A fair autumnal greeting to you all, O Heaviest of Bloggers! I hope you all are alive and thriving after surviving the hottest summer in living memory. Denver’s been experiencing a few days of actually bearable weather lately, and I hope you’re getting your own taste wherever you are. And don’t forget, kids: when someone tells you to reduce your own carbon footprint, remind them that only 100 corporations are responsible for 71% of the world’s carbon emissions. One soapbox down, one more to go.
I’d like to add a personal note here. After a 15-month long job search, I recently was hired to full-time work again. I was able to make a big move for myself by changing industries and doing work I can feel good about and walk away from at the end of the day. While that’s worth celebrating, I have noticed how much better I’m generally feeling. Depression had some very deep claws in me. Life was a difficult struggle for a pretty long time. Many things I took pleasure in before felt like a chore, including finding new music to share with all of you dear readers. My wife strongly encouraged me to seek help through therapy, and I found a great therapist who gave me the tools I needed to get back on my feet again. It didn’t happen overnight, and I had to work at it to get my head back on straight. But these days, the world seems like a better place to be. I say that for 2 reasons. First, if you’re struggling in the job market out there, keep at it. Nobody knows better than ol’ Pete how difficult it is to find work (I’m @TheNotFakePeteW if you need it), but it will happen for you. Don’t give up.
Second, I want to thank all of y’all for sticking with Doomsday. If my lack of passion was showing the last year or so, I’m sorry and I’ll do better in the future. While it was a struggle to put these columns together the last few months, it still helped me to forget about all the horrible bullshit and just talk about humongous riffs with my internet friends. It gave structure to my daily schedule to remember deadlines and be on the lookout for new music. I was grateful to have this outlet and grateful to all of you for hanging around with the Sad Boy. So thanks so much to all of y’all.
Alright, enough of that sappy nonsense. Let’s talk DOOM. As I’ve been doing my perusing of Bandcamp and music blogs, I feel like the floodgates are opening for lots of new and interesting music. Maybe it took some folks a while to get used to The New Normal of working digitally and recording from a distance. I’m not sure exactly but all of a sudden there’s tons of great stuff around. Not only that but I feel like some folks are getting really creative with their work. Shit’s wild in these parts these days, and I’m sure both Jordan and Eden are in agreement with me. Why am I writing about a trend when we could be telling you specifics? LET’S GET TO THE RIFFS ALREADY.
Sunburster – Sunburster (stoner sludge)
Let me start off the picks of the month with a quick and dirty one. Philadelphia’s Sunburster just released a four-track self-titled EP that gives me heavy NOLA sludge vibes. Sunburster has the right combination of sludgy riffs, punk attitude, and Southern-style soul and groove that gets your toes tapping very aggressively and your head bobbing right along. This one really blew me away when I pressed play. It’s the right combination of underground vibes and accessibility that any Doomsday reader would want to throw this on.
I really dig these four tracks for a few reasons. The most undeniable one is the NOLA sound reminiscent of Crowbar and Eyehategod that I really dig. Second is for the stylings the band incorporates into their sound. They aren’t just playing 100% aggro sludge (though there is a fair amount of that to be sure). There’s also some more contemplative and heady riffs like on “Exosphere,” and there’s the heaviest sludge styles to really bring the darkness like closing track “Ronin”. The band knows what side they butter their bread on and clearly know a ton about the sludge subgenre. This is a premier sludge sound, and I look forward to hearing a lot more of this style of sludge. Thanks, Philly!
Doctor Smoke – Dreamers and the Dead (heavy metal, sludge)
I’m very glad that Doomsday has become a more expansive column. It’s great to be able to talk about music that’s sort of related to doom on top of talking about doom because that means I get to write about bands like Doctor Smoke. If you aren’t aware of them (as I was before popping on Dreamers And The Dead), holy smokes are you in for a damn fun time. This is a band creating great engaging music with fun riffs and dark fantasy stories in their lyrics. After a few months of writing up morose blackened and/or death-doom records, I thought I’d lighten everybody’s load with this absolute gem of a record.
I’ll go ahead and get something out of the way: yes, this band reminds me A LOT of Ghost. Both Doctor Smoke and Ghost have that lightness about their music. There is an infectious energy on Dreamers And The Dead that you can’t deny or ignore. Every riff on this record is absolute ear candy and toys with melody and rhythm in satisfying ways. I know we all have a tendency to say that X band/song/record is like nothing we’ve ever heard before, but Dreamers And The Dead, along with Doctor Smoke’s discography, is wholly original music with very few comparisons or analogs. Even the comparison to Ghost isn’t entirely accurate since Ghost tends to also have a gravity about some of their music that isn’t present on Doctor Smoke tracks. And that is exactly why I will always take Doctor Smoke and Dreamers over anything Ghost has to offer in the future.
