Great tidings unto thee, O Heaviest of Bloggers! This column marks the midpoint of the year in doom for us here at Doomsday, and man has it been another great year so far in the slow and low. I keep a spreadsheet of every album I listen to, and I’m seeing nothing but highlights. Thus far, here’s the anecdotal trends for me:

  1. We’ve been…umm…blessed (?) with more blackened titles. Hard to use the word “blessed” when describing anything blackened, but it’s true. Bands like The Ruins of Beverast, Body Void, and The Flight of Sleipnir put out heavy duty records this year, and it seems like in previous years that blackened titles on Doomsday are hard to come by. While my personal consumption of black metal has gone down this year, I’m seeing a lot of blackened subgenre titles on my list. I know I’ve spent time writing about several of them. Maybe being in the pandemic influenced a lot of metal in the last year to tread into darker realms.
  2. Experimentation! Similarly to blackened titles, I’m thinking COVID quarantines influenced a lot of songwriters to get weird with it and try something new. At the same time, my own time at home has equally encouraged me to step outside of my musical comfort zone with more unusual musical ideas. French drone duo ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL comes to mind along with doomgaze/doom jazz Five the Hierophant for really outside the norm (for me) stuff. Even the stoner psych band Howling Giant followed that idea with the heavy instrumental record Alteration this year. As much as I love gargantuan riffs covered with indecipherable fuzz, doom and its related sounds tend to retread a lot of musical territory with uninspired musical takes, so I welcome a more experimental direction.
  3. Stoner sounds are ruling the year overall. As I’m reviewing my list, I’m seeing the word “stoner” over and over again. And there are some awesome bands and albums coming out this year, like supergroup STONER, Richmond’s heavy psych band Book of Wyrms, and the folky Khirki from Athens, Greece. Yes, I know stoner sounds can sometimes fall under the “retread” category I mentioned previously, but that isn’t to say that talented musicians and songwriters can’t take these ideas into new territories. And even if they don’t, I personally think stoner ideas are just plain fun. Couldn’t we all use a little extra fun in our lives these days?

For those of you hoping for more mid-year lists, you’re in luck! We don’t want to skip out on reviewing our favorite riffs of the month, so we decided we’re going to do both our normal column and a mid-year check-in. Eden, Jordan, and yours truly will give you our favorite doom releases of the year, and then we’ll slide right into this month’s records. GETCHA SOME RIFFS.

2021 So Far

Pete

OryxLamenting a Dead World

With the rise of blackened sounds in the world of doom, nothing feels quite as big and punishing as blackened sludge. The raw aggression and willingness to lay everything on so thickly makes the sound, and Oryx’s Lamenting a Dead World is the template by which other records will be measured. The usual blackened sludge record can be summed up by brutal riffs and harsh vocals. While those elements certainly are here, there’s a dark melodic theme on Lamenting that makes it so much more engaging and intriguing. It’s that combo that makes this such a brilliant record. It’s all very dark and heavy, but the ebbs and flows of the energy and the melodies make it so unique to me. This trio has mastered their craft and is showing it off on Lamenting a Dead World.

The Flight of SleipnirEventide
Five the HierophantThrough Aureate Void
VokonisOdyssey
Body VoidBury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
Book of WyrmsOccult New Age
EremitBearer of Many Names
KhirkiΚτηνωδία
Swamp HawkMonster in Color
A Better TomorrowSpiritual Crossing

Eden

The Flight of Sleipnir Eventide

Out of the albums that will probably feature on all of our lists and on the blog’s general mid-year list, the one I’m most excited about is The Flight of Sleipnir’s Eventide. Perhaps it’s “simply” because I’ve been waiting for it for years but I don’t think it’s just that. It’s also, and mainly, because the band have simply stepped up every single aspect of their sound. Eventide is better produced than any previous album (which were all great sounding albums to begin with) but still sounds raw and powerful. It’s more blackened and, as a result, heavier and more aggressive but also still intimate and fragile. Most of all, it has this inescapable energy and momentum while also being almost unbearably crushing and abrasive at times. It’s what a band at the height of their career should sound like: simultaneously pushing not just one aspect of their sound in one direction but everything, all together, at once, without compromise or half measures.

