Salutations to the Heaviest of Bloggers! I have made many offerings to the gods to ensure your well-being, so I hope you’re all great. Personally, I am feeling like a great societal weight is slowly being lifted. While there is still a bit of awfulness in the world, it’s nice to be able to go out safely in public again. Slowly, the masks are coming off, crowds are getting denser, and there are a heck of a lot fewer Russian bots on Twitter. The one thing I didn’t realize I missed so badly have returned: concerts! So far this year, I have been blessed to see Khemmis and Blood Incantation perform live, and I’m hoping for many more soon. I of course missed going to shows, but it didn’t hit me just how much I missed them until I went back to that first one. I’ve never felt so grateful to stand in line for beer and merch. And of course the music itself was brilliant. Bands seem to be just a wee bit rusty right now, which is completely understandable and absolutely tolerable just to be able to see them in person. Nevertheless, it feels like the “new normal” is taking hold. It may be some time before it truly settles in, but I’m very appreciative of the beginning.
Now onto more important matters: dem riffs doe. I think March is always a good month for music releases. We’ve gotten past the doldrums that is media releases at the beginning of the year. There are always good releases, but it doesn’t feel like there’s enough of them in January and February. But by March, things have built up a bit and you can see the bigger picture of good music for the year. The boys and I have some damn fine and intriguing picks this month, so enough of my yapping. BRING THE FUZZ, FELLAS.
Red Eye – The Cycle (progressive stoner doom)
Here on Doomsday, we tend to talk a lot about huge riffs on big records. Doom tracks can tell such incredible and mind-bending stories because of the atmosphere they create and how that can spin off into a true audio journey. Out of all the subgenres, doom bands also are far more willing to experiment and not worry about whether they are fitting into a certain genre or sound. It’s far more interesting to let the music tell the story and dictate the direction the sounds go in. Few bands live in that mindset like Spain’s Red Eye, a powerful trio creating some of the best stoner doom I’ve yet to hear this year. If you like your doom metal to take you on aural voyage, look no further than The Cycle.
The band describes The Cycle as a three act story about ancient Andalusia, and everything about this record gives it that kind of epic weight. Every individual song, lyric, and note is written at a colossal scale. The vocals have a high-flying quality that adds a lot of drama to each track. The riffs are basically narrative weapons for the band that absolutely overwhelm your senses and gives the record its size and heft. Meanwhile, the rhythm section is able to give everything the base it needs while also adding to the weight. It is a beautifully constructed record with a singular goal of telling you a story of massive proportions, and you can sense very clearly from the moment you click play.
What I really love about The Cycle is just how deliberate everything is. Everything about it is intricately constructed and one with a very specific purpose. Turn it on and you’ll see what I mean in the comparison between “Flyht” and “Gaderung”. Where “Flyht” is that classic style doom track of humongous riffs, thunderous bass, and plodding drums, “Gaderung” paints a much different picture. It leans more into the psychedelic aspect of the band’s sound and uses a carefully constructed tapestry of progressive-style chord progressions and melodic guitar licks to paint a picture of your scenery. It of course moves back into the big doom riff style halfway through, but it’s also fine with having that dichotomy. Much like the next album on the list this month, this is one I’ll have to return to many times.
Humanotone – A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand (progressive psych rock)
Here we go; here it is, 2022 lightning strike. Every year, as I’ve said elsewhere, I find one or two albums that simply reach out of the screen and grab me by my throat and demand that I listen to them over and over again. They usually arrive from out of nowhere, with little to no previous familiarity with the band. This is the case with Chile’s Humanotone, a band intent to further solidify the excellent Chilean scene of post-rock, stoner, and post-metal. Humanotone’s A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand is, simply put, one of the best progressive stoner releases I’ve heard in recent years. It deserves a place in the pantheon of the genre alongside Elder and Mastodon. Yes, you heard me correctly: put this album in the same category as Lore or Crack the Skye please.
There’s so much to choose from when discussing why this album is that good but I really, really want to start with the synths. It has been ages since I’ve heard such good tone on synths, definitely and obviously channeling the vintage Hammond sound but going way beyond than simply homage in its desire to entertain. The tone is so fleshed out that it should have easily been overbearing, taking over the rest of the music whenever it was present, but this is the synth’s true genius; the composition and production allow them to support the rest of their music where needed, even if their inherent sound is very large and present. All you need to do is turn on the album and listen to the first track, “Light Antilogies”, to hear all of these synthesized elements and bask in their grandeur.
But while you’re at it, listen to those vocals as well! They run the gamut from your more “standard” stoner vocals, dreamy and evocative, all the way to lower, very unique sounding ranges. They are also supported by excellent backing vocals, both closer to screams and more hauntingly beautiful at the same time. These create a full-throated vocal segment that does wonders in further fleshing out the dreamy soundscape that Humanotone are going for; much like the aforementioned Elder, vocals are used sparsely and much of the album is instrumental but their rare appearances become goalposts, marking high, and low, points in the album’s progression.
Of course, all of this brings us to the bread and butter of progressive stoner metal and that’s the guitars and boy are the glorious on this release. Whether channeling more psychedelic vibes with plenty of feedback, reverb, and other effects or plumbing the depths of almost post-metal heaviness, Humanotone’s guitars are as richly composed as the rest of the album. Going back to that first track (the first, remember, it’s just that expansive and good of an album), you can hear more folksy guitars, grand solos, groovy riffs, crushing chords, and more. It all comes together with the help of the rest of the instruments (special shout out here to the drums; check out how they support the last riff on this track), tying all of the different ideas into one grandiose and moving whole.
