Line Up: Gergely (Greg) Kovács (vocals) Zoltán Bereczki (guitar, vocals) András Makay (guitar) Márton Veress (drums) Sándor Szabó (bass)
Tracklist: Waste Crossed Desertdrive The Emptiest Leech Castaways Rediscover Queen of The Dirt
Review: Hello once again my fellow tasters. Here at Taste Nation LLC – A Music Consortium we strive to bring fans and musicians of all genres together. To do that we scour the internet and our local music scenes for music submissions by fans and bands from around the world. One of our most recent submissions comes from a band called Red Swamp.
After downloading the band’s 2nd album Desertdrive and adjusting the sound settings to rock, I got an earful of ‘Hell Yeah!’ Wanting to know more about the band I went to their Facebook page were I learned the band hails from Hungary’s capitol city Budapest and the names of the members and little else. I could have just went with that and this review would just be a short blurb about some Hungarian metal band but the music sounded to good to let my review be a blurb. So I decided to contact them and ask them a bit about their band as I am not at all familiar with the Eastern European metal scene.
Formed in 2015 by its 3 founding members vocalist Gergely (Greg) Kovács, guitarist // vocalist Zoltán Bereczki, and bassist Sándor Szabó, Red Swamp seemingly hit the ground running when they entered the music scene. With little more than a 3 song EP that they circulated throughout the stoner/sludge/doom music blogs and pages, they earned rave reviews. It was these earlier releases that lead to Red Swamp being 1 of 500 applicants in 5 general categories, accepted into the Talentometer (one of Hungary’s biggest musical talent competitions cultivated by the A38 Ship concert venue) and winning 1st place. With their prizes, Red Swamp hit the open road Headlining their own “Support the Habit” tour and opening for local and international bands where they played sold out shows with Karma to Burn, Clutch, and Sons of Morpheus. They have also played Hungary’s Rockmarathon twice and EFOTT where they got the audience so nuts they turned the joint into a huge mud hole. All of which resulted in the release of their debut album Tiszassippi on September 21st 2016.
After touring the Hell out of their album Tiszassippi in Hungary and Austria, Red Swamp sought to keep the momentum and went right back into song writing mode for their Sophomore album Desertdriveand recruited Márton Veress(formerly of Pokolgép Hungary’s biggest metal bandand ex member of Chris Amott’sArmageddon, and now member of Aelonia, which is Jake Pitt of the Black Veil Brides project.) Whew!!…Now got all that out of the way I can tell you what this means to the band and their latest offering. Unlike Tiszassippi which created the basis around Red Swamp, Márton Veress’ skill has allowed the band to polish and refine its overall sound.
Tiszassippi was mastered by maestro Jens Borgen of Fascination Studios who is best known for his work with At The Gates, Soilwork, and Arch Enemy. Tiszassippi is the result of Red Swamps evolution as a band in the 1st year in which they developed their sound which swift current beneath a sludgy surface resulting in something that sounds akin to heavy southern rock. Thus the album title that combines the names of Hungary’s and the United State’s Mississippi rivers.
When I first heard Red Swamp I was in a bit of a conundrum. I found myself asking How do a bunch of musicians from Hungary sound so Southern Fried? Of course after a bit of thought I recalled the British Blues Rock scene of the late 60’s and 70’s and came upon my answer. Influenced by many different bands, Red Swamp seems to have taken a sort of VOLBEAT type of approach to Desertdrive by concentrating on catchier hooks and clear vocals backed up by harsh vocals rather than slam the listener with ten tons of sludge. While the band may attribute quite a bit of this to their new drummer I believe the addition of his skill and presence to the line-up is a huge confidence booster because it allows them to get the exact sound they want.
All in all I’d say Red Swamp did one Hell of a job. From getting their album recorded under Hungary’s acclaimed Hunnia Records, to getting the support of Hungary’s National Cultural Foundation, and the sponsorship of the Hanfoglaló music program that they used to record Desertdrive. Red Swamp’s own guitarist Zoli Bereczki mixed and mastered the album. I love all of the 8 songs on this album but, my favorite is ‘Waste’ and its music video which is a damn good introduction to the band for us Yanks here in America. All one has to do is watch it to see why its climbing the rock video charts in Hungary.
Among my other favorites are the albums title track ‘Desertdrive’ which feels sort of like a tip of the hat to VOLBEAT with Márton Veress’s bouncy drums Greg’s Anthem vocal hook “You had every piece of me except the one” backed up by Zoli’s leads and harsh vocals. While Red Swamp calls itself stoner/sludge; track ‘Castaways’ treats the listener to some thrashing guitar breakdown combined with Sándor Szabó’s rolling bass. This is an album that is definitely worth getting on CD or vinyl and a band I would love to see come to the States. Show Red Swamp your love and support! If you are an American Band Promoter or somebody that can make this happen, drop them a line and tell them you were sent by The Ancient One!
Tracklist: Another Plane (8:35)
Stellar Gate Drive (5:41)
The Tree and the Serpent (6:01)
B Oscillation (6:59)
Diesel Breath (7:35)
Priestess of Misery (6:24)
Half a Man (4:07)
Om Shaantih (6:00)
Sergeant Thunderhoof is a group of unsung metal heroes from England specializing in stoner metal. In May of 2018 following a successful kickstarter campaign, Sergeant Thunderhoof have graced us with their third full-length album Terra Solus and I am happy to say that it does not disappoint.
Stylistically, Terra Solus is about what would be expected of them, boasting a heavy yet melodic variety of stoner metal tinged with a healthy dosage of psychedelia. The album begins with tribal drums and a huge guitar riff in “Another Plane”. Eventually, the vocals enter, showing a marked improvement over their previous album, Ride of the Hoof. On Terra Solus, the melodic vocals of Dan Flitcroft are clearer, crisper, and more confident, showing great maturation of their band.
The production is also much cleaner, resulting in a great sound quality. Each instrument is heard with crystal clarity throughout the whole album and it is a joy to listen to. In addition, Terra Solus is sequenced fantastically- it’s almost as though the album has a complete story arc.
The album also has insane solos and riffs to spare. Guitarist Mark Sayer is really playing his instrument for all it’s worth. There are a ton of great guitar parts straight out of the gate, and the band’s rhythm section gives every song on the album a fantastic groundwork.
All in all, Terra Solus is an absolute killer of an album from beginning to end. It has groove and attitude to spare, and it’s a crime that three albums in Sergeant Thunderhoof still hasn’t gained a foothold. I highly recommend that you check out this album and Sergeant Thunderhoof’s entire backlog if you’re interested in Stoner Metal. Now if only there was a time machine in order to go back and “back” the Kickstarter project…
Rocket Freak (3:30)
I’m God (6:16)
Want Some (5:49)
All Day Midnight (3:59)
When The Hammer Comes Down (5:48)
Despite this passage that would suggest the contrary, Monster Magnet is a band that needs no introduction. Dave Wyndorf’s masterful Stoner Metal Legend boasts a gargantuan overarching influence that stretches from Queens of the Stone Age to the undisputed emperor of Marvel Comics, Stan Lee himself. Well within the midst of a long and fruitful career, a more mature Monster Magnet have brought themselves into the modern era with a personal spin with the brand new Mindfucker.
While it is true that Monster Magnet is more mature, it cannot be said that their rage has been quelled. Dave Wyndorf and his cohorts are still ripe with fury, especially on the incredible “I’m God”, in which Vocalist Wyndorf takes on the role of a particularly vengeful Old Testament-era God, who has had more than enough of modern society, ready to remind Earth’s unknowing citizens of his power. This tune is very indicative of the direction Monster Magnet has taken with Mindfucker: Furious, Raw, and powerful, with a healthy dose of the strangeness that has defined Monster Magnet throughout their career. Therefore, if you’ve listened to Monster Magnet before, you likely know what you’re in for with this one.
With Mindfucker, Monster Magnet have progressed their sound while still staying familiar enough to be recognizable as a Monster Magnet album. It is heavy, melodic, and fun, with enough lyrical fire to make you believe that there’s a reason this album exists. Mindfucker definitely earns its in the lofty echelons of Monster Magnet’s oeuvre, making it a must purchase for Stoner Metal fans.