KhirkiΚτηνωδία
Âge|TotalÂge|Total
Swamp Hawk – Monster in Color
Body VoidBury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
YautjaThe Lurch
VokonisOdyssey
LizzardEroded
Holy Monitor Heavy Trip
Boss KeloidFamily the Smiling Thrush

Jordan

ÂGE ⱡ TOTALÂGE ⱡ TOTAL

Celestial doom is where it’s at. Specifically, this ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL album is where it’s been at for me for most of 2021. This self-titled debut has a way of combining many of my favorite elements of the genre: the grandeur of size and scope, the spacey spectacle of limitlessness and potential, galactic measures of mass and heft, and the duality of individual insignificance amidst the infinite universe contrasting the immeasurable emotional forces found within those tiny beings. The French collab (featuring members of Greyfell and Endless Floods) proves to be greater than the sum of their parts, culminating in a wholly unique experience that’s utterly transporting. The psychedelic Pink Floyd-esque dustings of synths enlighten and uplift as gargantuan strides of riffs trudge across planetary stepping stones. The at times choir-like approach to vocals boosts the album’s sense of scale, complementing the boastfully huge instrumentals of equal skin-rippling power and mindful, meditative patience. Yet, there’s this “otherness” I can’t quite define but continue to search for, something that has me tirelessly pressing play time and time again. For that, ÂGE ⱡ TOTAL get my unwavering mid-year cheers.

Body VoidBury Me Beneath this Rotting Earth
SepulcrosVazio
The Flight of SleipnirEventide
Jack Harlon & The Dead CrowsThe Magnetic Ridge
Oryx – Lamenting a Dead World
Swamp HawkMonster in Color
Hellish FormRemains
Battle HagCelestial Tyrant
A Better TomorrowSpiritual Crossing

New Releases

STÖNERStoners Rule (heavy blues, stoner metal)

Ah, hello fuzziness, my old friend. Few things rock like a new Brant Bjork release. Combine that with the booty-boppin’ bass riffs from Nick Oliveri, and by golly you got a cool record on your hands. STÖNER is exactly the record to kick some life into your summer. Or just as easily, and maybe more thematically, STÖNER is the band to stare at your ceiling fan after a few rips off the bong. Either way, it serves a purpose and is a lot of fun to listen to. You don’t need to bring a lot of knowledge with you to like this record since it might be the most accessible thing I’ve heard in quite some time.

While I will try very hard not to retread ground from my full review of Stoners Rule, I’m going to have to repeat myself just a little since the most outstanding parts of the record are something that demand revisits. First off, HOO BOY THAT BASS THO. In the world we live in, rarely do our favorite bands indulge in the true low end. Sure, most everybody down tunes their guitars to a certain extent, but not many actually let the bass either take the lead or work on the same level as the guitars. Not STÖNER. No sirree, Bob. You get an earful of bass rhythm here. That’s part of the brilliance of the power trio model that everybody has to share the stage in a way they don’t in other environments. The great part of that here is that it really helps reinforce the good grooves that are throughout Stoners Rule. By keeping that rhythm and prominently displaying it, the band allows Bjork to indulge in the other staple of stoner music: fuzzed out guitars. Don’t ya love it when a plan comes together?

Another thought that bears repeating: Stoners Rule is just a good time. With everything going on in the world these days, we could all use a good time. This is riffs and fuzz and bass and grooves, and by golly that qualifies as great in my book. If that sounds like a good time to you, STÖNER is where it’s at.

-Pete Williams

Circle of Sighs Narci (prog doom, dark synth)

Honestly, Circle of Sighs could have ended Narci on the opening track, “Spectral Arms”, and it would still be an excellent release. The opening, sprawling, progressive rock tinged epic is an easy epic to get lost in, one which we got to premiere a few weeks ago on the blog. But here’s the thing; Circle of Sighs didn’t stop and that’s a great thing because it gave us one of the weirdest, most off-kilter doom/stoner/psychedelic/progressive/whatever albums in the recent few years. Narci is best described simply as wild; seriously, just hit play on “We Need Legends” and let the head scratching begin. 

Sure, there are common denominators between the two tracks. “We Need Legends” is very trippy and so is “Spectral Arms”. They both have synths and fuzzy guitars. But “We Need Legends” runs on this weird, electronic time-signature agnostic, chunky drum fueled ditty where “Spectral Arms” is sprawling on melodic. It’s a track that reminds me of Primus but on a lot of consciousness-modifying drugs which is saying something because I bet those were involved in that band as well. 

The thing is, there’s the same sort of doom-y/psychedelic energy that bubbles beneath even the weirdest moments of “We Need Legends” and certainly on other, more restrained tracks like the following “A Crystal Crown of Cosmic Pain” although it can only be called “restrained” on an album such as this. There’s more down the line of course, with noise rock, electronics, doom, progressive rock and even some death metal (yeah), upsetting samples, break-neck drums, and hefty guitars, all blending together into a nightmare descent in a dreamscape that somehow manages to stick together. Somehow.

-Eden Kupermintz

Hermit’s WeedsomAs Above So Below (instrumental stoner doom)

While I always enjoy a heavy record that includes a lot of drama and critical accolades, I sometimes forget that doom metal can be the most fun of the metal subgenres. Not every record has to be some massive tome that explains the human condition or whatever high-minded theme you want to indulge. Sometimes you just need something fun and cool. French stoner doom duo Hermit’s Weedsom checks that box for me in the best way possible. If you ever thought you wanted a record of tasty riffs that gets your head bobbing, look no further than As Above So Below, the band’s second release and first full-length.

