Here, at the very close of the month of June, we bring you another edition of the lowest, fuzziest, and heaviest of columns, Doomsday! June was a good month for doom and doom-adjacent spaces, as the releases below can attest. It's also a good month to listen to doom in general, as Summer rears its overwrought head and begins to rain humidity and heat upon us. There's nothing quite like feeling you're being crushed from the outside and the inside, is there? Therefore, we leave you to the happy confluence of the slew of great doom releases in June. See you next month for our mid-year wrap up!
Oromet - Oromet (funeral doom)
First, let me get it out of the way - I am technically cheating by writing up this album since we are supposed to be covering May releases here and this one dropped June 1st. However, my excuse is that this album is very, very good. Like, Album of the Year contender good. Why is that? Well, of course, the music is absolutely incredible. Oromet is made up of equal parts grandiose, sweeping funeral doom, heavy as can be, and grandiose, sweeping orchestral, atmospheric compositions which might remind one of Sunn O))) and Ulver’s majestic Terrestrials. But beyond “just” the quality of the music, the album is also an incredible concept album, using both composition and lyrics to paint a wonderful and harrowing picture of the places it describes. And lastly, much of the imagery of those places draws heavily on places from Tolkien’s Legendarium.
The name of the band should have clued you in. That is, if you’re as obsessed with Tolkien, and especially The Silmarillion, as I am.Oromet was a hill near Andúnië and the western shores of Númenor and it is there that one of the kings of Númenor built his tower to gaze out over the sea and perhaps catch a glimpse of The Undying Lands. Which is an especially apt name for this group, who also used Ted Nasmith’s breathtaking rendition of “Taniquetil” as their cover art and who describe oceanic depths, mountainous heights, and long disappeared lands. All of this also works very well with the music itself, as with all truly great concept albums. Here, the crashing chords of the heavy passages as well as the soaring atmospheres of the orchestral segments seem to swirl with the icy blue waves and race up the mountaintops of the lyrics.
Musically, both of these halves of Oromet’s sound are expertly handled. Starting with “Familiar Spirits”, the first, twenty-two minutes long track to the album is the way to go. Bookended by enchanting, rich, ambient passages, the core of the track is incredibly evocative and melodic funeral doom, like Pallbearer played even slower than those already glacial musicians like it. The merging of that slower tempo with the moving leads, cavernous chords, and crashing drums is extremely effective, sure to draw on the strings of any hearts open to its spell. But the thing is that the atmospheric parts, which might have been relegated to half-fleshed out, supporting roles with lesser bands, are just as effective and touching. Oromet have spent time, care, and attention on these as well, coaxing themes, leitmotifs, and transformations also from their more abstract forms.
Put these two parts together alongside with the captivating concept at the heart of the album and you’ve got yourself a truly majestic release. Whether you’re looking to be buried under feedback and the crushing weight of doom or uplifted to melancholic heights by rich, complex melodies, this album has something for you. Aurë entuluva! Day shall come again!
Vnder A Crvmbling Moon - I:Oblivion (death doom/post-metal)
I have a difficult relationship with doom as a genre. On one hand, it’s really the genre that got me properly into heavy music, outside of a little dabbling inspired by nu-metal in my high school days. On the other hand, good god a lot of it is boring as hell, with the genre over-saturated by swathes of bands playing the exact same mediocre riffs with the exact same mediocre vocals, all fuzzed up to 11 without a drop of creativity.
I say all of this to preface the fact that when a doom band impresses me it’s usually because they’re doing something really interesting. In the case of Vnder A Crvmbling Moon this is because they’re taking a tried and true death/doom sound inspired by genre greats such as Paradise Lost and Swallow The Sun and fusing it with post-metal songwriting and instrumentation along the lines of Rosetta or Isis and the results are fascinating. The songs on this album are sweeping and dynamic, with beautiful atmospheric lulls and absolutely bone-crushing moments of heaviness and immensity. Add to this some gigantic harsh vocals and some effectively used cleans as an accent, and you’ve got yourself a really fascinating debut album from a band that I absolutely will be keeping an eye on.
Particular highlights include opener “When The Nightmare Came” and mid album track “A Call From The Void”. The first sets the tone for the album perfectly and tells you exactly what’s in store, with a marvelous mixture of atmospheric builds and enormous crescendos, and the latter adds a level of bluesy guitar playing to it’s softer moments that really catches my attention, and provides some fascinating counterplay to an almost funeral-doom inspired climax at the end.
