Greetings, Heaviest of Heavy Bloggers! It’s that wonderful time of year once again! The days are shrinking. The temperatures are (ever so slowly and more like I just want them to) dropping. The earth is preparing for its hibernation. Autumn has come once again! I guess that means it’s time for that sweet, sweet doom metal.
However, I first want to say that if you’re in the US, please make sure you’re registered to vote and vote early if you can. Some states let you register to vote and vote on the same day, so check with your county clerk’s office and confirm what you can do. I know everybody says the most cliched stuff this time every four years, but it is objectively true in 2020: this is the most important election any of us have ever known. Every regular reader here knows my position on things, so I’ll keep my opinions on our horrendously idiotic president to myself (except that one). But I 100% believe that if you don’t vote then you have no right or reason to complain about what happens in this country. I don’t want to hear “My vote doesn’t matter” or “It’s all rigged anyway” or any of that other hot garbage. Your vote won’t matter a lick if you don’t use it. And the people who don’t want you to participate are the only ones talking about “rigged” elections. Don’t let them win. Show them you give a shit about what happens to your future. Vote, you jerks.
Soapbox returned to its regular spot. I’ll move along now.
After a few discussions between the writers and editors, we had a tough time coming up with stuff to talk about this month. But since we’re not the arbiters of good metal taste, we’re just gonna talk about some sick ass shit we loved last month and not give a heck. So we’ll talk about some B-sides, some genre stalwarts, some deep cuts, and who knows what else. I don’t. Just read it already. G E T T O T H E R I F F S.
Mastodon – Medium Rarities
This one will be quick, but I just wanted to point out Mastodon’s collection of B-sides and live tracks, Medium Rarities. I take every opportunity to talk about Mastodon, so a collection that includes “Cut You Up with a Linoleum Knife” is going to make it to the hallowed halls of Doomsday.
I only bring up Medium Rarities because it might be the exception to the rule that B-side records are usually very dumb. This record has some genuinely super cool stuff on it! Covers of Feist, the Flaming Lips, and Metallica along with original tracks from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters and Game of Thrones soundtracks and various newly released songs, live tracks, and a few super cool instrumentals. These things are definitely tough to track down, so it’s cool to have them on a single collection. Especially that “Orion” cover which was on a Master of Puppets cover album that has been out of print for over a decade. It’s not mind-blowingly great, but it should tide us all over until the next release.
0 – Entity
Nothing like blackened doom to really put that pep in your step, right?!? Just kidding, it’s long, dark, dramatic, and brooding stuff. But that’s why we like it, and Iceland’s 0 is taking their turn to add to the beautiful sound. While their version of blackened doom has those parts to it, it’s also remarkably melodic and manages to bring in some sonic levity to their deeply depressing tracks.
What stands out the most is just the production quality. Blackened doom is a subgenre known for very lo-fi production qualities. Mizmor is frequently pointed out for that. But that isn’t the case on Entity. It’s so much the case that I’ve been trying to talk myself out of even calling them blackened doom just because of how nice the record sounds. You can hear all parts of it, so the mental image going with the music is more fully formed than it might otherwise be.
Consequently, coming up with a standout track is tough. Each of the six tracks on Entity has its own vibe and goal. Opener “None” is a deftly created plodding soundscape that really brings home the despair in the vocalist’s voice. The following 2 tracks, “Reduced Beyond the Point of Renewal” and “Grasping the Outer Hull of the Tangible,” brings a little more aggression into the mix but in a way that doesn’t drown out the brooding qualities. The rest of the tracks vary that same sound, and it’s delivered in a remarkably consumable package with the production qualities. I’ll always give blackened doom a bump on Doomsday, and Entity is one of the better examples of it this year.
VVARP –First Levitations
What would an October edition of Doomsday be without some spooky occult doom? Muahahaha, we’ll never know. Melbourne-based trio VVARP offer the cranked-full-stacks-at-a-basement-gig kind of heavy that’ll warm the hearts of all pious amp-worshippers. As you may infer from the album art, First Levitations is fuzzier than that Starburst that got stuck between your couch cushions five Halloweens ago, but it’s also a superbly well-executed occult-style doom record. This variety often lends itself to so much low and so much slow that it can easily go stale or even get a little drowsy, but VVARP is keen to work in nice melodic hooks and distinct atmospheres in each track.
Of course, the riffs are the straw that stirs the electric Kool-Aid. It doesn’t take long to get pancaked by their voluminous power, but if you seek a little tease beforehand, jump right to “Flames at Dusk.” The progression in this track is a nice break in form, almost bouncing with elastic riffing and nimble drumming, but the ante-upping cornerstone riff that cuts in just after the halfway mark approaches some brown note, pants-filling heaviness. It’s quite the flex, but throughout First Levitations, VVARP demonstrate they’re quite responsible with how they distribute the big stuff. While the bass does most of the heavy lifting, the guitars and drums play an active role in creating space with leads and peppering in some attention-grabbing curiosities along the way (dig “Hypnototem” and “Sommarsolståndet”).