By M. Andrew “Dinger” Beresky, Junior, Chief Rebel Angel
“You Can Have Your Sleep, I’ll Just Stay Up and Keep Watch, Because It Seems Like Somebody’s Gotta Do It.
i.e. How I Learned to Stop Caring About My Integrity and Love John Boehner, William Weld and Jack White.”
So….I couple of months ago, I told Taste Nation head honcho Matthew Thomas that I would no longer write music reviews. It’s true. I really don’t see the point. Countless people do that already, and they all do it a hell of a lot better than me. Or at least they do it less begrudgingly than me. I did tell Matthew that I wanted to be able to continue writing. I think that I’m a pretty darned good writer, and I at least enjoy it. I basically told him I’d keep writing for Taste Nation if I were allowed to write about whatever the fuck I want. For some odd reason, he agreed to this, and I hope that he doesn’t live to regret that decision. For the record, I did also agree to finish up the reviews that I’ve already agreed to write, and that’s not exactly going so well. I’m about two paragraphs into my review of the now not-so-new Quicksand album, and I don’t have a clue what to write about. I’ve been working on that review for nearly 9 months. I think that’s the thing, Mr. Thomas has seen how my creative process works, and sometimes I fall into funks. I tend to pick myself up at some point, and once again fart out my thoughts into the wonderful collective stench we call the World Wide Web. So I will finish those reviews, and I apologize to those who may be waiting. I will finish them, just not today.
Today, I’m going to set aside a bit of special time to publicly embarrass myself by going on one of my extended and probably unpopular diatribes. My first topic is marijuana. I’d like to go on the record saying that I despise almost everything about popular pot culture. I cannot stand 4:20 or 4/20, I find them incredibly annoying. When I go around randomly shouting “it’s a 4/20 miracle!!” at every little thing for the few days that surround this “holiday”, I’m doing it not only ironically and not only sarcastically. I’m doing it also to try to convey a bit of how annoyed I feel by being just a little bit annoying myself. I wish that I could be a lot more annoying about it, and I also don’t want to totally rain on some folks’ parade. Just a light drizzle, enough to snuff out a joint here and there.
The reason I don’t really care for 4/20 or popular pot culture is that it’s mostly about marketing and commercialism. It’s generally the worst aspects of popular pot culture that get cast in the biggest spotlight. I’m going to drop some really, really tough truth on you all. Some of you probably already realize this. It’s 2018, and marijuana and its surrounding culture are no longer subversive or liberating in the way that they once were. Pot culture is simply no longer counter-culture. It’s unfortunate that anything with the potential to liberate can also be turned around and utilized to oppress, and that’s what we’re starting to see the first inklings of when it comes to marijuana. I am someone who has lived through the draconian times of Massachusetts’ past drug laws. I’ve seen my friends bagged, tagged, and dragged around by the handcuffs, then held overnight against their will for possessing half a gram of reefer. They were then routinely paraded before a judge and given sentences of 6 months probation, despite the fact that the only crime they were guilty of was assaulting a half-eaten burrito and falling asleep in the sunshine with bong in hand. I’m sure you’ve all heard these stories, so I won’t bore you by waxing poetic on the subject any longer. I’m also sure that you’re aware that Mass drug laws were always pretty lax compared to other states in the U.S.
Here’s how you know that pot is not subversive in 2018 – currently some of pot’s biggest proponents are former Republican Speaker Of The House John Boehner and former Republican Governor of Massachusetts William Weld. These guys now lobby for the marijuana industry. So, just to let that sink in for a second. The very same guy who oversaw the implementation of those same laws that locked up so many of my friends, he now wants to turn around and sell us all reefer. Why the change of heart? Well, it’s very $imple. Very, very $imple. Follow the fucking money.
Now let’s get something abundantly clear; I’m not against marijuana or its usage. I strongly believe that people should be free to use it both medicinally and recreational, and that we should invest money into The Actual Sciences that further explore both the positive and negative aspects of pot usage. Yes, I said it, there are many, many downsides to marijuana usage, one of which is that it’s addictive. I know that’s going to be a contentious statement, and I’m not trying to harsh your mellow. It’s very, very true, and I also will never back down from this statement. Sure, it’s not addictive in the same way that say, Percocet, Xanax, Seroquel and Paxil are addictive. Sure, marijuana helps people in many ways, one of which is its ability to stand in as a less harmful substitute for the very, very addictive pharmaceuticals I’ve listed above. That doesn’t mean that it’s never addictive and never harmful. It has ruined some peoples’ lives. All I’m asking is that you bear that in mind. I know that it also makes some peoples’ lives bareable. I realize that it can be used as a harm reduction measure, and that does not mean that marijuana is not harmful in and of itself.
Marijuana never ruined MY life, and that could be because I live in a little liberal bubble, I’m white, I’m resourceful, I’m smart enough to keep my nose clean of TOO much trouble, and I have supportive family and friends to fall back on when my life does inevitably go to shit because I’ve made some incredibly bad choices. Not everyone is so lucky, and I’m the first to acknowledge that.
Well, now we’re seeing a much luckier class of marijuana “users”, and that’s those who are lucky enough to make fucking bank on it. Yes, yes, marijuana has always been a wildly profitable cash crop, and smart dealers have always made tons of money on it. Criminally. Not guys like Weld and Boehner. And not guys like Jack White either.
In the beginning, there was no “stoner rock.” Bands like Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Sleep, Fu Manchu, Clutch, they just did their thing, and there was no specific genre name. I’d listened to these bands since 1992, and I kind of lumped them in as an offshoot of the whole “grunge” thing, an underground “alternative” to the mainstream “alternative.” They did it for the love, not the money, because it didn’t initially seem like they’d see very much of the post-Nirvana money that major labels were throwing at any underground band that could write a catchy tune and work with a big time producer in a vain attempt to recapture that Nevermind magic. Against all odds, all of the bands I listed above did sign to major labels and had limited success, with the exception of Sleep, who smoked their chances of mainstream success away when they recorded Jerusalem/Dopesmoker, which is a rather legendary story at this point. I’m not going to get into it because it would take me a whole month to properly separate the facts from the fiction. The blurring of fact and fiction is often what makes something seem legendary in its scope.
When I first heard the term “stoner rock”, it was 1999, and the term was not used in a positive way. Music critics used the term to belittle bands – it was a way of saying that the music was “dumbed” down. The alternate term was “cloner rock”, meaning that the bands in the scene were too much under the influence of the other bands in the scene. I do not necessarily disagree with this criticism; there was a lot of truth in those two words, “cloner rock”, and there still is today. People did not like their music being called “stoner rock” in 1999. Not in the U.S. anyways. Some bands in other countries did like having their music called stoner rock, because it tied them into a bigger movement while they were trying to gain any form of recognition. That’s one of the points – this form of music historically struggled to attain legitimacy. Sleep were one of the bands that garnered the movement some legitimacy, through the iconic status of their albums within the larger context of metal.
People seem to really like the term “stoner rock” now. I still don’t, because I remember. For years, we were told that the “stoner rock” legends, Sleep, were writing a new album. There have been hints, omens and portents, tidbits leaked out here and there, and never anything really concrete. Now, usually if a band of such stature is to record and release a new album, it’s accompanied by a LOT of fanfare: in studio reports, interviews about the writing process, promotional teaser trailer videos, releasing singles, streaming the album on NPR, bells, whistles, trumpets, banners, the whole nine yards. There’s a whole long and extended marketing and promotional strategy that goes into any major release, like a new Sleep album. Certainly a lot more than just dropping a rumor here or there for the past few years, then suddenly announcing on Thursday 4/19 that a new album will hit stores on 4/20. No one does that.
