Doomsday - surprise, the albums this month go slow, they go low, and the go loud. Shocker, right? Seriously though, it feels as if this year, doom and stoner have been going from strength to strength as the year goes by. There's some truly excellent releases on the docket this time so I don't want to waste your time. Scroll down below for all the feedback your heart could desire!
Gévaudan - Umbra
I first wrote about Gévaudan’s melodic, epic style of doom metal back in 2020, around the release of their underrated Iter. I knew even greater things were coming from the band since that album was bursting at the seams with potential and passion. Lo and behold, that promise has come home to roost with Umbra, a monolithic, single track album that clocks in at forty-two minutes. The format makes sense for Gévaudan, as their brand of doom metal is really best experienced as a story or a journey. The previous albums was a series of such tales or paths but this time around, Gévaudan take us down a dark and winding road towards the heart of Umbra.
This sort of album definitely requires patience but if you didn’t have it, you wouldn’t be reading Doomsday, now would you? Umbra sees Gévaudan unconstrained by the structure of the multi-track album. This allows them to dive deeper into the funeral doom underpinnings that have always been the basis for their music, going deeper and slower than ever before. Touching on AHAB territories, Gévaudan nonetheless maintain their focus on more melodic, “old school” style of doom. Imagine if Candlemass somehow got a missive from the future informing them of what doom metal would turn into; that’s how Umbra sounds, chromatic yet crushingly heavy, laden with rich, evocative bass, punctual drums, and undulating guitars.
Over it all hover the unique vocals that were so present on the previous release. They’re still beautifully unique but the most powerful of their passages come in collaboration with the excellent piano which dots this release from time to time; something about the vocals’ timbre just works incredibly well with the thumping, percussive piano on this album. Of course, as expected from an album like this, there are many more segments, sounds, and musical ideas that I could highlight. Bottom line, if you’re a fan of ponderous, slow, and emotionally laden doom, then Gévaudan continues to be a band you must have on your to listen list. Trust me.
Stone of Duna - Moonsplitter
Weird guy in a faintly smoke-filled science fiction suit on the cover? Hazy font on an album name that continues to hint at the sci-fi theme of the release? Thick ass riffs with undeniable groove to them? Hell yeah, you know what time it is - it’s time for psychedelic doom! Stone of Duna’s has all of that and more, delivering a chord-laden release which doesn’t shy from shaking things up and injecting some progressive vibes into the mix. As with the other album I wrote up for this column, here too the vocals play a key part, calling to mind the excellent Dvne with the place they hold in the mix and their narrational tone. Long story short, if you looked at the cover to this and went “hell yeah!” like I did, I urge you to dig in deeper and give this one a spin or two (or five, I’m not your boss). It goes hard.
Vanishing Kids - Miracle of Death (dream doom, psych rock)
Vanishing Kids’ atmosphere-heavy and dreamy doom is back and it’s better than ever. It’s fair to say nobody tackles doom quite like this Madison-based group, and Miracle of Death is another whopper worthy of their unique sensibilities. Building on the quiet critical success of 2018’s Heavy Dreamer, their latest offering delivers another transporting experience, a listen that establishes a definitive sense of character and setting. In this way, Miracle of Death kinda feels like stumbling onto a classic rock record: there’s an immediate sense of identity, but the songwriting encourages curiosity and repeat listens to “get” it.
At the same time, Miracle of Death is also the sound of a band really coming into themselves. Nikki Drohomyreky’s unmistakable croon and emotional palette are as evocative and vibrant as ever, but here listeners may find her presence on the keys carries a little more weight. It helps this go around feel a little bigger and more ethereal, especially in tracks like opener “Spill the Dark,” “Feral Angel,” and “For Lauren.” Jason Hartman’s guitar work continues to dazzle with a tasteful array of compelling and purposeful leads and memorable riffs. His playing always feels vital, and he’s every bit the complementary player that he is a shredder. “Demon Glove” comes off like a bluesy doom ballad, where Hartman’s fiery licks balance Drohomyreky’s towering and mystifying work on the keys. Similarly, the acoustic break in “Feral Angel” is the kind of Led Zeppelin-type shit that hasn’t been pulled off convincingly since the grunge heyday. Not to be forgotten, the rhythm section of bassist Jerry Sofran and Nick Johnson (Ossuary) provide an impressive anchor. Like any doom rhythm worth their salt, there’s not a note overplayed here, and yet they carry considerable gravity throughout (see: the elliptical trounce of “Only You,” the savvy and shifty “Midnight Child,” and the climactic “To Dust”).
The performances are absolutely peak, ranging from Ruby the Hatchet-esque elevated proto metal to heartstring-yanking, mind-frying psych to plush, heavenly synthscapes, Miracle of Death has a lot to offer. In many ways this release is simply more of the Vanishing Kids we’ve come to know, but there’s also a sense of confidence on display that can’t be ignored. Miracle of Death finds a few new avenues into which this core sound can expand, making this not-quite-so simply Heavy Dreamer part two, but something nonetheless adventurous and mesmerizing. Expect to see this floating around a lot during list season in doom and psych rock circles, and don’t be shocked when you catch it elsewhere, too. This is exactly that fucking great.
Ghorot - Wound (blackened stoner doom)
Ever since 2021’s Loss of Light, I haven’t been able to shake Ghorot’s unique take on blackened doom. Now, this Idaho trio isn’t just hamfisting blasts and trems onto a doom framework as many try to do. Instead, Ghorot give attention to the commonalities between both genres, making the segments where the “trve” sneaks out feel just that much more natural, and a lot less forced. Wound revisits this approach with five more fuckin’ huge tracks that solidify their place as some of the best to bring these seemingly disparate worlds together – blast beats be damned.
Opener “Dredge” calls back to Loss of Light opener “Harbinger”, leaning decidedly more toward the stoner doom side of things, as if Sleep awoke from cryogenic hibernation in the blackened outskirts of the universe, unleashing a supernova of cosmic stoner doom that feels familiar, but a bit minty fresher, too. It sets the tone in a way that kinda pre-programs you into expecting a lot more doom (to be fair, there is a lot more doom), but also helps to draw a contrast to their more unhinged moments. Maybe I’m reading more into this “blackened” aspect more than most, but there’s just something about how these guys are putting it together that put me in fits.
Take for example the climax set up in “Corsican Leather.” The intro certainly feels like it could’ve been pulled from a second wave record and slowed way down, but the rhythm section takes firm root in stoner doom to shape and color the execution. It’s not until the lugubrious bomb riffs subside does the callback to the intro come full circle into “aha” territory (replete with some swift double kick, too). It’s a super satisfying recall, and it’s the kind of thing that’ll keep me coming back for more. Likewise, “Neanderskull” goes full tilt into the kind of vitriol previously only appropriate for the most misanthropic black metal, but here Ghorot has it thriving in the context of sluggish riffs and unraveling noise.
Elsewhere, “In Absentia” picks up on the stoner doom trail with a similar chaotic, noisy bend, where the blackened shrieks hit with just the right amount of reverb. This track, along with twangy “Canyonlands” touch on that country western bug that’s been floating around out there, and also bring to mind shades of Inter Arma’s amalgam of black/psych/sludge metal. I’m no less confused about what this band is capable of or where this band may be going than I was a few years back, and yet, I’m no less intrigued, either. Wound scratches an itch for me that few others have managed to satisfy in quite some time, which means I’m certainly going to be here for the next stupid-heavy and stupid-dark thing these dudes release. Cheers to that.