Greetings fellow fuzz aficionados! Doomsday returns once more to grace your ears with the most honey-drenched, silky rough, and undulating riffs to be found. But first, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that I had the absolute incredible opportunity to watch Lord Buffalo, REZN, and Elder this Saturday on the last night of their tour, in Boston. Simply put, the show was one of the best I've ever attended. Both Lord Buffalo and REZN really stepped up as opening acts, the first mesmerising with charisma and their brand of slowly building and satisfyingly resolving atmospheres while the second played their brand of ultra-sized doom laced with saxophone to perfection.
And then there was Elder. I've been waiting for years to see Elder live and, somehow, the experience completely outdid my expectations. Their music is so note heavy so to see it being brought to life in such fidelity and with such passion, was a really moving and unique experience. I also loved how they basically played Innate Passage in full, while editing down tracks so they could fit in other great pieces from their previous albums. The crowd was also phenomenal, happy to welcome back the band to their hometown and to sing and dance along to every track.
In short, it was a wonderful night which I want to use to say this: go see stoner and doom and psych and the rest of the genres we cover on here live. Many people might not think such contemplative music translates well to the stage; it absolutely can and does, resulting in unique and uplifting live experiences. Go catch shows (and please, for the love of all that's good, mask up!) in these spaces; you won't regret it.
Let's get to it. Doomsday baby!
Acid Magus - Hope is Heavy
I have a list of albums I need to listen to which I gather from my online network. I usually listen to many of these albums but always less than the incoming “traffic”, because of the sheer amount of excellent releases out there. Therefore, this list grows and, at some point around the eighty albums mark, I decide to sit down and go through it. Over two days or so, I make it my mission to get through every single album on there and check out at least a bit of it. I’ll be honest with you; most of it doesn’t make the cut and that can get rough. When you’re in a streak of ten sub-par albums, playing the eleventh can be hard. But you have to do it because, if you don’t, you’ll miss out on releases like Acid Magus.
Hailing from Pretoria, South Africa, there was very little chance of me listening to this band without this effort to narrow down my listening list and I am very, very glad I did so. Hope is Heavy is a pretty much flawless stoner and doom album, from evocative artwork, through fantastic riffs and chords, and all the way to the moving vocals. If you’re fans of Elder, Lord Buffalo, and bands of that ilk, you owe it to yourself to give this album a try, just like I did. There are even passages where things get a bit quieter and even slower, flirting with a heavy, smoke-drenched, slow sound that reminds me of The Samsara Blues Experiment and if you know anything about me, that’s high praise.
Acid Magus has become, for me, a lesson in paying attention to unexpected areas of your network and of the global metal scene. It’s a virtuous example of my unrelenting need to stay up to date with music, no matter how much of it gets released. Because if I didn’t, I would have missed many great albums, Hope is Heavy among them. And now I’m here to save you from the same mistake; listen to this album!
SLOWCUT - In Death Is Relief
No beating around the bush on this one, In Death Is Relief by SLOWCUT is one of the best post-metal albums I’ve heard this year. This concise 37 minute collection of 4 tracks is nonstop posty, sludgey goodness and features some incredibly tight compositions that are absolutely dripping with atmosphere.
SLOWCUT does a fantastic job of creating dynamic songs that provide a mixture of gorgeous, soft instrumental parts and skull crushingly heavy sections filled to the brim with enormous riffs and throat-shredding harsh vocals. Both the two longer tracks and the two shorter ones are filled with a fantastic energy and emotion that make them pop, and in a year that has been largely lacking in impressive post-metal (for your’s truly, at least) this is a massive breath of fresh air.
This debut is phenomenal, and I cannot wait to see more from this band. If you are a fan of Post, sludge, or slow atmospheric music in general please go give them a listen, they absolutely deserve it.
Tō Yō - Stray Birds From the Far East
One of the things I love most about psych rock is indulging in all the textures and the sensation of near-sensory overload. Having to parse through dense passages and navigating waves of ear-massaging and curious sounds is a legitimate good time for me, and Tokyo’s Tō Yō truly deliver in this aspect. The intertwining dance of guitars in “Tears of the Sun” is chaotic without being completely overwhelming, thanks to an attentive rhythm section that matches the spiraling intensity that builds throughout the track. Similarly, closer “Li Ma Li” subtly builds to a stoner doom crescendo where the central groove offered at the onset of the track becomes inundated and transformed by the distortion and lively leads. They bounce between so many different vibes, preserving a sense of freshness as they evade stale jams, predictable or uninspired songwriting, and a one-dimensional sound. And at 30 minutes, Stray Birds From the Far East is an efficient, quick listen, but it’s loaded with the kinds of detail that’ll compel repeat listens.
As pleasurable as actively engaging with this album can be, there’s also a freeing kind of looseness to it where it thrives as a casual listening piece. Surrendering to the layers of guitars, solos, limber basswork, and organic percussion is easy; there’s an enchanting laid-backness throughout that’s equally head-nod-able and daydream-inducing. Likewise, the Japanese traditional/folk elements lend a tranquil presence at times, in a way that grounds some of Tō Yō’s weirdness (see: “Titania Skyline” and “Soaring”). Yet, they’re never getting too relaxed, either, this Tō Yō maintain a sense of fun as much as they chill out and vibe. The funky flavors bring to mind the heady grooves and afrobeat flavors of the likes of The Budos Band and Antibalas on tracks like “Hyu Dororo” and “Twin Mountains,” offering up some danceable moments, too. If you, like me, need something on the lighter end of the spectrum to balance out some of the heavier goods on this list, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better value than this.