Unless, of course, they’ve got a very deliberate strategy in mind. Unless they’ve made a very, very limited amount of vinyl copies available at select stores, and no CD copies on this 4/20 “release date.” Because that would cause chaos, and really, really drive up the digital sales from online downloads. Just imagine it, people who had the day off would wake and bake, arrive at the local record store full of anticipation, and either be lucky enough to get a vinyl copy of the brand new, hotly anticipated surprise 4/20 Sleep album, or they’d find out they couldn’t buy it there because it was either completely sold out or just was NEVER in stock. Those who are lucky enough to get a copy are going to go home, open it up, gaze in wonder at the amazing packaging and extras, and then immediately take pictures and post them to social media. Those who cannot get a copy are going to be extremely envious, and leave the stores feeling extreme desire to possess a copy, or at least HEAR IT. Everyone wanted to be be a part of the big 4/20 Sleep party. No one wants to feel like they’ve been left out, especially when something is made to FEEL BIG. In that sort of a panic, the hype would become all encompassing, and the music itself would cease to even matter. This is unfortunately how human behavior often works. Why would you need any form of traditional marketing if you had a strategy that was so deliberately manipulative, so devious, and that preyed so heavily on the baser instincts of humankind?
Well, on Thursday April 19th 2018, when I waltzed into the local record store to get the skinny on this new Sleep album, it was very quickly apparent that this is what Jack White had dreamed up for us all. The people who worked there did not know they had a new Sleep album packaged with the other new releases set to hit the shelves the very next day. They had something from Third Ear Records that just said “Jack White recommends you listen to this” for a title, although it had a stock number. I was the one who told them a new Sleep album was coming out, they had no idea. And when the guy working went back to check, sure enough, there was ONE copy of the vinyl packaged in the order for Friday. One vinyl, and zero CD’s. This seemed rather odd, as a release of this magnitude, one that was already seeing so much hype because people were downloading it in Australia, should have more than one copy in a major chain store. I mean, they could sell way more copies, they could have sold 20 copies of the vinyl from that store, why only have one? And no CD’s? That makes no sense. So they went and checked their computers with the aforementioned stock number. Their stores had five copies in all of New England. There were no CD copies anywhere. This is one of the biggest record store chains in all of the New Englands. My other friends who owned or worked at smaller stores reported the same thing – very, very scarce supply of LP’s only. There were LP’s available for pre-order on the Third Man website, for eighty dollars. $80.Jack White now claims that was a mistake, and the price has been lowered to 30 something. Knowing that Soundgarden’s vinyl release of “Superunknown” sold for $60, you kind of have to wonder if it really was a mistake at all.
When the record store told me about the limited supply of vinyl and zero CD’s, I realized what was actually going on. It was intended to “sell out” from the start, driving up demand so that people would go and buy it online. Jack White could always make sure that there would be plenty of copies in the stores later on. The most important thing was naturally the underlying message inherent in the hype – whatever you do, you NEED to hear the new Sleep record on 4/20. Simple supply and demand economics – control and limit the supply of physical copies in order to drive up the demand and force digital downloads. Brilliant and deeply manipulative marketing. At the same time, not really fair to the fans, though very few rightfully cried out about how they were being screwed over. Why would they? As long as they bought into the hype and enjoyed the music, the ends justified the means, correct? Did Jack White fire six shots, or only five? In all the confusion, I kind of lost track myself. Even fully realizing what was going on and that I was being royally screwed, I was seriously tempted to call in to work so that I could get to the store when they opened at 10am to buy this stupid record, without hearing a single note of it. And that’s the true power of manipulative marketing, folks. Do you feel lucky? Well….do you, punk?
Don’t get me wrong – all marketing is deeply manipulative. That’s the nature of the beast. Better the beast you know then….I don’t know. Bands are generally pretty good at manipulation, at least the good ones are. Their job is basically to manipulate us into thinking they are the coolest thing ever, so that we talk them up, play their records for our friends, and most importantly, advertise their brand. That’s what you’re actually doing when you wear a band’s t-shirt – they’ve manipulated you into paying them so that you can advertise for them. That’s a really sweet deal if you’re a musician, and I guess an alright deal if you’re a fan who doesn’t really know any better. My bands do this same thing. Being in a band has been a breezy grift for a long time, since The Grateful Dead and KISS innovated merchandising and taught their fans that being a walking signboard was super cool. Most bands and fans are so embedded in the culture that they don’t stop to see it for what it really is, they just go on autopilot and BUY, then proselytize. Music fans are consumers, plain and simple. That’s the name of the game; consumerism. We’re all puppets in this game, it’s just that some of us can see our own strings, to borrow a metaphor from Alan Moore. Bands market to fans, fans in turn market for bands.
Jack White and Sleep just took it to a whole other level, they created a void within the traditional marketing scheme, an empty space where the fans who are used to being overly informed about a new release were given almost no information at all, therefore creating a feeding frenzy that would do 99% of the marketing on its own. They let loose the beast that none of us can ever truly knew. It’s brilliant, it’s bloody, and it’s also deeply troubling for the future of the scene. Those in the industry have struggled to fully capitalize on the sales potential of digital downloads. The internet was a game-changer. How Jack White found a simple, counter-intuitive way to market digital downloads to starved Sleep fans is also a game-changer.
So what about the actual music? If a band and label are willing to utilize this kind of marketing strategy, the music needs to at least live up to the hype, doesn’t it? No, actually it doesn’t. It only had to be close enough. Close doesn’t just count in horseshoes and hand grenades anymore. Close counts in carefully constructed hype as well. That’s the whole point. It’s not really about the music anymore, not at this level anyways. It’s about the cash grab.
I was just at the same record store. They finally got “The Sciences” CD’s in for this past Friday, one week past the 4/20 release date, and they’ve have been able to get a couple more vinyl copies since this whole debacle started. It’s sold out, and they have more on order. I talked to a friend of mine who works there, who thought I was looking to buy a copy of the vinyl. No, actually I was just doing research for this article. I asked him if he’d heard the record, he said that he’d heard it once, that it was fine and that it sounded like Sleep. He also said that some of the songs sounded a lot like Dopesmoker for a record that wasn’t trying to be Dopesmoker. Now, this was pretty much my initial reaction to the record as well, as many who saw me post about it on social media will attest. I rated it a 7/10, and I think that was being rather generous. The production is massive, the individual performances are at times spectacular, there are some quieter moments that are really well done, I liked how they broke the mold a bit at the end with “The Botanist.” Jason’s drumming is top notch throughout, and when Al or Matt break out and go for a bass break or a guitar solo, it’s pretty mind-melting. They obviously played their asses off. That’s about all the good things I can say about the record, quite honestly.
The end of the conversation with my acquaintance at the record store went something like this – after we talked about it being “fine” and such, I told him how some people were going ape-shit about it, like it was the second coming and some rough beast had slouched back to Bethlehem to be born. And he told me, “Well, people are dumb. They go ape-shit about things like this; things that they think they’re supposed to go ape-shit over, because a lot of people have told them that they should be going ape-shit over things like this.” I’m paraphrasing, and that to me is pretty spot on because it’s the exact thing that Jack White capitalized on. He has always capitalized on that, I mean, I’ve heard The White Stripes. To my ears, no one really capitalized on the music itself. It’s completely style over substance, with both The White Stripes and “The Sciences”.
The writing is not so hot for a Sleep record. It’s just not, I’m sorry. Listen to how some of these songs end abruptly, with no real resolution, just a screeching halt. That’s a sign of sloppy, hasty writing. Sure, it’s “fine”, as mentioned above, and Sleep never really did that before. And we’re talking about three guys who play in three really cutting edge bands when they’re not doing the whole Sleep thing. We’re talking about a band that are widely regarded as innovators and masters of this style. They’ve had all the time in the world to write this record, and this is the best they could come up with? Really?? I’m pretty disappointed, in case you can’t tell. Maybe you should also feel a bit of disappointment, at least on some level.
