Doomsday // May 2023

As always, we bring you the most delectable morsels from this feast of slow music, honing in on the best of the best of doom's output in May. Enjoy!

The day of doom! Like other genres, doom, stoner, and all adjacent styles besides took the month of April to release a ton of great music. From psychedelic escapades, through bottomless riffs, and all the way to fuzzy agility, the month was filled with big guitars, honey drenched vocals, and redolent synths. As always, we bring you the most delectable morsels from this feast of slow music, honing in on the best of the best of doom's output in May. Enjoy!

Kanaan - Downpour

I’ve mentioned several times before that prog/psychedelic rock scene in the Nordics is one of those geographically localized scenes that you must pay attention to. One of the more recognized band from that part of the world/those musical spaces in the last few years has been Kanaan; ever since Windborne, their debut release from 2018, their name has been synonymous with ambition bridled with plenty of fuzz. But, to be honest, I was never fully sold on their sound. Something felt missing, some sort of impact I was craving that was getting lost in the psychedelic expanses of their compositions. Luckily, Downpour meets this criticism head on, maintaining the band’s core expansive sound but injecting it with a whole lot more groove and punch.

It’s really hard to overstate how punchy this album is. It starts with the groove section, of course, with the bass being turned way up to eleven and the drums sporting a sound that is undeniable. Just click play on the album and check out opener “Black Time Fuzz”: it is quite literally one of the best psychedelic rock tracks I have ever heard. By the time you get to its end, some of the richest and most satisfying guitar tones join the mix, unfurling their lightning-sharp edges across multiple solos and bridges which turn this outro into a boisterous, raucous affair. This bleeds over into the opening sounds of “Amazon”, the second track on the album, that’s a lot more chill and dream-like but still present and meaty.

It’s probably the track which most exemplifies Downpour in a nutshell; smooth but pronounced, psychedelic but direct, sleek but edgy in all the right ways. It is, simply put, a bringing of the Kanaan sound to perfection, honed over years of playing and compositional changes. The end result is Kanaan’s sound devoid of fat, all rumbling psychedelic muscle firing on all cylinders, even when they do end up exploring longer and more sprawling compositions (if you’re still craving that, check out the self-titled track, which sounds like a jam session happening at a biker bar in the late 60’s). Downpour is a rich, varied, and groovy album, finally selling me on Kanaan’s approach to Nordic psychedelic rock.

-Eden Kupermintz

The Evil - Seven Acts To Apocalypse

Hailing from Brazil, The Evil are a mysterious quartet that offer my favorite take on doom, one that doesn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, but one that definitely pushes the envelope. Falling somewhere in the hellacious doom venn diagram overlap between The Devil’s Blood and Electric Wizard, The Evil presents a pseudo-vintage concept detailing a classic genre theme: a coming of a good ol’ fashioned Biblical apocalypse! Now, where Seven Acts To Apocalypse lacks in conceptual creativity, The Evil makes up for exponentially elsewhere.

First and foremost, I haven’t been struck by an operatic delivery like this since Eye of Nix’s Joy Von Spain. Here, Miss Aileen’s dynamic delivery of eerie chants, soaring falsettos, and much more. Her energy is palpable and often ripe with creative arrangements, and when paired with the active and attentive songwriting, The Evil can prove to be quite the force. They carry their occult doom-y vibe to some interesting places, largely in part because of how just how huge and how fucking heavy they get—this is at least a seven on the Oof Scale of Doom.

So as you’d expect, the guitars are brawny, heavily distorted, and boast a serious wallop, as do the bass-heavy drums which at first feel like they might be a little overwhelming, but really shine as the record unfolds and their sonic language becomes understood. It’s a great match and contrast for the vocals, which seem to pop a little better against the dismal hellscape they develop instrumentally. Elsewhere, the production thrills: that first bell hit in “Envy” and the opening laughs transition into the initial piercing vocal hit in “Pride” (amongst many others) create both a memorable experience as well as color up the deadly sins concept.

For a relatively new act (their preceding debut dropped in 2017), they’ve put together an extremely well-developed and thoughtful release. Each track is exceptionally well-executed and boasts a variety of engaging songwriting techniques, ensuring no redundant or boring passages. As some stoner doom acts vamp on or get caught up in their own riffs, it’s particularly nice to hear all the little details come into place and shine so brightly on Seven Acts To Apocalypse. A solid choice for a change-of-pace listen, just don’t be surprised if this sticks around for much longer.

-Jordan Jerabek

Class Traitor - Broken Energy Highway

Two months ago, I had never heard of experimental sludge/post-metal collective Class Traitor. It was a simpler, less satisfying time. Then I listened to “Oil/Town,” the second single from Broken Energy Highway. No exaggeration, the sheer heaviness of the song stopped me dead in my tracks. Class Traitor harnesses the emotional intensity of post-metal to plunge their suffocating strain of sludge into even harsher depths, trapping listeners in a dystopian wasteland. This isn’t music for the apocalypse; this is the sound of desperate screams from the post-apocalyptic void.

Broken Energy Highway is anchored by the muscular bass lines found throughout the doom and sludge subgenres, buried in fuzz and distortion for an echoing, haunting ambience. Human and instrumental screeches break through the haze with jarring dissonance, only to transform into death metal-like growls. The one consistent sensation is discomfort as each new element throws the rest into disarray. The warmth and melody of post-metal feelicy when paired with raw screams; the fuzzy bass becomes suffocating when intertwined with brief appearances by skittering guitars, death metal growls become downright threatening when paired with ambient, almost clean vocals. The study in contrasts is why I’ve found myself constantly returning to Broken Energy Highway ever since “Oil/Town” dropped in March. Beyond the expected sonic heaviness, Class Traitor has created a profoundly emotional album that fully absorbs your focus, even among the heaviest of its peers.

-Bridget Hughes

The Crooked Whispers - Funeral Blues

Summer is a season eternally in search of a pop hit, a hook-filled earworm designed to match the brightness of long sunny days and the vibrancy of extra time with friends and family. I’d argue, however, that summer also demands a heavy-hitting funeral blues anthem that captures the darker side of oppressive heat waves. For those ready to forget the party anthems and bring on the summer gothic, The Crooked Whispers are here to set the vibe with Funeral Blues.

The Argentina/Los Angeles-based psychedelic doom outfit channels the spirits of doom metal into Southern sleaze for a bar crawl on a hot summer night that ends in a graveyard. Rolling guitars tangle with raw vocals in a harsh, evocative mix that drags the listener through the haziest of days. It’s smokey and harsh, like the true spirit of summer.

-Bridget Hughes

Eden Kupermintz

Published a year ago