REVIEWS ROUND-UP: Stoner Doom Edition ft. Tenebra, Eric Wagner, Domkraft, Slomatics, Ufomammut

Tenebra – Moongazer (New Heavy Sounds / Seeing Red)

There is something evocative about the retro / occult rock of Italian quartet Tenebra that is encapsulated in a most vigorous way on the third track of Moongazer, ‘Black Lace’. A steady, spacious build from jangled, careful chords that takes its time gives room for the powerful smoke-and-whiskey vocals of Silvia to take centre stage, before a Zeppelin-esque vocal-led coda closes things out. It is not the only, nor possibly even the best, song to do this, but as a drawing together of the best elements of the Tenebra sound perhaps serves as their best showpiece.

Following on, I’m pleased to report ‘Winds of Change’ isn’t a take on the Scorpions “classic” but a bluesy contemplation that opens up, with Emilio (guitars) adding a riff-run that nods to Jimmy Page. Indeed, Zeppelin, The Beatles and the more reflective moments of Chris Cornell’s catalogue make better reference points than the usual Iommi influences that proliferate sixties and seventies influenced rock, though the odd Sabbath riff can’t help but seep, especially on ‘Stranded’. ‘Moon Maiden’ drifts and swirls in more (deep) purple tones, allowing a softer side to Silvia’s vocals to shine, while stretching out as an effective album closer, aided by a slick guest spot from Gary Lee Connor of Screaming Trees.

Moongazer is a confident step on from Tenebra’s debut album, serving to establish an identity and a cachet, showing us a band that takes blues, psych, grunge and a host of influences from half-a-century ago bringing them together in a way that sounds simultaneously both timeless and fresh.

7 / 10

Tenebra – Moongazer is out via New Heavy Sounds / Seeing Red on Friday 29 April. You can order it here and listen to an exclusive stream of the full album here at Ghost Cult Magazine tomorrow!

Eric Wagner – In The Lonely Light of Mourning (Cruz del Sur)

The second solo album of legendary doom / metal vocalist Eric Wagner (Trouble / The Skull et al, should you happen to be uninitiated) begins with a nod to the sound and riffs of the band that helped him establish his iconic status, with the appropriately titled ‘Rest In Peace’ starting things in earnest. The album begins with a killer doomy descending riff, before Wagner’s imparts a trademark understated hook to give an oppressive track its focus and his inimitable touch. ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ follows with its Sabbathian guitar links interspersed with some psychedelic sixties strumming in the verses, not too far from the Lid release Wagner performed on. Indeed, …Mourning is extremely well balanced, based, as you’d expect on songs led by doomy riffs and introspective mortality-obsessed lyrics while flicking between psychedelic and more reflective interludes, and some Southern-flecked guitar peals – ‘Isolation’ in particular nods to Down. ‘Walk With Me To The Sun’ has some excellent mid-paced chuggery under its reflections and opens out into a beautiful and under-stated guitar solo, while the sombre cello-led mid-album ‘If You Lost It All’ is a genuine highlight.

While this is a posthumous release, In The Lonely Light of Mourning is a completed and full album finished, apparently, mere weeks before Wagner’s passing, and sees his voice sounding strong in the main. There are a couple of moments where fragility and cracks are audible, but these only add to the authenticity – this is music of emotions and personal reality after all, and Wagner has always been a poignant and soulful lyricist and vocalist where the feeling is more important than any technical accuracy . What this leaves is a fitting and appropriate farewell that covers much of the sound and styles Wagner was known for, while showcasing his unique tones once more. Rest in peace, indeed.

8 / 10

Eric Wagner – In The Lonely Light of Mourning is out now via Cruz del Sur. You can order it here.


Domkraft / Slomatics Ascend / Descend (Majestic Mountain)

Well, now… this is a particularly cool little something, as Swedish psych-doomers Domkraft and Irish monolithic sludge-crushers Slomatics team up on this extended split, each providing two original tracks alongside a reworking of one of each other’s songs, all while managing the most difficult trick of, to mis-quote another “favourite” son of Ireland, making them their own while still retaining the atmospheres of their creators.

‘The Core Will Pull You Home’ (Domkraft original played by Domkraft) is the stronger and longer of their two original offerings – and the best of the four new songs across the whole release – at once crushing and hypnotic in its repetitive heaviness before opening out into a bass-led middle eight that provides only temporary respite as Martin Wegelend noodles on this four-strings in and amongst swooshes and swirls before the power of the Sabbath returns to take us home. Though it is their surging take on their compadres ‘And Yet It Moves’ (Slomatics original) that is the highlight of the release, Anders Dahlgren powering things along.

For their turn, the Belfast three match the format – one eight minute behemoth dragging things into darker waters submerging their own ‘Positive Runes’ track in a morass of stately down-trodden guitar and drummer Marty’s anguished shouts that refuses to rise into the light, and a sub-four minute misery piece ‘Buried Axes on Regulus Minor’, before immersing themselves in Domkraft’s ‘Dustrider’, a crushing epitaph of doom that sinks into peaceful ambience and contemplation to wrap up the split release.

7 / 10

Domkraft / Slomatics – Ascend / Descend is out now on Majestic Mountain Records. You can order it here.

Ufomammut – Fenice (Neurot)

Intent on rediscovering themselves, Italian psychedelic doom quartet Ufomammut have attempted to return to simpler approaches on their ninth album in a bid to stave off creative sterility and over-thinking things. Presented as one continuous forty-minute journey that pulses and peaks into three distinct passages across six predominantly instrumental tracks, by the time we reach ‘Pyramind’, Fenice is close to achieving the mission when the final lumbering crush disseminates into a looser mid-section that builds and teases a rebirth, while withholding the explosion from the flames our eponymous “fenice” is known for, until the final three minute dual-riff crush of ‘Empyros’.

Allowing synths and swathes of sound to proliferate elsewhere, and mixing in vocal sections, adds colour amongst the preceding tracks and a pattern of pulsing noises preceding an extended exploration of repetitive downtuned punishment is effective in the rebirth and rediscovery Ufomammut are going through. While this phoenix does not fully soar, when the ten-minute ‘Duat’ builds from a palpitation through an alternative cleaner strummed-pattern on to crunching latter stages, it shows the wings can still spread majestically.

7 / 10

Ufomammut – Fenice is out via Neurot recordings on Friday 6 May. You can order it here.