Sure, Dopesmoker was very goofy. I know some people love that goofy lyric “Drop out of life with bong in hand.” I personally find it pretty laughable, and I don’t like the overall lyrical themes on Dopesmoker very much. I get that for many this is an anthemic call to embrace a counter culture that existed at the time of the recording and has since gone extinct. I was always willing to give them a pass because even though I like Volume 1 and Holy Mountain much better, I realize that Jerusalem was quite groundbreaking and creative. Plus, they were very young. I will not give them a pass on this new record, because it is just dumb and they are supposedly older and wiser. Sorry, there’s no other way for me to candy coat it. It all seems really phoned in to me. Whereas Dopesmoker at least seemed to be channeling a higher creative power, The Sciences simply sounds completely half-baked, like the proverbial leftover half-eaten burrito that Sleep froze during the Dopesmoker recording sessions and now decided to defrost 20 odd years later in a crusty old microwave. Sure, that sounds kind of tasty if you’re ravished and there’s nothing else available, and do you really want to go there when there are plenty of other viable options? Shit man, Om in comparison is like the fresh all-you-can eat Indian buffet right down the street.
It’s great to finally have studio quality recordings of “Sonic Titan” and “Antarticans Thawed.” I enjoyed those. “Marijuanaut’s Theme” and “Giza Butler”? Not so much. Those two songs sound like really dumb Dopesmoker outtakes, with even dumber lyrics. Some of these lines are downright cringe-worthy. For most bands, I wouldn’t care, except you’re talking about a band with at least two guys who can write fantastical, mystical, deeply imaginative lyrics. High On Fire wrote a concept album about Jesus’s time travelling stillborn twin brother who was magically transported into an alternate universe. He then drove around in a van with his friends and a talking dog solving mysteries, or something like that. It’s also goofy, and it’s at least imaginative. Om writes about complex metaphysical constructs in a compelling way, and Al’s usage of language alone is pretty remarkable. It’s sometimes goofy, and sometimes profound. I’m not really sure if Jason writes any of Neurosis‘s lyrics, and I’m pretty sure he could write some that are better than the junior high school bullshit on full display in these so-called “songs” on “The Sciences”. I swear that they must have compiled these lyrics from some junkyard full of old wooden desks from the middle school I was imprisoned in during the year 1988, all engraved with the sage anecdotes and immortal poetry of wise “old soul” thirteen year olds who took out their teenage angst on those old oaken slabs that represented the prison bars of an adolescent mind yearning for freedom and autonomy. I matured slowly, so I probably wasn’t carving this kind of drivel into my desk until I was at least 16. Maybe this would be cool if Sleep were a band of 16 year old kids. They’re all older than me, which means they’re also old enough to know better. This doesn’t smell like teen spirit, it smells like middle aged diarrhea.
“Through the hashteroid fields”, “Marijuanaut loads a new bowl”, “Inhaler of a rifftree”, “Admixture sustains smokesuit as home”, “Planet Iommia nearing”. I’m embarrassed to be typing these lyrics. Those are BAD, and it gets even worse. “The Kiefsatz Hasherach now takes the Bong Jabbar. Marijuana is his light and his salvation. The CBDeacon. Bong Water of Life anoints the Muad Doob messiah”…..holy shit just kill me now. Fuck, you guys know I’m a huge Dune fan, right??? PLEASE. MAKE IT STOP. That’s just so fucking atrocious and needs to go away. Far away, right now. How the fuck am I ever supposed to enjoy my Dune books again after you’ve gone and done this? I have three Dune t-shirts that I now have to go and burn. Who thought this was a good idea?? It’s so stupid I’m actually embarrassed for Al, that he now has to sing this nonsense on a nightly basis. We get it, you like to listen to Black Sabbath, smoke pot and murder my favorite literature. That’s cute and all, why don’t you go write a song about….oh wait, you did. Nevermind. I don’t want to hear it ever again. Remember how most of you hated Star Wars – The Phantom Menace when it came out, and thought that George Lucas’s children must have written it because it was so juvenile at times? Or that he really needed to get his shit together after taking such a long time off from the Star Wars saga? Pot, meet kettle, you’re both blacker than the cover of a Spinal Tap album. These lyrics are juvenile and lame as fuck. You want to write about marijuana? How ’bout you write a concept album about a bunch of kids who are jailed by an evil overseer who locks them up for smoking the reefer, and then years later, when they’re all grown up, they suddenly realize that this same evil overseer is trying to monopolize on the marijuana market. I’d buy that. Just don’t tell Jack White that I’ll buy that.
Before I wrote this article, I was out wandering in the woods, listening to Traffic on my headphones, as I often do. I’ll let you in on a big secret – I’m more into psychedelic rock and punk/hardcore than anything else. Sure, I have a real soft spot for metal, particularly “stoner metal”, as it tends to have a large overlap with both psychedelic and punk rock. My point here is that shit, Traffic could write damn good lyrics that were overtly “druggy” without resorting to lame cliches and cheesy drug puns.
“Don’t look around to find the sound that’s right beneath your feet / The hermit sits inside his cave and seeks to know his mind / Staring into empty space and seeing into peoples’ faces / Others cannot find / Don’t look around to find the sound that’s right beneath your feet.”
Sure, it’s not William fucking Wordsworth. Traffic’s lyrics are sometimes self-consciously goofy, and for me they never cross that line into pure Dumb. This is largely because they talk about insights attained from the drug experience, rather than just repeating cliches about the drugs themselves. There is nothing insightful about the drug oriented nonsense that Sleep regurgitated on “The Sciences”. They’re pretty much a self mockery, like Sleep has subconsciously tried to parody their own surprising success. If Sleep had any insight whatsoever when they were writing these words, they would have realized just how fucking cheesy and dumb they were coming across as. Maybe I’m wrong and they’ll start giving interviews where they’re candid and admit, “Yeah, we wrote some really dumb shit about pot. It was fun at the time, and in retrospect we guess that it was also kind of a cash in. We’re not going to do that on the next album, we’ve gotten that out of our systems and we apologize for our regression into an infantile state.” I don’t see that happening though, unless enough people rightfully call them out on their bullshit.
We get spoon fed a lot of “Dumb” these days. A lot of Dumb, look at our so-called president. All this Dumb usually comes in two forms: Free Dumb, and Big Money Dumb. There’s usually an insidious connection between those two forms, and I’ll leave it to you to figure that all out. Let’s just say that the ideas behind Free Dumb are usually used to push Big Money Dumb, and Big Money Dumb is usually used in turn to promote the ideas behind Free Dumb. So I guess that’s what is perhaps the most disappointing thing about the new Sleep album to me personally – that it’s not only Dumb, it’s Big Money Dumb. For Jack White, this IS literally a 4/20 miracle. Think of the ca$h that this clown$hoe has made off of this giant, well polished turd $andwich that he’s been $poonfeeding us all for the past couple weeks. He has capitalized off $leep’s current pot-centric pop culture image, and the 4/20 $toner cliche holiday as well. And many of you are more than willing to eat this dude’s poop, with a very real shit eating grin on your faces the whole time. Don’t expect me to kiss any of you anytime soon, at least not with an open mouth. Pucker up, buttercup.
There’s a reason that I don’t want to write reviews, and would rather have the freedom to just write about whatever I want. If I were a reviewer, I wouldn’t be able to say a lot of these things, because record labels would not want to work with me or give me promos. Do you want to work with me? I certainly hope not. Do you think Jack White is going to be very happy about what I’ve said here? I certainly hope not.
Do you think Sleep would enjoy reading this? No, they shouldn’t. The problem is that this all really needs to be addressed. Reviews should be CRITICISM, the reviewers should be critics, and listen critically. That is rarely the case. Reviewing is usually just another form of marketing, a quid pro quo relationship where the labels and bands give the reviewers free copies and advanced listening IF they write glowing, hyperbolic things about the music and the labels. “This is the heaviest thing ever and the most important release of the year, possibly of all time. If you haven’t heard it, you must be living under a rock!” I could have written that about the new Sleep, or just about any other release that comes out, with a glib tongue romanticizing slower than molasses riffing and a gargantuan rhythm section that will pound you like a behemoth in heat. How many times can you all hear that before you realize it’s just a load of shit, empty words that are essentially bought and paid for? These “activities” run rampant within the current Scene.
