Hail to you all, Heaviest of Bloggers! I hope spring has sprung for most of you. I live in Denver, CO where we don’t technically have spring so much as a single nice sunny day in the mid 60s followed by wet snowstorms that drop the temperature and block out the sun for a few days. Rinse and repeat until June. As I’m getting older, I appreciate the spring more and more. Maybe it’s because of staying at home to prevent the spread of COVID, but I just feel this urge to be outside when it’s nice. Even if it’s just to drive 5 minutes to the grocery store and back, I need to feed the sunshine-and-nice-temperature beast. As I’m writing this down, I can’t help but find an analog to a random tweet I saw saying that the writer is at an age where he feels compelled to say “that’s a nice porch” when he drives by a house with a nice porch. I just thought these kinds of feelings happened when you’re in your 50s and think velcro sneakers are a necessary part of your wardrobe. Not when you’re about to turn 35 and get annoyed when you still can’t track down a PS5.
Speaking of COVID, I will continue to use this platform to strongly encourage every single reader (and people generally) to get your vaccine the moment you’re eligible. Doctors, public health specialists, and medical professionals of all stripes have said it’s vitally important that you sign up and receive your vaccine as soon as you qualify to help keep the line moving. According to some professionals, COVID vaccination open periods are based on projections of how many people would qualify for the vaccine at any one time, and the next group becomes eligible when those projections meet certain thresholds, i.e. the next group opens up when public health officials feel like enough people from the previous group have been vaccinated. So you receiving your vaccination is just as important for you as it is for the rest of the population. Don’t think about whether it’s fair for you to receive the J&J shot before someone else; if it wasn’t fair, you wouldn’t be eligible. That’s why relatively healthy folks like myself are at the end of the line. Check with your state’s public health department to see about vaccine eligibility and get your shot the moment you’re able.
Alright, the soap box is going away so the riffs can come to play. March has been an unusual month this year. As we the Doomsday contributors have discussed, we have a lot of uncommon sounds that we’ve really loved and enjoyed this month. I personally feel like this is a good thing. While I do love gushing over a good solid stoner doom record, I feel that it’s important to raise up voices doing new and unique things. Well, as long as it’s good anyway. But that’s what we do here on Doomsday. Ready to get weird? LET’S DO THIS.
We No Longer Wish to Be Free – We No Longer Wish to Be Free (drone-doom)
It’s like I always say: nothing says spring like depressive drone doom. Everyone can back me up on that. Just makes you want to get rowdy and experience the spice of life, right?!? Alright, that’s plenty of that. I love a good extended joke but that would take away from the time we have to talk about We No Longer Wish to Be Free, an experimental drone duo from San Jose, CA. If you’ve been reading Doomsday for a while, you’ll notice this is the first time I’ve ever written about drone doom. That’s because this duo is just that important to me over the past month. Their self-titled debut is one of those random records I happened upon while browsing Bandcamp, and it’s become one of the more interesting things I’ve heard this year.
While I certainly may have been in a mood given the massive snowstorm we had when I heard it, We No Longer Wish to Be Free is the perfect soundtrack for gloom, despair, and fear. The two sprawling tracks feature some very interesting concepts. Both tracks feel like soundscapes for some beautifully awful scene of horror and gloom. But they’re also driven forward with funeral doom-inspired slow riffs. The simple riffs give the songs a direction and some structure while allowing for the scene to play out in the listener’s mind. There’s enough groove for a little drive but not so much that can’t see the image as a whole. It’s only 2 tracks clocking in at just shy of 22 minutes, but this is a very interesting project to me. I’ll be keeping a keen eye out for the next We No Longer Wish to Be Free release.