The dual vocal approach of John (guitar) and Claudia (bass) lends that signature ritualistic vibe, but with a warmth – and dare I say a tenderness? – that complements and abates the feel-it-in-your-bones riffitude. They don’t quite tug at the heartstrings, but their delivery isn’t quite as singular or chanty as you might expect, either, better to gel with the tinges of stoner metal pocketed in their sound (check “Wizard Sister” or “Time Is Running Out of Space”). It’s not going to change anyone’s mind about Electric Wizard-style doom, but it’s certainly a debut worthy of attention, especially for those seeking some creepy tunes for their next munchy sacrifice.
SpellBook – Magick and Mischief
I’m just gonna follow Jordan’s lead and keep the spooky rolling. Writing for Heavy Blog, and on Doomsday in particular, has given me a great affinity for extremely niche sounds. The more you listen, the more you learn. I greatly love the modern wave of traditional heavy metal bands, but I REALLY love it when they get a little spooky. So Pennsylvania’s SpellBook is really scratching the itch for me. To be honest, I clicked play because of the super cool album cover, and that wasn’t the first time I fell in love with a record just because of the cover.
The band, formerly known as Witch Hazel, is another fantastic example of the current wave of traditional metal bands and harkens back to the early 70s with bands like Blue Oyster Cult and Thin Lizzy. So super cool stuff, but it’s also injected with spooky vibes to turn it to the dark side just a bit. Add to that just a dash of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats-style lo-fi production qualities (and literally just a dash), and presto! Magick and Mischief cometh!
The entire album is, of course, fantastic, but closing track “Dead Detectives” is utterly brilliant. There is no other descriptor. The eleven and a half minute long track feels like a heavy metal Tom Waits song. The film noir-style ballad goes through a lot of the noir tropes and is altogether a fantastic departure on the record. It’s one hell of a way to end a record regardless, but it’s so niche and interesting that it would be a crime to not bring it up. Anyway, all of Magick & Mischief is brilliant. Getcha some.
Steinsopp – Luggeføre
Need an escape? How does a concept album about the mushroom kingdom sound? No, this isn’t Italian plumber-themed sludge (but honestly, how hasn’t that been done? Pipes? Sludge? Evil reptiles?). Instead, Norway’s Steinsopp create something headier in what’s arguably the weirdest concept this side of Slugdge’s gastropod obsession – interdimensional mycology!
Like any heavy psych band worth their salt, Steinsopp has complete mastery of that retro bounce and can obviously groove for days. On Luggeføre, this is the default. Their progressions are akin to the gradual unfolding of a liquid light show, morphing from one movement to the next with a meditative calm that makes this album a truly relaxing kind of heavy. The album’s shorter instrumental numbers (“Fungal Caverns I and II,” “Pathfinder”) explore these ideas most directly while the remaining compositions fold these psych vibes in with some considerable amplitude, bending toward doomier fare.
“Dragoness” kicks off the album’s first big ol’ riff centric moments with a Sleep like crawl, but spiked with a trippier aura. The vocals are reverbed beyond recognition, but they still pack a wallop when they bubble up in these absolutely fucking huge, vibrant moments (the chorus in “Superdroid” is *chef’s kiss* perfection). It’s not often, but god damn, it is so killer when those psyched-the-fuck-out colors shine bright amidst their decomposing tempos when everything feels like it’s drifting apart. Album centerpiece “Mycorrhizae” is a cornucopia of the bounty found in their trippy sound, a heavily-affected epic that snowballs grooves into rounds of surging power, culminating in some neck-wrecking heaviness. This has been my go-to record for decompressing as of late, and it’s super effective. Don’t take it too seriously. Just throw it on, get lost in it, it’ll certainly …grow on you.
Oceans of Slumber – Oceans of Slumber
Every time I hear it, I fall more in love with progressive doom. The ideas in progressive doom allow you to delve deep into complex topics and nuanced musical ideas. That automatically makes it heavier than everything else, and by Satan that’s what we do here on Doomsday. Oceans of Slumber have been putting out some powerful progressive doom since 2013, this year’s self-titled record is by far their greatest effort since coming together.
The Houston progressive doom sextet makes some extremely impactful music. Once you press play on Oceans of Slumber, you can feel the emotional weight immediately. There’s something about the melodic chord picking of “The Soundtrack to My Last Day” that lets you know to prepare to get dour as heck. It’s partially the production with a lot of reverb and space in each track, giving each one a size far beyond what you might think from just turning on the record. There’s also a lot of introduction soundscapes that create a true environment on the record. You just don’t get that super often.
The other aspect of the record is Cammie Gilbert’s vocals. There is a drama and character to her vocal style that lends itself quite naturally to more dramatic topics and ideas. Whatever she’s singing about is automatically given more gravity and focus. Hell, Gilbert could dramatically sing a peer-reviewed science article and I’d be enthralled. Progressive music needs that kind of power to propel things in the listener’s mind, and doom metal really needs that kind of drama, too. Cammie Gilbert is the perfect bow holding together the wrapped present of Oceans of Slumber. The new record rules, so go take a listen.