If you’re really good to the labels and can consistently spin these same themes in different ways, you can go to shows for free with a press pass, free merch gets thrown your way, labels may pay for your transportation and lodging when you cover their showcases, they’ll buy you a van to travel around and solve mysteries in, you get the picture. The whole quid pro quo, this-for-that mentality is naturally toxic, and it’s going to slowly erode both your credibility and your ability to be critical about the music that you’re supposed to be reviewing critically. When that all goes away, the integrity of a scene and its music are also at risk. With no one around to hold bands and labels accountable, they can get lazy and complacent, and then so can the fans. Reviewers are usually glorified taste-makers at best, bought and paid for cheerleaders at worst. That needs to change. Reviewers need to find their own voice and challenge the bands and the labels alike. That’s their job, not sucking up for fucking freebies, folks.
I hope that Jack Whiteand Sleep do read this article. That’s the whole point, someone like me, I can speak to hard truths because I don’t give a fuck about the freebies. I don’t care about the social stature of being a glorified cheerleader for the scene, so I can say things that I know people will not initially like. I am basically a hermit who sits in his cave. I don’t want glory, I don’t even want you to like me, I only want self respect. I want to look in the mirror every morning and say, “Well, at least I’m trying to be a straight shooter rather than a bullshit artist, even though everything about our society tells me that being a bullshit artist is how you get places in life. Just look at our so-called president. At least I’m not like him. And at least I’m not like Jack Whiteor William Weld.”
I wouldn’t want Sleep to take away from this that I’m no longer a fan or that I hate “The Sciences”. Sure, I have very strong feelings on the subject, and the thing that I actually want them to take away from this diatribe is that I personally feel that they can do a lot better than this. They were once groundbreaking, and I’m willing to write this off as a one-time “we’re finding our way around the studio again” type of thing. I know some people have said “Who cares if it doesn’t break any new ground? I just want to be complacent and go along with the status quo!! New Sleep is awesome, I’m a cheerleader, 4/20 forever!!!”
Well, obviously I fucking care, kiddies, and I ain’t your cheerleader. I’m the guy who pisses in your punchbowl at prom. I’m all for hedonism and chasing the halcyon glow of the drug experience, and Sleep do an admirable job of attempting to capture that proverbial lightning in the bottle. They tried. Tried and failed – not tried and died. Luckily, the stakes aren’t that high yet. You’re lucky, Sleep. I am currently acting as your judge, and I refuse to be your executioner. Someone like my musically inclined buddy Patrick Bateman would probably kill you and play with your blood, because he’s just that kind of guy. You’re certainly lucky that you get to utilize Dune references in such an odious way without subjection to the actual deadly consequences laid out in those novels, but I digress as usual. The point is that we can’t stay high forever, we can’t just live with our head perpetually up our asses, or we’re all going to crash very, very hard. The point is that there are very harsh realities that we must all face at some point in our lives. Sleep need to face the natural consequences of their actions. The Sciences is not a thinking person’s album – it’s a call to stop thinking and to embrace The Dumb. It’s a call to be an avid consumer of vapid popular pot culture.
Rick famously tells Morty that school is not a place for smart people, and illustrates that with the obvious example that they give you a piece of paper telling you when you can take a dump. I agree with Rick. I think that Rick would agree with me, that The Sciences is not an album for smart people, and Jack White told you when and where he was going to take a massive steaming dump. On 4/20. On top of us all.
I assured Matthew Thomas that this is not a hit piece. It can’t be, there’s no hit here. Jack White, Bill Weld, and John Boehner are all on base, only because they walked there when no one was keeping score, and I’m not sure who’s on first anymore. Sleep certainly struck out, even though their coach slow-pitched them the ball underhand after they knocked over the tee five times (baseball fans??). Then everyone told us “alternative facts”, that Sleep hit the biggest home run of all time, the heaviest home run, if you missed it you live under a rock inside a cave, it was like a behemoth mounting a tyrannosaurus, etc etc. That’s just a ploy so that White, Weld and Boehner can steal home while we’re all staring at the sun.
I firmly believe that Sleep are still capable of doing more albums that are literal game changers. Albums that push back and force the scene to think, to grow and to evolve. If everyone just lines up to kiss their asses, reviewers and fans alike, they have no impetus to grow and evolve. Why do anything differently if everyone says what you just did was the greatest thing ever, 10/10, perfect? Fuck that noise, nothing is perfect and artists need to strive to outdo themselves with every new project, to set the bar for themselves continually higher. You get an overly generous 7 out of 10, $leep, and that’s only because I like you. And if this is “liking”, you don’t want to see what it looks like when I no longer like you. Please don’t put me in that position, I implore you. Sleep, if you can read these words, do better. You are fucking getting PAID now guys, which is fine and dandy. Earn your motherlickin’ keep. That’s all I’m asking. Do better. You’re one of my biggest influences. This new album, it does not inspire me like your others, and that saddens me. Quit capitalizing on commercial pot culture, because it’s fucking lame, guys, and you can do better. I’ll get over it, and I’d just like you to know that I believe in you. This all comes from a place of love, and the hope that my “blunt” honesty (See, I can make cheesy pot puns too guys! Can I sit with the cool kids now?) will be an impetus for self-reflection and ultimately for change. Blow my mind with your next album. I dare you. You get the “Nice Swing” award for The Sciences, even though you struck out. Big time. But you sure looked impressive in the on deck circle, practicing that big swing. Learn from that, and next time, step up to the plate and knock it out of the park. Either way, I’ll buy you ice cream after the game. And I’ll still feed Matt Pike leftover French Onion soup and put on the Raiders game for him if he stumbles into my place of business all blurry eyed and hung over (true story).
Fans – demand better from the bands that you’re fans of, in both content and delivery. When you don’t like how they deliver your product to you, when they use sketchy marketing tactics and fuck with your expectations, let them know that it’s not okay. Take the five minutes to write an email to the band and the label, and share with them a piece of your mind. That’s what knocked the price down from $80 for the vinyl, which was apparently a “mistake.” We’re all so groomed for distraction and instant gratification that we’re now also ripe for exploitation. We don’t have to put up with either “mistakes” or purposely limited distribution on a seemingly crucial release. We deserve better.
Reviewers, do your fucking job, and call shit when you smell it. Don’t be afraid to be critical, and to rock the boat a bit. It’s your job. Go do it. Or else the next $leep album might be even more of a $nore.
For those who legitimately love this new Sleep album, fans and reviewers alike, kudos to you. It’s a dirty job, and someone has to do it. In many ways I envy you. I wish I could love it, I really do. I just can’t. There’s a reason that Judas Priest’s “Never Satisfied” is a favorite of mine.
So in conclusion, thanks for tuning in to my first edition of “Andy does not give very many fucks anymore about appeasing anyone.” Maybe next time I’ll write about how some of the latest from The Sword album reminds me of Phish. Then again, maybe not. I’m really looking forward to writing about the new music from ABBA, who are one of my favorite bands of all time, and who are much more important and profitable than $leep in The Grand $cheme. I also really hope that you all enjoy your nap time, and your dreams are sweet and such. I’ll still be drinking black coffee and staring at the walls when you all decide to wake up from your precious little $leep.
Original Tracklist: Intro 00:32
Down And Outer 03:36
Trip Down Memory Lane 01:11
Drugged Up Dolls 02:19
Sex Devil 05:50
The Doped Up Devil 04:05
Perversion For Profit 03:28
You Are The Prettiest Pill 04:06
Did You Know? 03:11
You Had This Coming 03:49
Nothing Song (Bonus Track) 03:30
Re-release Tracklist: Intro 00:33
Down And Outer 03:19
Drugged Up Dolls 04:40
Sex Devil 06:01
Perversion For Profit 03:19
Nothing Song 03:29
You Are The Prettiest Pill 06:53
Did You Know? 03:08
Devil’s Advocate 03:16
The Doped Up Devil’s with Sexual Grooves (Re-Release)
I’ll let his Facebook bio explain: “Bad Monster Black is a project formed by King Jeremy The Wicked (Jeremy Vibbert). “Bad Monster Black: The Doped Up Devils With Sexual Grooves” EP was released late 2014 and did not fit the KJTW catalog, it was something different, it had swing, punch, and an undeniable groove that broke away from the thrash metal criteria. So shortly after releasing the EP, it was re-released under the name Bad Monster Black, and eventually taken off of the KJTW Discography. Thus, making Bad Monster Black the new home of the experimentation with swinging riffs, overloaded guitars, and a tongue in cheek attitude that makes the music even more fun to listen to. This isn’t music you’d take home for your family to listen to, and that’s how it’s intended.”
