All hail unto thee, ye Heaviest of Bloggers! I hope your summers have been eventful. I have had quite the journey this summer. My wife and I recently made a big life change: we moved from Denver, CO to the Finger Lakes of New York. While I’ve had my share of big moves before, including cross-country moves, nothing can compare to the complexity of this particular move. Moving as a bachelor is really not that big of a deal. You don’t own that much stuff, so packing it up and throwing it in a trailer isn’t nearly as much of a problem as moving as a married couple. When you’re married, you realize just how stuff you own and how much of it you can’t get rid of. Everything has to come with you, even if you don’t think you’ll want it. We also have the added complication of being cat owners, which brings its own set of issues since cats generally aren’t big in car trips. However, there was one bright spot with that:
Do not adjust your screens, you’re seeing that correctly. I, Pete Williams, trained a cat to walk on a leash. It was not easy but it did result in some of the funniest looks I’ve ever received. And I think the cat even enjoyed the experience. His brother, not so much. But I’m fine with the 50% success rate. And I think everyone here would feel incredibly cheated if they knew I had a picture of a cat on a leash and didn’t share it.
But we’re not here to talk more about that. We want riffs! Riffs we can provide, dear readers. What another month it was for the slow and the low. I know I’m bringing what I think is likely Pete’s number one banger of the year, but everybody brought the heat to match the summer’s intensity in July. Enough of the yapping, LET’S GET FUZZY.
Voidward – Voidward (progressive stoner metal, doom)
Why do I love progressive stoner metal so much? It’s a good question to ask, seeing as the sub-genre is one of the biggest obsessions I’ve acquired during my time writing for the blog (I mean, I always loved Mastodon but expanding beyond them started only after I began to expand my listening when I started writing music journalism). I think, when the sub-genre is done well, it doesn’t only take the best of both worlds from stoner doom (groove, impact, and thrust) and progressive rock (originality, variety, and surprise). Instead, it also takes from each genre that which counters the biggest weaknesses from the other and compliments them. Stoner rock can be repetitive and monotonous; progressive rock can be ineffectual and navel gazing. When you put both of their strengths together, you get something truly complimentary.
Voidward is a fantastic example of how this works; their self-titled release from July is a masterclass and how elements of a sound can complement and support each other. On one hand, the groove at the base of this album is clear from the very get-go, as “Apologize” opens the release with the thick guitars, drawling vocals, and meaty groove section we’d expect from a stoner rock release. But if that was everything the track offered, it wouldn’t be too much to write home about. Instead, the middle of the track transforms it, introducing not only a much more agile main riff, but also a bevy of solos and other sounds which explore a more psychedelic, “cosmic” sort of vibe to the track. That’s the progressive part diving in and taking the reins from the “low and slow” orientation of the stoner side of the equation, making sure the groove is balanced with exploration and more varied elements.
This exploration of other sounds continues throughout the album. “Chemicals” for example is way shorter and more pop-sludge oriented, conjuring comparison to bands like Floor and Torche. Tracks like “Oblivion” explore the psychedelic elements of Voidward’s sound even further, lengthening their run-time and spacing out their instrumentation to channel those “cosmic” vibes we mentioned before. At the end of the day, this leaves Voidward feeling way more expansive than its run-time might hint at, exploring much more than just “big riffs played slow”. It’s a journey and then some, becoming an exemplar of what happens when great stoner metal/rock is melded with open-minded progressive rock.
Telekinetic Yeti – Primordial (stoner doom)
Strap in, folks. You’re about to experience some real riffage. Iowa’s Telekinetic Yeti is back for their second record, Primordial, and only their second record ever since the release of their first in 2017. Those five years helped the guitar and drums duo to further establish the sound they generated on 2017’s Abominable. The overall summary is thus: if you liked Abominable, you’re going to LOVE Primordial.
If you haven’t listened to the duo before, their music can be described in a few short words: big, fuzzy, big, rhythmic, and big. It’s huge riffs accentuated by simple and accessible rhythms. There’s not a ton to the band, and that what makes it so damn good. Telekinetic Yeti is one of those rare bands we talk about on Doomsday that both yourself and your friends who don’t like metal can enjoy. Who doesn’t want to hear crazy riffs played loud just for fun?