I love As Above So Below for a lot of reasons. The first that comes to mind is how simple it is. There’s not a whole lot to this record, and that makes it absolutely perfect in my mind. It should serve as a reminder to us all that you don’t need a state of the art studio and a million dollar production budget to make an amazing record. The duo writes songs that are just heavy riffs and infectious beats, which I would say is the basis of every record I love. That may sound a little too simple, but the drummer and guitarist/bassist are able to take that idea in a lot of directions that all represent classic doom metal sounds. It means both straight to the head fuzz riffs and heavy blues solos and drawn out melodic dramas that feel like the epitome of the word “doom”. It’s fun music that’s accessible to everyone, and that makes it great.

The other thought I had was just how mysterious Hermit’s Weedsom and As Above So Below are. I don’t even remember how I started listening to this record, but I’ve listened to it A FREAKING LOT. It just came out of absolute nowhere for me, and I’m stunned at how easily I’m drawn in from the moment I hit play on the opening track. It’s a little on the rough side, but I’m not holding that against the band since it’s only their second record. There’s a lot of incredible sound parallels for the band, and that makes me hope for big things in their future. While I love what they’re doing right now, I think there’s a lot of potential for such an amazing duo of clearly talented songwriters. Jump in now so you can say you were there before Hermit’s Weedsom got even better.

-PW

Hellish Form Remains (funeral doom, drone)

Remains isn’t at all what I expected as a follow up to last year’s MMXX, but it is definitely what I needed. Willow Ryan and Jacob Lee essentially build upon the skeleton of that EP, fleshing out their grueling doom with a new attention to melody and pop. Production-wise, this is a very different beast. Most noticeable is how the punishing longform arrangements have been reined in to more manageable sub-15-minute runtimes. The songwriting is well-suited for these shorter structures, too. As mentioned in my year-end gloss of MMXX, drone has a way of overstaying its welcome for me, but Remains is still able to capture much of that same full-bodied tone grain and agonizing minimalist creep (“Your Grave Becomes A Garden,” “Shadows with Teeth”) without the need to stretch past the 20-minute mark.

Tonally it’s as though the duo took a tip from Bob Ross, grabbing a bit of that auditory titanium white to brighten some facets and emphasize the darkness of others. Both the guitar leads and synths have new prominence on Remains, and it makes the abbreviated runtimes even friendlier as Hellish Form have more dimension and variety to showcase this time around. “Ache” and “Another World” keep the synths in the forefront, lending an unusually beautiful contrast to the depressive squeeze of the stripped down heavy shit. There’s no denying the 80s goth flavors found here (they work both surprisingly and wonderfully), but I would never have guessed this kind of thing would emerge in the wake of a release like MMXX. Still, these elements connect every bit as powerfully, maybe even more so than the marrow-rumbling slogs of heavily distorted guitars and drums. It’s an impressive step forward from the unequivocally suffocating and dismal to something much more open and tactful. It’s very different, but still the same – a subtle yet significant creative leap that has me primed for whatever comes next.

-Jordan Jerabek

EremitBearer of Many Names (sludge, doom)

The first two records I wrote about were just good clean fun. Eremit in many ways is the opposite of that. The German trio puts out dense tomes of thick sludgy doom that put many funeral doom bands to shame. And it’s consistently incredible. I realized this is the third year in a row that I’ve written about a new Eremit release with the kind of high praise I’m definitely about to put to paper. Rarely do you see an artist release incredible music as a pattern, but Eremit has been able to do it three times in a row, including their 2018 debut Carrier of Weight. Bearer of Many Names is the most recent example of the amazing amalgamation of sludge and doom in their catalog.

After my previous two blurbs about fun records, it’s nice to talk about doom metal and embrace the full meaning of doom. Eremit writes songs to really instill the forlorn feelings we associate with modern doom metal. Bearer of Many Names translates those feelings of melancholy and inevitability with a giant wall of impenetrable sound. It really encapsulates what doom metal can be to me. It’s a monolith of depressive sadness that references ideas of loss and lack of control. But it also does it under the guise of fantastical ideas and creatures, often using them as a metaphor for one of the bigger thoughts on the sadder and darker side of life. It’s like Eremit is writing a textbook for how to doom, and it is certainly a template worth following.

The band has mastered its craft with Bearer of Many Names. The songwriting talent has always been there for them, and Bearer cements that for all time. Production qualities on their records have always been pretty good, but Bearer has them beat by just a little. What really has improved on Bearer is the band’s ability to create an atmosphere. That’s gone hand in hand with their songwriting, but you can also sense the little tweaks here and there that make it even better. To return to the earlier remark, Eremit has been so consistently good leading up to this record that all of the improvements are subtle. Bearer of Many Names really stands on its own merits entirely, so I highly recommend it for someone looking for the kind of doom you can really chew on for a while.

-PW

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