The sound of Bad Monster Black’s music is very 90’s; it is very reminiscent of the music of Puscifer, Marilyn Manson,White Zombie and even Rob Zombie’s solo work. Even though those influences are very prevalent Jeremy found a way to make it not sound too dated. Both releases have different track-listings and have a couple of different songs on each.
That being said I’ll make a somewhat in depth look on the tracks that are same (and what has changed on the remaster.) On the tracks that are different I’ll say what each of them do to make the release different.
Almost all of the tracks stay except; Trip Down Memory Lane, The Doped Up Devil, Control, You Had This Coming, and Outro (on the original release) and on the re-release; Intermission, Devil’s Advocate, and Stoned. These tracks are either new (in the case of the re-release) or taken out (original) the only track is the Intermission which is a shorter version of The Doped Up Devil.
The tracks that stay almost the same; Intro, Drugged Up Dolls, Sex Devil, Satanola, Nothing Song, You Are The Prettiest Pill, Did You Know, Low. What did change was samples and some of the production. Overall there was less use of samples in the remaster and, in a way, that makes sense for the update to fit the Bad Monster Black catalog since the focus changed to more sleazy Rock. Intro, Did You Know and Low did not change at all, or not enough that change the experience. Satanola is a standout that would fit nicely into any Puscifer album.
There are only two original tracks that are different, Down and Outer and Perversion for Profit. For the remaster the guitar solos were replaced by slower guitar parts and dirtier production.
“The Doped Up Devils with Sexual Grooves” – (Original 2014)
The original release is more of a current sounding album than the remaster and is a heavier/more metal than it as well. As I stated before; the main differences between them is that on the remaster the recording is less clean and more fuzzed out for that dirty 90s feel and the guitar solos that are in the original are changed to fit the dirty sound so the sound isn’t as muddy and has less of a touch of Metal. The sleaze is upgraded for a more solid Sleaze Rock feel. If you like music that is dark, sleazy, has hints of blues, lots of fuzz, Rob Zombie-ish (and at times Tonetta-ish in the remaster) this band and its’ albums are for you.
Bad Monster Black (King Jeremy The Wicked) is a prolific writer and pumps out high quality music on a regular basis. To use Mr. Wicked’s own words about this album and his process, “This is a re-release from the 2014 version. The reason? This band is all DIY, Which means about 90% of the time it’s all trial and error.” So Support!!!
Download the original HERE and the Re-release HERE
P.S. to King Jeremy the Wicked, if you would like to do an interview about this album please contact me.
Independent – Released – Mar 23 2018 on MP3, FLAC // CD
LP May 30, 2018 (approx.)
Reviewed by Mike Hackenschmidt
“lonely loners on a lonely road… alone”
Review: Sunnata is a Buddhist term meaning emptiness… sort of. The actual meaning totally depends upon context. Considering this, along with the Middle Eastern style writing on the album cover, it’s a bit of a surprise to me that the band is from Warsaw. Last I checked that’s still in Poland.
Be that as it may, the origin of these “lonely loners” being a bit different from the “lonely road” they’ve chosen to walk is not the most interesting contrast of “Outlands”. Instead, it’s the clash of styles Sunnata has merged together, which works!! If you’ve perhaps started the stream then let’s address the 350lb rooster in the room… and that’s the fact that “Outlands” has an undeniable vibe resembling a certain well-known 90’s band.
In fact the first time I listened to this I was struggling to remember who they sound like and I found myself getting off track…
“Into some-thing again
Yadda yadda, blah, blah, blah
So I made big mistake
Something, something was my way”
So, turns out I’m not a huge Alice in Chains fan and ‘Would?’ is almost the only song I know by them. Actually, I don’t really know it. I can just kind of catch the tune and mumble a few correct and otherwise mostly incorrect words to absolutely murder it. But hey, it’s a good tune. I mean… when they do it. The only other AIC song I remember is the god-awful ‘Man In the Box’ that’s probably not as bad as I remember, just that I got thru the 90’s having heard it too many times involuntarily and I’m a bit burnt out on it.
Thankfully Sunnata keeps things fresh and creates a very cool sound by blending the AIC vibe with Eastern folk and doom – I want to say stoner doom but actually, I’m not sure if that’s really accurate. There is a psychedelic feel but the mind bending might be inspired more by meditation and a fascination with the metaphysics. Obviously, sometimes these go hand-in-hand so it might be difficult to differentiate between the two without some understanding of the lyrical content. Unfortunately, I don’t have that.
For the most part, the vocals are distorted and somewhat mumbled, much like my above rendition of ‘Would?’. Maybe if I were a bit more present and relaxed, I could slip into a state of elevated consciousness and be able to decipher what’s being said. Perhaps some other enhancements would help. Unfortunately, I’m sober and watching hockey so I’m otherwise clueless.
Considering the meaning of Sunnata, the album title and the wicked album art, I’m quite disappointed that I can’t dig a little deeper to understand the lyrics. I feel like they would be fascinating, possibly with some ideas I’ve not yet encountered invoking thought and furthering my understanding of the world.
Check it out and experience your own interpretation of this well crafted release. Highly Recommend!!
Physical CD available on March 5th, 2018 on Blackseed Records
Limited & Standard 180gr Vinyl available April 20th, 2018 through Cursed Tongue Records
Reviewed by Eric Layhe
Blackbirds Call (5:41)
Sword of my Father (3:55)
White Mountain (4:31)
Frost Lord (4:18)
The Huntress (6:06)
Forged in Fire (6:14)
Season of the Witch (6:07)
Review: Stoner Metal has a very storied history. Debatably beginning with Black Sabbath and Hawkwind and surviving through Monster Magnet, the bandcamp era has created something of a golden era of Stoner Metal and one of the beneficiaries of this golden age is Indiana’s Wolftooth.
Wolftooth is a classic Stoner Metal band through and through, albeit one with a little extra heft added for good taste. Their self-titled album is chock-full of great riffs and much better vocals than the genre usually calls for and even features a few twists and turns as well – album opener “Blackbirds Call” opens with an atmospheric intro that is almost symphonic in nature. “Sword of my Father” is (fittingly) extremely reminiscent of the Apocryphon-era of The Sword, with Kentucky-fried grooves and lots of southern twang. Through its raw production, Wolftooth’s “Self-titled” album does a great job of emulating a live show. If you close your eyes, you can almost imagine that Wolftooth is right there playing for you.
It’s not a perfect album, though. In terms of the genre of Stoner Metal, Wolftooth doesn’t bring a whole lot of new material to the table. If you’re a member of the fairly sizable group that feels as though Stoner Metal is a tad tired and needs a major mix-up in order to be truly rejuvenated, then you probably won’t find a whole lot to enjoy here. It really is a faithful recreation of the genre and therefore won’t be much of a treat if you’re not a fan of that particular style.
With their self-titled album, Wolftooth has created a very faithful recreation of Stoner Rock with a modern edge. Fans of the genre will love it, whereas those that aren’t simply won’t. While it really is as simple as that, I cannot emphasize how good of a job Wolftooth has done. If you enjoy Stoner Metal, I absolutely recommend you check out this excellent release.
Juan Pablo Lucco Borlera: Bajo
Mauricio Condon: Guitarra
José Landín: Batería
Tracklist: Cabalgan Los Cielos (7:39) Ouroboros (5:16) Stolas (8:42) Eclipsum (4:36) La Piedra Que Sujeta El Sol (5:45) Nuboj (7:26)
IAH – Self Titled EP Demo
Post-Metal, especially Instrumental Post-Metal, is somewhat akin to walking a tightrope: if executed correctly, it can be a true wonder to behold. However, even the slightest misstep can spell disaster for the artist in question. One of the latest acts to walk this tightrope is Argentina’s IAH.
