Denver, Colorado group Green Druid know what they like: They like Sleep, prolonged, Sleep-like jams, and – and I’m going out on a limb here – I’m willing to bet they like songs inspired by marijuana. Their début album, Ashen Blood (Earache) mixes all those elements for a heavy and satisfying (if overly long) session of stoner goodness.
Disclaimer: Long-time fans hoping for new music will be disappointed; their début album contains the entirety of last year’s Ashen Blood EP plus the four tracks from their 2015 self-titled EP. However, given the helping hand being on a label of Earache’s calibre will no doubt help the band reach a wider audience than before.
For new fans, Sleep and Electric Wizard are the most obvious touch points here; a slow, crushing, bong-fuelled dirge that stretches to infinity. Crushing riffs, spacey solos, with haunting vocals that hints of The Wounded Kings.
Opening track ‘Pale Blood Sky’ is probably the best on show; a mix of monolith distortion, vocals that remind of Jus Osbourne’s wail, and solos that sound like they were plucked straight from the astral plane. It’s hard to listen to without infectiously headbanging along.
But there’s more the band than just Sludge. Not afraid of letting a song breath, the excellent ‘Agoraphobia’ has plenty of light and shade that see those monolithic riffs segue in quiet moments of reverb and stillness before the gravity of the song kicks back in.
The problem, however, is that more is not always better. At over 70 minutes, the album outstays its welcome by a good half hour or so. The best songs are on the first half of the record (i.e the tracks from the Ashen Blood EP) while the second half lacks the quality, depth, or ambition of the earlier material. There’s nothing inherently wrong with the likes of ‘Rebirth’ or ‘Ritual Sacrifice’; they’re both long, heavy, winding songs in the vein of Sleep, they’re just not as good.
Green Druid clearly know how to create ambitious songs that feature slow and heavy jams. Their next album could well be a winner. But Ashen Blood the album does nothing to improve on Ashen Blood the EP.