Good summer’s end to you all, Heaviest of Bloggers! One season ends, another begins. Such is the inevitable march of time. Sure, it’s not technically autumn until September 22nd, but a man can dream away this ungodly heat, right? Despite the fact that my birthday is in August, August really is the worst month. Nothing great typically happens. There’s no holidays or long weekends. When you’re a kid, August signifies going back to school. As an adult, it’s the end of summer which bothers some people but not a cold weather person like myself. And even if those previous items didn’t bug you, it’s easily the hottest part of the summer so having nothing going on just makes it that much worse. And even though we seem to be coming off the whole going to the movies in the summer routine, it’s when the worst summer movies come out, like the January of the blockbuster season. I hate to start this column off with such a bummer, but it’s how I feel about my birth month.
That being said, we were still able to find some great riffs for y’all this month. While I OBVIOUSLY will be bringing the heat with my picks for the month, Eden’s bringing an especially good example of the month for y’all. No spoilers but it’s the perfect summer metal record. Outside of that, Jordan and I have some big winners of the month, bringing you all the fuzz and riffs your body needs to beat the heat. Enough of my yappin’, LET’S GET THEM RIFFS.
Funeral Noise – Unholy Visions (doom, blackened sludge)
Let’s start off with a real solid EP. Michigan’s Funeral Noise just point out the Unholy Visions EP as their second release, and it is just right up my alley. Considering how local the band is and how early in their career they are, I was genuinely impressed with how mature the entire record sounds. Close Doomsday followers will know how much I appreciate dedication to high production values, even on a possible shoestring budget. I’ll of course get to their sound momentarily (which is some awesome modern doom and sludge), but that was the first thing to hit me about this record. Here’s this band from a small town in Michigan who have created this awesome modern brutal sound in a few short years of writing music together, and even they are able to find a way to make a great sounding record. Bravo, my dudes.
Now we can get to their sound. Funeral Noise is a great mash of modern doom and what I believe to be sludge on the blacker side of life. And it is BRUTAL. These riffs will call your eardrums their bitch. They hit really hard, and I personally find them to be quite tasty. At the same time, the band is able to find those moments of melodic drama.The bridge section of the intro track “Under Heavy Hands/Unholy Visions” is the perfect example. They don’t dial back the fuzz, but they are able to slow down the riff and build up an engaging melody that seems almost incongruous with the initial part of the track. This EP is littered with those moments throughout. I love everything about these 4 drawn out tracks of modern doom and sludge, and there’s no doubt in my mind you will, too. I am super excited to see where this band goes in the future.
Suncraft – Flat Earth Rider (heavy psych, stoner rock)
It’s important to remember that stoner and doom metal are, at least in one part of their dense network for roots, all about having fun. They come from a time (the late 70’s and 80’s) where pop and pulp were just starting to be a thing and enjoying their first heyday. As such, these genres, and especially stoner and psychedelic music, has always shared cultural spaces with schlocky horror, half-earnest hippie memes, and an overall sense of boisterous freedom and lack of concern for seriousness or self-importance. Suncraft, and bands like them, are a good way to remember this, as they infuse their stoner metal with a lot of fun and levity. Of course, there’s a trick to this; you can’t just insert a few self deprecating jokes, some light-hearted riffs and call it a day. There’s an art to making a fun, bouncy, and humour filled album and still make an interesting piece of music.
Flat Earth Rider, the band’s most recent release, is definitely an example of how to do that. I mean, the very name of the album (which is shared with its opening track) is a testimony to how little it takes itself seriously. But the music on said opening track should immediately dissuade you from writing this release off as just a joke; there’s a lot here to like. From the opening riff and its groovy good times, through the excellent vocals and, finally, to the glorious, Elder tinged segment around the three and a half minute mark, finally culminating in some excellent choir vocals, the track is a slab of stoner metal excellence.
And it’s not just that track; while the second one opens with a whispering voice saying “space buddha” (also the track’s name), the track itself is the farthest from a pointless punchline. It goes deeper into some psychedelic vibes which work really well with Suncraft’s base sound. And the album just keeps going, ducking and diving between communist cannibals, space buddhas, flat earthers, and an overall sensation of a motley, silly, and childish sense of humour and some truly great, well crafted, and “seriously” put together music. The combination is intoxicating and should be familiar to fans of Clutch: kicking riffs, great vocals, and tracks which tell bizarre, hilarious, and fun stories. What’s not to like? So, take a load off, stop taking yourself so seriously, maybe light up something to smoke, and enjoy the ride. Flat Earth Rider is one and a half.