Post-Metal’s largest pitfall is that it can be a very difficult genre to perform while maintaining the interest of the listener. All too commonly, the music is tuned out, eventually being delegated to being “background music” after the listener sets their attention to something more gripping. Fortunately, IAH does an excellent job of making sure their music remains interesting in their debut album, adeptly shifting the feel of their music at the exact instant that the musical idea of the time would wear its welcome.
This album often feels like 3 friends jamming in their garage, and that is absolutely a good thing. An air of familiarity and camaraderie permeates this release- it lacks the disconnect between the listener and the artist that so many larger releases have. It really feels like IAH are sharing something with you and that you are simply hanging out with them, and this feeling definitely pans out in their favor.
The sections of this album that yield the biggest and best impact are when the band really lets loose: IAH feels, far and away, most comfortable when their amps are turned up to eleven, the overdrive is blaring, the guitar is detuned, and the drummer is holding nothing back. Approximately halfway through album opener “Cabalgan Los Cielos” the fuzz guitar is taken beyond the point of no return and the song opens up into an outright tremendous stomp that characterizes the band at their best: Loud, heavy, and downright punishing. This sensation is taken to its maximum in the first half of album high point “Eclipsum”, a showcase of world class riffs full of fuzz, wah, and bass chords.
Spacey, Post-metal is at its finest when the band lets loose, just as outer space is at its most interesting when one takes a look at the crushing gravitational forces of stars, supernovas, and black holes, and IAH is a band that certainly seems to be perfectly aware of this. Despite being rather new to the scene, IAH weaves a work that deserves plenty of attention in the metal crowd, and if there is any justice in this great big universe, these masters of musical intuition will receive that attention.
Riding Easy Records – Release Date September 29th 2017
Reviewed by Andy “Dinger” Beresky
Thomas V Jäger – Guitars & vocals
Esben Willems – Drums
Mika Häkki – Bass
I don’t write many reviews of actual doom albums, for good reason. It’s a surprisingly complicated subject, not to mention a very personal one. The whole stoner doom “genre” has a rather rich history, which through inexplicable luck, I’ve been privileged enough to play a small part in. Like any other “genre” (and I use the word very loosely), it’s tough to pinpoint its exact birth, the point where it all started. There are obviously precursors, though for me, the first real groundbreaking record of the genre was Sleep’s Holy Mountain. And what exactly made it so groundbreaking? It was such a convincing replica of the Black Sabbath model, condensed into a power trio, that even Black Sabbath said that Sleep did it best. Perhaps you’ll already see where I’m going with this. Stoner doom isn’t generally about innovation and originality, unless you’re YOB. It’s more about the VIBE, man….
Sleep once again pulled off a landmark album with Jerusalem/Dopesmoker, which was innovative only in that it pushed the limits of length and repetition to their logical extreme, eschewing traditional songwriting structures in favor of elements from classical composition and Eastern motifs. Perhaps most importantly, it established the importance of unique tones and massive low end above all else. It’s largely unimportant from a critical perspective that the album is so monotonous – the repetition actually works in its favor, whereas with other genres, it would not. Dopesmoker simply punishes, relenting only in shorter, quieter sections.
Other groundbreaking albums in the genre followed suit – Acid King pretty much perfected the combination of fuzzed out post-Sabbath riffs and ethereal vocals on Busse Woods. Electric Wizard’s Dopethrone pushed the limits of production to the very extreme, with spaced, blown out vocals, hyper fuzzed guitar, unearthly effects and massively distorted bass. I often deride this album as my least favorite of the Electric Wizard catalog, sheerly because it doesn’t sound GOOD. However, that was never the point. It doesn’t sound like anything else that came before it, and that’s why it’s so important. I remember the first time I heard that bass burst in with that massive riff from “Vinum Sabbathi”, and my jaw literally dropping in disbelief. Nothing had ever sounded like this up to that point. Nothing. Sure, Witchcult Today sounds much better, Black Masses has much better songs….and Dopethrone will always hold a special place in my heart. When you get into these groups, there’s only a couple ways you can get out….
There’s a few other landmark albums I’ll reference for context – Warhorse released As Heaven Turns To Ash, offering a sound that branched into death metal territory, utilized more dynamics and pushed the extremes to which a guitar can be downtuned. Despite their sole album, they’re always going to be fondly remembered as the band that blew Electric Wizard off the stage when they ventured to our lovely continent on their first American tour. Around the same time, Sloth borrowed Electric Wizard‘s gear and somehow unveiled a real corker of an album that seemed to stop both time and space in the wake of its gravitational field. Goatsnake dropped a couple key albums around the turn of the millennium, matching big tone with accomplished vocals and making Sunn 0))) amps a household name and a much valued commodity. A little later down the line, The Sword’s main achievement was in marketing and promotion, though they did introduce faster tempos and broke away from the established power trio format, utilizing NWOBHM inspired harmonies. Conan pushed the limits of volume and heaviness with their first release, issuing forth a single-minded and monolithic statement of intent. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats injected sugar coated Beatles-eque harmonies into their psych-doom, and frankly, also changed the face of marketing by deliberately cultivating an air of mystery, concocting a lovely yet bogus legend around their origins, and then initially refusing to play live. This combination resulted in massive hype.
Of course, there’s also the first Black Pyramid album (full disclosure: I am a member of), which for some inexplicable reason made quite a splash at the time. I don’t know – I just tried to draw influence from these bands, and I also tried to write good, brutal songs that mix things up in terms of tempo and style. I wrote the lyrics to be evil in a way that I didn’t think evil was fully explored in the genre. That’s it. It wasn’t rocket science or anything, and I’ve honestly never fully understood the appeal. I guess it just hit the right spots at the right time.
Enough ruminating on the past, let’s fast forward to the present. It’s 2017, stoner doom is somehow still a thing, and Monolord is the band of the movement. They are a Swedish trio and their bassist was previously in the grind outfit Rotten Sound, whom I rather like. The other two were previously in Marulk, whom I’ve never heard. I suppose that doesn’t matter all that much, as they’re in Monolord now, and I’m writing about them.
What can I say about Monolord? How do they contribute to the landscape of the genre? Well, first off, their name is an excellent description of their sound. Secondly, they’re very obviously influenced by most of the bands I’ve listed above, with the obvious exception of The Sword. There’s some serious Sleep, Electric Wizard, and Acid King worship going on, so if you dig those bands, I don’t see any reason you’d write this off. Thirdly, they’re a relatively young band, though not green by any means. Their first album was released in 2014, and they’ve had an impressive array of releases since. A single here, an EP there, a sophomore album in 2015; they’re certainly staying busy and making a name for themselves. Their sound has stayed pretty consistent from their first release, and it’s everything that you’d want and expect from a good stoner doom band – downtuned, fuzzy guitar interspersed with trippy effects and bursts of feedback, huge bass tones, spaced out vocals, and a rock-solid drummer holding it down underneath all that precious noise. They tend to stretch song lengths upwards of ten minutes at times, though I’d be hard pressed to define what criteria differentiates their decision to keep a song shorter or to extend it. If I had to venture a guess, I’d say they just ride out the riffs that they really, really like to play, and this lends an authentic, organic vibe to what they’re all about. That’s vitally important in a genre that’s so inherently derivative.
If anything, I’d say that the consistency has been Monolord’s strongest suit up to this point. They haven’t made many efforts to tread new ground, and up until, they haven’t really felt the need to. Their second album, Vaenir, is a little more polished than the debut, and this was exactly what they needed to do – double down on what’s obviously working. The Lord of Suffering 10″ showcased a little more maturity in the songwriting department, and it’s still exactly what you’d expect. This brings us up to Rust, where they’ve thrown out everything that’s come before, re-written the proverbial book and drastically redefined who they are as a band.