Sepulcros – Vazio (death-doom, funeral doom)
As much atmospheric death metal as it is funeral doom, Sepulcros’ deathdoom is a slow, satisfying debut. With a mix that leans into the foggy death metal aspects of their sound rather than the pristine funeral doom that seems to be getting more popular by the minute. Vazio is shrouded in this misty production, vocals and drums beckon from unperceivable depths while the guitars steep listeners in an electric, buzzing haze. The guitar arrangements can be kind of woozy in their doom-forward movements, but when this Portuguese quintet brings the speed, they become absolutely smothering, bringing to mind Inter Arma’s climactic eruptions from slogging doom to blistering blackened death.
Each of the four proper songs offer the kind of “aha” and “surprise” moments that have essentially become requisite for any memorability or lasting power. Incendiary blasts are quelled and reignited with an ease that makes Vazio a relatively breezy listen as opposed to the minimalist struggle of lesser doom bands. In essence, it’s kinda like Evoken just got deathed the fuck up. “Marcha Funebre” sees the group at their most dynamic (those slow chugs at 6:30 hit just right), while “Hecatombe” is a slightly more atmospheric affair, though nonetheless hard-hitting. The sub-40-minute runtime is great, almost quick-hitting for a doom record like this. Personally, I could take a few more songs of this quality, but I’d rather be left wanting more than having something that pointlessly lingers. Endcapped by some atmospheric, palate-cleansing ‘ludes, it could be even leaner (just sayin’…), but I’ll pay the tax every time for a record this good.
Five the Hierophant – Through Aureate Void (doom jazz, doomgaze)
More dark mood music! It’s difficult to describe the feeling I get from listening to dark and chill music like Five the Hierophant. I get this unique feeling where I can sense the darkness but everything’s alright because it has a good beat. Doom jazz bands like Five the Hierophant are among the more interesting bands I listen to, and Through Aureate Void completely captivated me this month.
Through Aureate Void goes in so many interesting directions that makes it hard to hit the stop button. The instrumental tracks have this permeating and swirling darkness to them that puts a dour note on everything they do. I mention that since the record is also really groovy. The conflicting imagery of jazz from the void combined with really engaging rhythms might seem like they’re in conflict, but they pair very well. Combining the two only makes the music that much more engaging and a much greater experience overall. I strongly recommend dark jazz bands like Five the Hierophant all the time, but Through Aureate Void is a can’t miss for the year.
Swamp Hawk – Monster in Color (melodic doom)
Back in the beginning of March, when we premiered Swamp Hawk’s Monster in Color in full, I made sure to try and convey how varied the album was. Ever since then, seeing as I’ve had more time to spend with it and really dig into its meat, I’m even more impressed with just how much Swamp Hawk have mentioned to place into this release while still sounding cohesive. The album ends up sounding like a tour of the different states, influences, and modes that modern doom metal can be found in today and, somehow, it handles each one with equal aplomb, groove, and polish.
We start off with “Quetzal”, which is a child of the ponderous, melancholic, and contemplative style of doom championed by the like of Yob and Pallbearer in recent years. Here, the vocals do the most work, channeling that forlorn and emotive mode that stands at the center of the style of doom to an incredible degree. The rest of the instruments aren’t slouches either of course; the over-the-top guitars are necessary to make those vocals work and that breakdown near the track’s center is pure, unadulterated, rock n’ roll energy.
Next, “Orphic” is all about the blackened bristles that contemporary doom likes to show off so much; beyond “just” Kelly Schilling (Dreadnought) iconic screams, the track just reeks of acid, abrasive and aggressive to an incredibly satisfying degree. Just before “Amberjack” returns us to the domains of emotional and epic doom, closing off the album, “Leash” and “Pissant” explore the pop-sludge stylings of bands like Torche and the punk undertones that make Thou and others in their style so good. That’s respectively, by the way; Swamp Hawk first hit you with the fuzzy sweetness and then follow up with the pissed off, no-funny-business riffs. Long story short, this album has something for any fan of doom and is an even greater joy if you just love the genre, no matter which form it takes. Make sure you not only give this one a listen but that you take the time to dive into it, allowing all of its facets to shine through. You’ll be rewarded with one hell of a varied release, one which kicks from the get go but then keeps kicking and kicking. And kicking.