Good day to you, Heaviest of Bloggers! The weather has officially changed. You can all see the thermometers rising. It’s summer at last. Is it just me or is summer a crappy season for metal? It just doesn’t seem right to me to see happy faces all running around outside while I’ve got blast beats and guttural grunts blowing out my ear drums. The music is simply incongruous to the season. Well, maybe with the exception of stoner jams. And maybe that’s why my mood tends to lighten about this time on the calendar. Spacey big riffs with lyrics about partying can have that effect on anyone. It’s very lighthearted fare. So we can get away with that during the summer, but I feel sorry for the other columns on the blog now. What do the death and black metal fans do right now? Is there any way to lighten those up to fit in during these months? I’m inclined to say no since that’s sort of the point, but I’d like to be proven wrong. Maybe I’ll work with them to help lighten the load. I’ll get back with y’all for the June column to see what I’ve come up with.
For now, we focus on THE RIFFS. Much like the movie theaters, this is the time of year when the real bangers come out. I know we’ve already gotten a couple so far, but it’s time for the onslaught now. I know I’m writing up a few things I’ll be revisiting in December, and I think the gang here might say the same thing. Fuzz, riffs, bass, and drums all around! LET’S DO THIS THANG!
Famyne – II: The Ground Below (prog doom)
By now, you should all know to trust Svart Records with blind faith. The northern label rarely does any wrong and almost every band on their roster can be rated solid or above. This is definitely the case with Famyne; working within the illustrious tradition of UK doom, Famyne make a type of metal that is both vicious and grandiose. The riffs and grooves supply the viciousness; they are chock full of lilting dirges and crashing chords. The vocals come in to supply the grandeur; their timbres and massive execution lends the entire album a feeling of a screamed prayer or an epic poem, something fit for a war-bard to read/sing as battle crashes around them. It most reminds me of underrated bands like HAAST or Gévaudan, though the comparison could also be made to Allfather. In short, II: The Ground Below fucking slaps and should set your doom-hungry hearts at peace. I mean, at war. Or something. Listen to this!
Tzompantli – Tlazcaltiliztli (death doom)
As many of you have figured out by now, I really love when doom gets filthy and disgusting. Give me all the down-tuned brutally mid-tempo death doom you’ve got. I think artists can express emotions in a new way by yelling and screaming but slowly. It’s another way to express an extreme intensity that we can all tap into. This is exactly the thought I had when I first listened to California’s Tzompantli and their first full-length Tlazcaltiliztli.
I know I have a tendency to leap to hyperbole on this column, but you have to trust me when I say that Tlazcaltiliztli is some of the nastiest and most brutal death doom I’ve ever heard. The Pomona, CA band taps into an intensity I’ve yet to hear on many other records. Every note feels like it was forged and hardened in actual battle. The riffs don’t feel like they were plucked on a guitar string as much as they were physically beaten from an amplifier. I’ve heard Primitive Man riffs tamer than what’s on this record. Those riffs would be nowhere without the brilliantly composed drum beats guiding them along and further building up the energy. It’s an intoxicating blend of riffs and rhythms that you have to hear to understand.
I think much of the fire behind the music lives in the band’s subject matter. The entire record was dedicated to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, groups of people who far too often go unrecognized in their countries. These songs could be seen as a metal homage to the various cultures described in the dedication. The band also says the record is an offering to these peoples as well, and I would be remiss in neglecting to mention the ritualistic feel of these songs. The beats, while still very modern, take you over as though you’re in the throes of a spiritual awakening. They tap into something all people can feel and are moved by. You’d be lying if you said you didn’t also feel that on every song of Tlazcaltiliztli. It’s an impressive feat few bands have ever accomplished, let alone do it on your first record. I’ll be talking about this one for some time to come.
Besvärjelsen – Atlas (witch rock/stoner doom)
When I first heard Besvärjelsen back in 2019, they seemed to me to be a band conflicted. Don’t get me wrong, I loved their music; that’s why I covered it on the blog! But it was unclear to me whether these guys want to make stoner rock or doom metal. Sure, they could just blend the two but that’s not really the vibes that I got. Instead, it felt like the band were torn between these two directions, presenting both of them at the same time instead of making a decision. This hurt their first few releases a bit (especially the one where I became familiar with the band, Frost) and prevented it from fully shining through although what light was there was already incredibly promising.
Luckily, Besvärjelsen have dug deep for Atlas and came up with an answer to the question of genre. Specifically, they chose supercharging their groove section with a punk, rock n’ roll sort of energy, doubling down on the thick lower end that’s always fueled their machinations. The choice then is doom metal; Atlas iway thicker than previous Besvärjelsen, hulking in its grooves and riffs. The last vestige of the stoner and alt rock that bubbled underneath Besvärjelsen’s surface in the past has been concise to the vocals. That might seem to disparage their role in the album but the opposite is true; by sticking to the ethereal and enticing timbres of Lea Amling Alazam. If her biography is to be believed (and I don’t see why it shouldn’t), she’s also in charge with bringing in the punk and stoner influences to the band, which makes perfect sense when you think of the role her vocals play on the album, more airy and yet forceful in interesting ways.