I’m just kidding, none of that is true. Any one of the songs on Rust could have comfortably fit on a prior release. That’s by no means a bad thing – I’ve already touted the consistency of their artistic vision. The subtle though obvious shift this time around is that they’re beginning to make more use of the studio to explore more textures and sounds, and it makes for delicious little surprises interspersed between gargantuan riffs. After opening the album with two pretty straight forward songs, the title track initiates with a haunting organ intro that drives the catchiness of the vocal hook home. Once the riffs do actually drop, it makes for an extremely effective counterpoint. It’s a seemingly little thing, and it makes a whole world of difference. This is my favorite track on the album, and I think it’s the best song they’ve written to date.
They follow this up with “Wormland”, an instrumental with slower, more deliberate riffing that takes a stark turn once again into more melodic territory, with a most triumphant, transcendent lead guitar line once again surprises by finishing up with a violin echoing the same melody. “Forgotten Lands” once again surprises us by making ample usage of its near 13 minute run time, detouring into a full-blown psychedelic breakdown mid song, with a delightfully wonky guitar solo and more exotic, modal guitar work. The final song, “At Niceae”, basically utilizes a false ending. It’s an otherwise standard track for Monolord, except that the riffs fade out, leaving us with feedback. I thought the album was over, and then an acoustic guitar kicked in, overlaid with some heavily echoed vocals and a sorrowful melody. It’s a great conclusion to a well executed album.
As I stated earlier, there has been a maturity inherent in the development of the band, and it’s firmly showcased on Rust. It’s not like they’ve gone full prog or anything – they still do what they do best, which is just heavy, zonked to the nipples doomliciousness. There is simply an increased emphasis on melody within the songwriting itself, while retaining the heavy, trippy sound that’s made a name for them. As far as how it fits into the continuum and tradition of the genre? Well, they’re currently on top of the game. Electric Wizard’s last album was far from their best work; it’s most likely their weakest. Veterans like Acid King and Goatsnake are only sporadically active. The Sword have a full-blown musical identity crisis on each album. If Sleep actually drops a new album, that will be a game changer based on the strength of the one song they’ve recorded since their reunion. Since for some inexplicable reason, there’s still a lot of interest in this sound, it leaves a lot of room at the top for more established bands that aren’t quite stoner royalty yet, like Windhand and Cough, as well as newcomers who are able to make a name and get some momentum behind them, like Monolord and Vokonis.
In closing, I’m continually perplexed at the longevity of stoner doom. Other genres that are so pigeonholed and overspecialized have only occupied a single moment in musical history before they’ve been forced to evolve or become redundant and obsolete. You can’t really call it a trend – trends quickly rise and fall within the realm of heavy music, though doom’s rise in prominence has been slow, steady, and continual. Indeed, there are those who have already evolved beyond their humble roots, bands like High On Fire, Elder and YOB. What is it about turning up really loud, tuning down really low, and aping Black Sabbath that’s had such a lasting, overarching appeal? Is it that musically, it digs right to the very roots of metal, the birthplace of all things heavy? Is it some primal, ritualistic element buried deep within the collective human subconscious? Is it an attempt to identify with, and thereby transcend the darker aspects of human nature? Some kind of catharsis for our more socially unacceptable emotions and fantasies? Once again, I don’t really know. I can tell you that even I’m not immune to its perpetual pull – even though I’m bored with the more common cliches associated with the genre, I’m such a sucker for a huge, over-amplified Sabbath riff. In that regard, Monolord has delivered the goods in spades. As always, my brain jumps right head to “what are they doing to do next?” It’s a fair question even now. Will they continue down the path of predictable consistency, with a pragmatic and gradual approach to change, or will they choose to truly branch off into the outer limits, returning to us with some unique permutation of psychedelic doom-inspired mayhem that will blow our minds like the forebearers of the genre did before them?
Line-Up: Tom Polzine – Guitar and Vocals Roger Marks – Bass and Vocals Zach Wheeler – Drums and Vocals
Drew Harakal – ‘Guest’ Organ/Synths
Additional vocals on ‘Mothership’ provided by Kim Auch and Kevin Dempsey
“Howling Giant-s/t” EP (January 2015)
It didn’t make sense to review these as separate releases as you have to hear the opus in it’s ENTIRETY to get the full impact of the complete tale of the “Black Hole Space Wizard” and seeing as ‘Part 2’ has just been unleashed, following ‘Part 1’ that was launched August 16th, 2016.
After hearing Howling Giant’s first EP, I was floored and hoped for more that would be as heavy, if not even MORE so as the last notes of ‘Camel Crusher’ had hinted at. As I am before you, this pair of releases deliver even more than previously hoped for, heaped in macro-bass, slamming riffs, splitting cymbals and strong, clear vocals that will guide you throughout this journey, into the deepest outreach of the infinite cosmos of “Part 1” and back into the forgotten realms of the Earth Goddess of “Part 2”. We are advised by Howling Giant that “For greater riff-sensation, listen to these songs at maximum volume.” Smoke ’em if ya got ’em, crank it up and hit ‘play’…
‘Mothership’ opens with a strong riff amid cymbal washed before the full body hits 20 seconds in and already the power is palpable before we hear “She’s our Mother…” and we are truly off and running as we hear that “The life we’ve built has come undone” and are beckoned to open up our mind… this is not the end. Loopy and soaring to the last staggered, fading note that leads directly into ‘Exodus:Earth’ with it’s slower tempo intro as “We rise into the black skies…” in this tale of traversing the atmosphere and beyond. Breathe deep and hold it in as riding the crescendo of true stoner/doom/sludge filled measures of headrush inducing guitar outbursts that take you even further into the expanses before your mind’s eye, even as the ghost of War Of The Worlds echoes in your mind, soaring further and further into the blackness and the when the needle sharp frenetic notes of ‘Dirtmouth’ hit, it is the perfect wake-up from. Hyper-speed and crushing in weight is the only way to describe this four-minute plus outburst, complete with time-shifts galore to make even the strongest necks snap along in tempo, and when you hear the scream that “The Wizard Lives!!”, you know it’s true, and then, sudden dead stop.
The silence seemed immense until the sound of a screaming wind fades in as if to mirror the return of consciousness as whispered breathing gives way to a footstep close as the power chords permeate the air as ‘clouds Of Smoke’ rumbles in, “Stranded here in this ocean of sin…” and the desolation seems to loom beyond the horizon before you, languishing in the fact that you would “Rather be anywhere but here…” as the solo rips your heart from your chest before your eyes, even as “Up in clouds of smoke, let it go, just let it go…” and as you take all of this in, even as the notes climb beyond sight as the keys fade slow as your eyes close once more.
‘Henry Tate’ comes on full gallop, complete with the spoken meanderings of Kublai Khan wafting in and out through the plethora of musical might being flexed here as the mix is even MORE lush and thick through what is an insane instrumental stroll. ‘The Pioneer’ opens with the plush bass line suiting a tome of this strength, as “My mind begins to melt, my soul strives to break free…” and another soft fade out greets you. ‘Visions’ opens, slow and blues-filled in tone and progression, and when the opening solo progression rises up, it is as haunting as ever as the body of the song gels over “Besides the embers of my fire…” and we are cast into another dream of “whipping winds that fortel a storm” that can be smelled in the air.
The acoustic track ‘The Forest Speaks’, is a soothing composition complete with soft horn sounds that permeate the air in a ‘softness’ not present before this is the ultimate precursor into ‘Circle Of Druids’ where we are told we have gone too far before the power chords hit again, giving even more of the lush heaviness I have come to expect over the course of these songs that have lead me here knowing “You must ascend…” and rise indeed on the hooks and time shifts.
‘Earth Wizard’ is the absolute culmination of all points traversed up to this moment and serves as the bookend to tie it all together and does it incredibly well. Over seven minutes long, Polzine, Marks, Wheeler and ‘guest’ Harakal put 200% into this song, as they have seemingly done with every other song included in this opus and does not disappoint in any manner.
Switching studios between Part I and Part II helped Howling Giant bring the process closer to home for these guys but the continuity between is flawless and if I have to say this record has done one thing for sure… left me wanting, no, scratch that, NEEDING more!! Grab these two, listen to them as a single release and climb aboard for a journey you have not experienced before. Share it with every mind you encounter and support them live if you get the opportunity… keep it LOUD!!