Now what does that mean in terms of the 2 records under their belts? Primordial is just a cleaner and better version of Abominable. If the duo was big on Abominable, they’re enormous on Primordial. The whole record sounds like a stoner’s spectacular voyage of the mind, like a black light poster as viewed through an acid trip. I’d describe a standout track but they’re all straight bangers. If any of this piques your interest, click on the Bandcamp link and go into space.
MOTHS – Space Force (stoner doom)
Playing intentionally weird music is often a two-edged sword. Artists find themselves beholden to keeping things strange and, ironically enough, find themselves falling into patterns and templates for how to experiment. The key to doing it well is to let your passion shine through your weird music, uncompromising both towards standards of composition and not worrying too much about it, staying true to what you want to do in the moment. MOTHS are definitely an example of the latter mood or attitude. We first covered them back in 2018, when they released their excellent self-titled EP. Now, they’re back with Space Force, a way more bizarre outing that does much to push the MOTHS sound even further.
Let me lay the stage: at the basis of Space Force is a theatrical, off-kilter sort of stoner/doom that presents the launch point for MOTHS’ compositional tendencies. There are thick guitar tones, big riffs, and an overall psychedelic vibe. But on top of these sounds are layered, interchangeably, thick growls and heavy metal vocals (think Ronnie James Dio vibes), clashing with weird, frenetic guitar leads and staccato explorations of sound. And that’s just the opening track! There are also quieter parts interspersed throughout the album to give you a breather, and set up even more far-out explorations of reverb and feedback, not to mention unhinged, “spider” like outros, blazing solos, and strangely somber pieces of interlude.
How does all of that coalesce into one whole? Well, it sort of doesn’t; MOTHS aren’t too worried about polish or making everything sound as smoothly integrated as possible. Instead, they own the dissonant and frazzled vibe of their music, sacrificing finish for an unbridled sensation of edge and explosive, creative energies. Space Force is like looking at an abstract, but violently painted, work of art. Does it all make sense? Is it neat and tidy? Not really. But does it evoke feeling? Does it mirror the way in which our world is messy and sporadic? Definitely. That is to say, does it work as an effective, hard hitting, exciting piece of music? Hell yeah it does and I recommend you play it really, really loud.
Lathe – Tongue of Silver (country doom, post-metal)
Earlier this year, I stumbled upon Lathe’s 2021 Cavalier EP. It was a real game-changer for me, truly unlike anything else I’ve heard. Sure, we’ve got the Wayfarers and Vital Spirits of the world doing the twang thang with black metal and there are groups like Clutch, Earth, and Trophy Scars who occasionally rock it through a countrified lens, but there is something really fresh and different about this doomy Baltimore trio’s approach. Not to throw shade at the aforementioned, but this doesn’t feel like an aesthetic or service to a metal or rock band’s artistic concept. Rather, Lathe sounds more like they’re coming at it from the opposite end of the spectrum, like a country band who’s had Russian Circles on repeat. And it might just be that this is more of a country record than it is anything else.
A crucial part of what makes this record so interesting is how genuine and natural it all sounds. The warmth of the pedal steel, picture-perfect reverb, the psychedelic touch of the organ, it all blends so well with the swagger of the lower tempos in which these fellas often find themselves, bridging the gap to the “heavy” end of their sound with ample amounts of fuzz, whip-smart rhythms, and savvy songwriting. Take for instance “Drain,” a good ol’ fashioned cryin’ in your beer anthem that picks itself up and doesn’t look back. There’s no dawdling on or tiresome repetition happening here, but this sub-four-minute track has all the detail, nuance, and progression you could expect from longer-winded instrumental contemporaries. Similarly though, the conversational and emotive guitar leads work better than any vocalist ever could at telling this story, and it becomes apparent early on precisely how the marriage of poignant country and introspective doom work so well together. It’s as logical as it is novel.
Overall, Tongue of Silver plays like you’ve pulled up a stool at a friendly tavern in a strange town: the slow and low will settle you in, the fuzz is there to keep good company, and after you get a couple in ya, you begin to warm up to how this whole countrified doom thing works. The sequencing is super on-point, showcasing Lathe’s impressive variety without getting all herky-jerky. There’s real intrigue to how Lathe can morph between so many forms: dusty downtempo spaghetti western (“Vinegar”), stompy blues (“Cauliflower”), canyon-sized post-rock (“Journey to the East”), stoner cowpunk (“Rodeo Fumes”), and funeral western (“Morris”). It’s a testament not only to how well-developed their sound is, but also their finesse and sense of adventure. Hold onto your boots, folks, this is just the beginning.