Borracho – Pound of Flesh (heavy psych, stoner metal)
As I very recently stated, stoner metal is metal for the summer time. Lots of bands or records or tracks can be called fun, but only one subgenre can be described as entirely fun. For me, it’s the classic rock connections of stoner rock and metal, and that’s just nostalgic for me. Washington, D.C.’s stoner trio Borracho are the very definition of fun music. I know I always refer to fuzz riffs whenever I talk about doom metal, and Borracho’s music is the kind of riff I’m thinking of. It grooves its way through your ear drums and mind and covers everything in a great haze that you can’t resist.
The trio has been kicking it since 2008, but their latest record, Pound of Flesh, is the first I’d ever heard of them. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the opening track “Holy Roller” was all I needed to hear to know I was locked in. The band combines the right kind of songwriting with all the trimmings you need for a good stoner metal album. Stoner music needs to be highly accessible in order to be successful, and I can’t think of a single part of a Pound of Flesh that your average rock or metal fan wouldn’t like. The riffs are big and loud. The presentation is aggressive enough to throw the music in your face without being really offputting to most listeners. The only thing I could think of is the song length since a lot of folks like a good and tight 2-4 minute track, but even that’s negligible in my mind since even the long tracks of Pound have enough to keep the most frenetic listeners engaged.
There’s a great reason I mentioned “Holy Roller” as a standout track to me. I personally always know a good record if the first track is a banger, but this one’s even more than that. I get a lot of proto-metal and 70s riff rock vibes off of it. The image in my head was a Jimi Hendrix-style kaleidoscope or like an early 2000s PC music player visualizer. It meshes well with the thick fuzz riffs of psychedelic rock that the band touches and the engaging grooves the band makes on every single track. It’s also structured like a classic rock song with a sort of standard verse-chorus-cerse kind of song structure, but each one of those sections has their own little variation. Pound of Flesh and “Holy Roller” in particular just scratch a lot of itches for me. Considering you made it through an entire Doomsday column, I think it will for you, too.
Terminus – The Final Bell Toll (heavy metal, pop-sludge)
Is it the barbecue? Maybe it’s magic cornbread? I don’t quite understand it, but whenever I catch wind of a band from Arkansas, I feel like I’m always late to the party, like they’re somehow all polished up and ready for the big leagues. Such is the case with Terminus, a group who’s been chugging along since at least 2013, and much like Rwake and Pallbearer before them, they’re wonderful heavy metal ambassadors for The Natural State, melding huge doom and sludge grooves with traditional metal sensibilities and an oft-neglected attention to the poppier side of things.
I was immediately taken by the consistent spirit and enthusiasm that’s exuded on The Final Bell Toll; there’s an infectious energy generated by arena-sized hooks and an undeniable heart-on-the-sleeve display of emotion, not only making it a joy to sing along to, but the arrangements are utterly soul-piercing with wondrous harmonies and astute songwriting that can really take you places. Much like recent releases from Spirit Adrift and Eternal Champion, it’s apparent the Terminus dudes are well-studied and passionate about their craft and what makes melodic heavy metal tick. The infectious delivery and timbre of the vocals, the savvy balance of metallic might and sense of adventure against not-too-sweet catchiness, the organ and acoustic touches, and of fucking course the riffs flesh out The Silent Bell Toll to be something not just uncommon, but special.
There’s notes of Khemmis, pre-Yellow & Green Baroness, and even some Helms Alee to unearth in this record; the light progressive touches give this record serious long term playability (the incredible title and closing tracks are certainly tracks to chew on) while the hooks will have you smashing repeat on tracks like “Black Swan” and “The Falcon.” All the more, the sequencing and interludes lend a narrative feel that makes each proper song a landmark in their own right. The Silent Bell Toll is handily one of my most-listened-to albums of the year, and there’s no doubt I’ll wrap up the year with this one close to my heart.