Once I played through Dreamers And The Dead a few times, I took a closer look at the band. I was stunned to see that this is only the band’s second release ever and the first since 2014’s The Witching Hour. This band sounds really tight like they’ve been playing together for decades. Their songs sound like they come from seasoned songwriters who have worked and performed together for years. And the production values on Dreamers And The Dead make everything they recorded crisp and clear like they were recorded in a state of the art studio. I’m truly amazed by how good this random record I happened to stumble upon in Bandcamp is. I’m definitely going to load up on their merch and let them know this is a record I deeply love. When end of the year lists come out, I’ll be putting Dreamers And The Dead on my personal best of list. I double dare you to listen to this record once and disagree.
Ghorot – Loss of Light (blackened doom, stoner metal)
I could let the pessimist within get the best of me and set this up like, “Oh shit, we’re like three months late to getting around to Ghorot’s Loss of Light,” but instead, I’ll do you one better and give this record an even harder, time-tested vote of confidence as it’s been part of my regular rotation since its release in late July. I’ve consistently come back to this one to quench my thirst for something dark and heady, but Loss of Light isn’t without a few bonafide blackened passages to clear out the cobwebs every once in a while. It’s a little quirky, but as I’ve digested their novel take on blackened stoner doom, I’ve come to develop a real taste for it.
At first glance, it’s almost hard to believe Ghorot ever gets around to anything that approaches black metal. The initial groove on opener “Harbinger” is a Sabbathian salute of the highest order, but it nicely segues into a dissonant kinda creep that sets up the blackened resolution wonderfully. This contrast of tempo and energy stirs the drink for many a blackened doom group, but the psych leanings of this Boise trio lends a fresh twist to the formula – it’s apparent these fellas are attuned to the subtleties of working the slow tempos (see closer “In Endless Grief”), they pick their points wisely and keep things moving quite efficiently.
Atmosphere-heavy tracks like the indica-compatible, 11-minute “Chariorteer of Fire” demonstrates patience and restraint in how Ghorot can thoughtfully construct the slow an’ low before launching into the fleeting “Woven Furnace,” a track that makes relatively quick work of it’s four minutes, darting in and out of frostbitten blasts and into this like, caveman sludge kinda thing that’s unexpected, yet welcome on every listen. “Dead Gods” takes the hybrid in a different direction, homing in on this blackened desert rock rondo (think Inter Arma’s “Summer Drones,” but grimier) that’s become one of my favorite tracks of the year. The juxtaposed and additive formulations of black metal and stoner doom feel like deliberate examinations rather than experiments in genre math, coming together in ways that are sure to twist an ear without feeling contrived.
I can’t say I’ve heard anyone put these elements and genres together quite like this, but what’s more impressive is how they use them in interesting ways while playing to the strengths of each. The black metal shrieks and blasts aren’t out of place or jarring, nor are the doomy, sludgy bits laboring or without intrigue. Loss of Light is a diverse collection of songs that don’t quite fit so easily in the “blackened doom” box, nor does it feel like a proper stoner doom album. It’s a tangibly dark record that seems to revel in its own mystery, unloading massive riffs and creative attention to songwriting and production. There’s not much else (to my knowledge) that can play so well to both the blackened doom and stoner metal crowds, so consider this an ideal stepping stone to find your way to the other side, if you’re so inclined.
Fierce Deity – Power Wisdom Courage (stoner power metal)
“Pete, what the hell is that subgenre?” I’d be asking the same thing if I were you. When has this ever happened? I think never is the correct answer, so let’s all collectively thank Fierce Deity for blowing our collective minds with this. Power Wisdom Courage came out of absolute nowhere for me. Mainly because I hadn’t heard of Fierce Deity before, but also because I really don’t like power metal. I love good high flying cheese fests, don’t get me wrong. But some power metal bands can go way too far with it, and I think you all know what I mean. We definitely have a lot of the good drama in this record without a lot of what turns folks off, so we are being truly blessed here.
The thing I kept thinking throughout the 3 tracks was how nobody has done this before. The way Fierce Deity puts together their tracks makes it feel so natural. It’s the way this story has to be told. Big riffs come together with stunning vocal work and some absolutely brilliant synths in a package that I’m not sure how anybody wouldn’t like it. My personal favorite track, “Wisdom”, is the best example. The riff is a classic sounding metal riff that sounds like it could’ve been on a Judas Priest record on top of drums that feels just as at home in Trouble’s early discography. Then the vocals come in sounding like the earliest versions of power metal (really more progressive to me). You can’t believe it’s perfect but damn if it isn’t perfect, know what I mean? Plus hearing a grown man shout Navi’s annoying phrases (HEY! LISTEN! to all my Ocarina homies out there) really helps my inner nerd.
It’s not rare for a metal band to pay homage to video games. It’s only slightly less rare when a band is inspired to make original music based on a video game. What is rare is the mastery I hear on Power Wisdom Courage. A lot of power metal, and metal in general to be honest, relies on gimmicks and tricks to put music together. The drama you often hear on power metal can feel so artificial and fake, and that’s what turns people off of it. Fierce Deity feels so earnest and genuine that it avoids all those problems. This isn’t an artist TRYING to make this sound. Fierce Deity is an artist whose natural process of making music just sounds like Power Wisdom Courage. I think that’s ultimately why I’m going to return to this again and again. That and all the Zelda references. But mostly the sweet music.