In a genre absolutely craving some creativity and inspiration, Vnder A Crvmbling Moon absolutely deliver, and I think any fans of both doom and post should give it a proper listen, and won’t be disappointed.
Wallowing - Earth Reaper (sci-fi doom, blacknoise)
Spring is an odd time in San Francisco: the rest of the northern hemisphere is celebrating the return of summer, while we’re cloaked in fog. It’s beautiful, slightly eerie, and also comforting. The need for transition is present, but the destination is unclear. Without fail, it’s the season I start exploring new genres. 2023 has been the year of noise, especially harsh noise wall. Thanks to the weird world of Bandcamp tags, I’ve fallen down some very strange rabbit holes.
The strange and shifting mood defining my current listening habits only heightened my excitement when I listened to Wallowing for the first time. It’s a rare and beautiful thing to discover an album that’s exactly what you’re looking for, even if you couldn’t fully define what “it” was before hitting play. The rapidfire shift from “hmmm…interesting” to “oh shiiiit” is a high that simply never gets old, no matter how many times you listen to the record. Processing exactly what elicited that reaction takes time, which is one of the reasons I’m writing this album up a bit late. Technically, Earth Reaper was released on April 28th, but it took me a whole damn month to absorb the mammoth album.
Deciphering what - and who - Wallowing is has some challenges. For one, the United Kingdom-based quintent opts to remain completely anonymous, performing in costumes that obscure their identities. Second, describing their sound quickly devolves into adjective/noun soup: post-doom, blackened sludge, noise, and even dissonant death metal all apply here. The core of Wallowing is doom, but the band experiments with so many different sounds and elements that it’s difficult to approach Earth Reaper like a traditional album. The narrative built by Wallowing is so fundamental to their music that Earth Reaper more closely resembles a soundtrack.
In the final track of Earth Reaper alone, an atmospheric passage reminiscent of dark folk group Heilung transforms into borderline stoner riffs, overlaid by raw black metal vocals. Before the listener has time to process that transition, Wallowing drags us into deep, sludgy waters. There’s roughly a minute of blackened rock that might be one of my favorite moments in metal this year. But ignoring the rest of the album for the massive closing song means missing other intriguing moments. “Cries of Estima,” carefully placed between brief instrumental tracks, showcases orchestral and electronic elements to fascinating effect.
And yet…it all works. The dark, haunted mood created by Wallowing ties an inordinately wide range of elements into a cohesive album that’s equal parts satisfying and surprising. Raw, organic noise easily shares space with atmospheric, electronic blips and even a theremin. (What would a sci-fi album be without a theremin?) Wallowing, whatever they are, have constructed an utterly absorbing record that plays with sound like an author plays with sentence structure, building a rich, emotional world that demands repeat listens to fully appreciate.
Usnea - Bathed in Light (funeral doom, blackened sludge)
Doom, especially funeral doom, tends to be associated with feelings of grief and sadness. We turn to these records to stew in our gray moments, to meditate in the emotional fog. But there’s fury to be found in the depths of sadness, an extreme form of grief that demands its pound of flesh. For those moments, we have Bathed in Light by Portland, Oregon-based Usnea.
We begin our descent with an aura of oppressive melancholy, with heavy, echoing growls distending themselves over pendulous guitars. Distorted voices attempt to break through the fog, to no effect. It’s a crushing, purely funereal introduction. But the gloom doesn’t linger for long, as “The Compleated Sage'' quickly shifts into a blackened-death-doom chimera. Cascading riffs that would make any stoner metal band proud grind our ears to dust, only to give way to death metal growls. The balance between abrasiveness and gut-wrenching heaviness defines Usnea’s sound. They’re neither doom or death metal, but they clearly have the musical skills and songwriting chops to excel in either genre.
A synthy moment of reprieve creates an eerie atmosphere, the calm before the final assault in a neon-saturated 80s revival horror movie. Listening to Bathed in Light, I had a revelation: this is the unrecognized soundtrack to Mandy, the 2018 horror film starring Nicolas Cage. For those unfamiliar, Cage plays a grief-stricken man on a bloody quest for revenge after the brutal murder of his wife. Like Mandy, Bathed in Light is a stunning descent into the darkest, most violent manifestation of grief. Building tension between three distinct vocal styles - death metal growls, black metal shrieks, and post-metal clean vocals - Usnea underscore the complexity of our emotions and their songwriting skills. As we emerge reborn from the depths of hell, we’re greeted by an ominous track that meshes aggression with the feeling of a religious chant. A beautiful, yet turbulent ending to a stunning album.