d suggest cranking “Lumbering Hell” and “Mind Palace” until your face falls off. What are you waiting for? Get out there and score yourself some Dungeon Weed. Crank it up, share some with your neighbors. It’ll make you happy.
High Spirits – Hard to Stop
After an extremely short Doomsday summit, we have decided to uphold my previous precedent and include traditional heavy metal bands in the column as needed. In true political parlance, I’d like to thank Jordan for his leadership on this issue. And now I get to talk about High Spirits.
Nothing gets the blood pumping like a good damn riff, and High Spirits’ new record, Hard to Stop, begins with a high flying lick that lets you know exactly what you’re in for. But if you didn’t know it then, you will the moment vocalist Chris Black kicks his lyrics into high gear. I love the late 70s throwback sounds like this because of its energy and tempo. I love the slow and low, of course, but there’s something about this traditional sound that grabs your attention no matter your personal tastes.
I find a lot of similarities between High Spirits and Haunt. They’re both very grounded in the traditional heavy metal sound and really only differ in their lyrical content. I could foresee the next generation of metalheads asking Spirits versus Haunt in the same way we all challenge each other with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest. This sound is way too much fun to hear to ignore. Getcha some spirit.
Turtle Skull – Monoliths
The thing I really love about heavy psych is how it can be so heavy (duh) yet so fuckin’ light and breezy at the same time. Sydney’s Turtle Skull have quite the grip on this contradictory existence with the uplifting and yet kinda mournful vibe found on Monoliths, described as “flower doom” by the band. It’s a great tag, really, though there are healthy components of vibrant prog and pop that burst through to take this to a different plane. There’s a tinge of King Gizzard to their melodicism, where the hooks are fun and groovy, primed to chill and drone on with rocking wanderlust as on “Who Cares What You Think?” or “Apple of Your Eye” or casually cruise with hazy, immense dozers like “Heartless Machine” and “The Clock Strikes Forever.”
First and foremost, these guys excel at delivering a bountiful experience worthy of getting lost in. It’s a truly patient record that bears its greatness gradually, staging spacy sprawls alongside their energetic rifftuals. Moments bubble up that bring to mind Elder, Black Mountain, and The Black Angels, connecting these fuzzified kindred spirits at their sunniest, loudest, and most intricately layered. Superbly dreamy synths form a foundation on which Turtle Skull root hypnotic and thick grooves, making it a great album to blast as well as relax to – y’know, so you can maintain your daily recommended intake of fuzz.
The overlap and community of the tonal heaviness; the laid-back, sometimes pos and bright, sometimes a little mysterious and dark vibes; and the obsessively heady and transporting pathways conjure up some real magic – it’s simply hard to put this one down once it clicks. More, it just feels like this particular intersection isn’t hit this habitually, or honestly quite this well elsewhere. In a good year for doom and stoner metal, Monoliths stands tall and stands out as one for the psychedelic short list, full stop.
Atramentus – Stygian
Oh yes, my friends. It’s that time once again. It’s the slowest of the lowest: funeral freaking doom. And I like my funeral doom like I like my fantasy novels: interminably long, denser than a Southern pound cake, and levels of epicness as yet unknown to man. And thus spake Atramentus and their debut, Stygian. Featuring members of Chthe’ilist, this band makes some of the most sprawling and epic funeral doom tracks I’ve ever heard that tell a story that will chill you to your bones. But no, seriously.
What makes this record so special is the story it has to tell. Stygian tells the story of an unnamed knight cursed with a nightmarish version of immortality. The knight wanders the planet alone as life slowly leaves and the sun dies. Doomed to wander the chilling wastelands, the knight feels the blistering cold of a lifeless world while lingering on the thought that everyone he’s ever known from his past life is dead and buried beneath miles of ice. It combines that topic with the sprawling tendrils of the slowest melodies imaginable, really driving home the feeling of endless despair. Quite the combination of thoughts and imagery, I’d say.
At the same time, the music has its own ebbs and flows of drama. The drama is built through the effective combination of clean and distorted guitars, the droning of organs and synths, and the space you need to fully consume all the concepts being thrown at you. When you’re able to get the entire image at once, you can sense the greatness within Stygian. You’ll have to listen to it at least 3 times in order to get the entire picture, but it’s so worth it.
Crust – …and a Dirge Becomes an Anthem
What the hell is a black metal album doing here in Doomsday? Don’t let your feathers get ruffled buckaroo, Crust delivers some of the syrupiest, most righteous gut sluggers to ever hit a black metal record, and they bring ‘em on the reg. I mean it, these dudes get into some substantially meaty stuff, but stitch it together with nice varietals of blackened and post-metal threads that keep ‘er movin’, well, at least compared to the usual Doomsday offerings. This mixture is all the better with the record’s dusty production, which lends some gritty personality and plays nice through both their many brain-mushing caveman grooves and fleet blackened elements. This Russian troika polarizes this primary trio of elements and bridges them together in ways that still feel logical and comfortable, but also inventive and engaging.
So, it should come as no surprise they’re beholden to the “obey the riff” mentality. Not only do these dudes go full-commit with the big riffs, they’re unleashing ‘em from all corners of the metal universe. Opener “Approaching Grave” cannonballs into the deep end with some gargantuan, sludgy riffage, only to up the ante on follow-up “When Winds Howl The Song of Death” with some fucking doomy, boomy, stick-to-yer-bones kinda shit. “Clad in Flesh” carries a mournful and unexpectedly emotional doom theme on the backs of speedy, mulching tremolos. They’re even dabbling in some tripper headspaces with stoner doom vibes in “Graveland” and the infinite introspective drift of closer “Space Sabbath.” It comes together in a way that polarizes and underscores their considerable heft and contrasting tempos without coming off super hodgepodge.
Crust sounds like a blackened, crust-less (lol) version of Early Graves or a slugified, sedated Woe; or maybe even splitting the difference somewhere between. Their style isn’t as cut-and-dried, laser-focused, or segmented as a lot of blackened doom acts, nor do they mitigate these extremes into a blackened death steamroller kind of middleground. It’s satisfyingly weighty and does the little-bit-of-everything thing really damn well. And for that, a tip of the ol’ wizard hat or wave of the warlock beard, or whatever. Well fucking done.