Put everything together and Atlas becomes the work that I always knew that Besvärjelsen were capable of creating. It features the band most in command of their mercurial style, leaning more heavily into the thump and fuzz of doom metal while maintaining some of the other influences they’ve always used in a new, focused, and convincing role. Just listen to “Acheron” and the way it fades beautifully into the dreamy antics of “Clouds” or the rolling groove of “Digerliden”, just to name two of the album’s high points. It kicks, it rocks, and it also calls you in, leaving something mysterious and not quite similar to anything else along its way. Give in.
Wo Fat – The Singularity (progressive stoner metal)
Music is a journey to me. It’s about the ride you go on while you listen. The sound gives you energy and can turn your mind in many directions at once. It can tell a story that you deeply understand, and that experience can stick with you. That’s what I love the most: the story that takes you on a ride. Not many can do it, and it’s absolutely incredible when someone does. That’s what Wo Fat’s newest record, The Singularity, did for me.
The Singularity is a wildly fascinating record. It’s got a similar structure to a lot of their other records, but it just seems different to me. The record creates an interesting sci-fi universe that’s not so much a story as it is pastiches and scenes from a timeline of man traveling the stars and also struggling to survive. It is absolutely perfect fodder for us here on Doomsday, and it allows the band to do what they’re best at: giving us those spacey riffs we love so much. The theme of the album is interesting enough, so it’s even more intriguing as a whole that it feeds into the band’s wheelhouse and allows them to engage in their specialty. It shows that it really is good when a plan comes together.
Speaking of what the band does best, The Singularity is Wo Fat at their finest. In fact, the record is so beefy that they had to expand from a trio to a quartet. There was no way they could perform the fuzz riffs and groovy rhythms without the extra hands, and they take advantage of the help. This album takes you on a true adventure through the scenes each song creates, and the music is the vehicle to send you on the adventure. Soaring bluesy guitar solos and head-bob worthy bass and drum rhythms drive every track, and psychedelic vibes color everything you sense. With this record coming out this year, I’m realizing I’m going to have a tough time when it comes to best of the year discussions. No doubt I’ll be returning to The Singularity, and something tells me the rest of you might, too.
Mares of Thrace – The Exile (sludge, doom, noise rock)
One of the best things about pitching in on Heavy Blog is getting nuggets like The Exile tossed your way. A simple “this might be up your alley” from Pete turned Mares of Thrace into one of my most-listened-to favorites of the year so far. So yeah, he was right. This Calgarian duo really hits the sweet spot for me. They’re sludgy, they’re noisy, they’re a little bit weird, and that’s really all I need, but The Exile offers more than simply checking those boxes. Each of its six tracks function like little journeys where the scenery changes seamlessly, morphing from stoney swagger to crushing doom to heavy metal chug and everything in between.
It’s a rare case of never “being” too much of anything but still maintaining enough identity and personality to create a cohesive album feel. Guitarist/vocalist Thérèse Lanz’s baritone guitar work is roomy and often quite melodic, her blackened vocal style grims up the joint with a satisfyingly scathing howl. Drummer/bassist Casey Rogers is a great complement, grooves and bass lines either find their own way or follow Lanz’s lead, and it’s this dynamic that I believe makes The Exile such a rewarding listen. They seem to leave room and time for everything without throwing the whole kitchen sink in there. Whether that’s a perfectly timed rest, bass fill, or any number of the little bridges that pull so many disparate pieces together, they’re nothing if not efficient. They have this adventurous composition style that’s incredibly lean but not without attention to all those important, memorable details.
So yeah, there’s a slightly progressive tinge to their style, but they’re not bogged down by the burdens typically associated with capital Progressive music. Essentially, Mares of Thrace play it pretty straight. No cutesy detours, just eyes-on-the-prize sludge. The hooks aren’t overcomplicated, nor do they suffer from some of the tropey feel that comes with playing the slow and low (especially with a skeleton crew duo). These two really have it locked in, every track is thoughtful, organic, and tuneful; I often find myself in awe by whatever musical moment I find myself in, like there’s some illusory force guiding me through each track. The calmer melodic moments (like the intro of “Dark Harbours” or “Offerings Of Hand And Tongue”) demonstrate some artful restraint, while rippers like “In All Her Glory” or “Mortal Quarry” get right to the chase with violent cuts that’ll test your sea legs. It’s hard to