Damn. I could probably spend thousands of more words on describing everything this album does well but I really want to let you go so you can start diving into it. This is, for me, one of the stand out releases in 2022 and one that is sure to feature very high on my end of year lists. If you’re a fan of the kind of wondrous conjuration that is the staple of progressive stoner metal, the sort of ephemeral and highly emotional storytelling the best of the genre is capable of, then A Flourishing Fall in a Grain of Sand is a must listen for you. And even if you’re not a die-hard fan of the sub-genre, you should give this one a try; it truly does stand several shoulders higher than most entries in the field.
Deathbell – A Nocturnal Crossing (psych doom)
Spring seems like a great time for fantastical journeys. The world is coming back to life after the times of death and frost, so it seems like a hospitable time to head out and scour the lands for witches and demons. We’ve already had tales of epic history this spring, so now it’s time for high fantasy! Look no further than Toulouse, France’s Deathbell. The quintet already has one epic album behind them, but this month’s A Nocturnal Crossing truly takes the psychedelic occult cake.
A Nocturnal Crossing weaves together a highlight reel of my personal favorites. The record is absolutely dripping with swirling psychedelia. You hear it all over each track. It’s not just the content of the lyrics or the heavily processed guitars; it’s the combination of both and the atmosphere it creates. There’s a sense of bewilderment and welcomed confusion that gives me a sense of wide-eyed wonderment. It creates this entirely new and alien environment that sits in an uncanny valley of fantasy, a combination of tales of knights and maidens with the psychedelic and the weird. While the two styles are often at odds, Deathbell is able to weave them together into a single tale.
It may seem like a small thing, but I absolutely love the use of keyboards and synthesizers here. As other writers on the blog might tell you, I highly value the effective use of organs in a song. Organs just make every track better! They can really add to what your melodies are doing while also contributing to the overall atmosphere of the record. I hear it the most on “Devoured on the Peak”. The song already has a real sense of impending doom, and the organs emphasize that feeling by making it inescapable. If all of this sounds good to you, just stop whatever you’re listening to and put on A Nocturnal Crossing.
Dungeon Weed – The Eye of the Icosahedron (stoner doom)
Sometimes it takes a few records for an artist to find and craft the sound that becomes synonymous with their name, and other times that band is Dungeon Weed, a project that busted out the gate sounding like they’ve been at it for decades with 2020’s Mind Palace of the Mushroom God. It’s no secret that the stoner/doom scene has many traditionalists, yet few manage to flex their nostalgia in a way that escapes now-obvious tropes or the dreaded grip of derivation. It’s in this sense that Dungeon Weed is exceptional, they wear their influences on their sleeves while tweaking the formula enough that there’s no mistaking exactly who you’re hearing.
So as you may predict, The Eye of the Icosahedron is again exactly what you think it is. Building upon the foundation laid on 2020’s Mind Palace of the Mushroom God, Dungeon Weed takes things even higher with more intricate songwriting and an even greater attention to atmospherics. In a nutshell, everything is way bigger (and better) here. The concept follows a protagonist suffering from a curse of immortality through some expectedly trippy locales with immersive compositions to match. At 76 minutes, it’s an admittedly considerable undertaking, but repeated listens reveal the time-distorting concept is more than an on-album theme – it’s also experiential. If you truly enjoy surrendering to the riff, Icosahedron will be your companion for some time to come, or has it always been? (Spooky, huh?)
Though certainly still a meditative riff-scape, there are a number of well-placed interludes that break things up nicely, while an even more colorful display of sonic textures and flavors encourages listeners to savor every weird moment. The increased prominence of synths, sequencers and vocal interplay are a boost here, too, as the vocal arrangements seem to have gotten a little more attention on this go. The pairing of Mavra and Moonbrook is alluring and warped as ever, with ample vocal effects adding welcome variety and feel to each song. It’s a perfect case of getting more of everything and less of less of nothing without really changing the Dungeon Weed blueprint. Worry not, it’s still brain-fryingly heavy and fuzzed-out and the mad scientist leads are as unhinged as ever, but the hooks might actually hit a little better this time around with Icosahedron’s more adventurous structure and songwriting. An absolute must for psych-doom fans.
Konvent – Call Down the Sun (blackened death doom)
Let’s wrap this month up with something dark, brooding, plodding, and just straight up nasty. Denmark’s Konvent is making some of the most interesting death-doom you can find. It’s a style they’ve been developing since forming in 2015 that started as a more aggressive style of stoner doom. With this month’s release of Call Down the Sun, the band has shown some real growth by challenging themselves to incorporate darker black metal ideas to create an overwhelmingly oppressive environment of death metal grunting and doom metal riffing.
I’ve listened to this record a whole bunch this month. I found myself returning to it several times because, more than anything else, Call Down the Sun is a satisfying collection of tasty riffs. In my recent conversation with vocalist Rikke Emilie List, she noted that the band has evolved together from relative beginners to working musicians. It shows on this record. The band has really refined what they do and become extremely good at writing songs that delve the depths of harsh vocals and dark grooves. The black metal influence is palpable here and works wonderfully with placing their tracks in a certain atmosphere.
The most intriguing thing about Call Down the Sun to me is the amalgamation of influences. Having listened to it many times, I continue to find extra little pieces on here to appreciate. The guitar tone and grooviness remind me of classic stoner metal sounds. The bass and rhythms give me classic doom vibes. These vocals could’ve come from any number of death metal records. It’s all packaged together in a black metal atmosphere. Metal continues to trend in a direction where lines are blurring in defiance of categorization. Call Down the Sun is another record in that same vein, but it also defines this genre-bending movement. If you’re a fan of metal, you’re a fan of this record. There’s nothing to not like here.