There may not be a “classic” doom metal genre, officially (is there really an official subgenre list of heavy metal?), but when I think of the classic doom metal sound, I think of the UK style. Super beefy guitar riffs, slowed down tempo, lyrics about the occult and psychedelics, and of course, clean high end pitched vocals to tie it all together. Friends of Hell does just that on their self-titled debut album (Rise Above). Tas Danazoglou (Satan’s Wrath/ex-Electric Wizard), and vocalist Albert Witchfinder (Opium Warlords/ex-Reverend Bizarre) are the driving force behind this doom machine and seems like that is all that is needed.
Kurokuma – Born Of Obsidian
Having released multiple EPs and splits since their 2014 formation, Born Of Obsidian is the first proper full-length from Kurokuma. The UK group plays a style that could be best described as ritualistic Sludge Metal, incorporating tribal percussion somewhere between Sepultura circa Roots and Gojira overseen by a hypnotic aura not unlike Oranssi Pazuzu. The former influences are most immediately apparent on the one-two punch of ‘Smoking Mirror’ and ‘Sacrifice to Huitzilopochtli,’ which are largely driven by downright bouncy rhythmic chugs punctuated with extra fuzz.
However, the band’s atmospheric side gets time to shine as the album goes on. ‘Jaguar’ saves the harsher guitar crashes for its climax, allowing the percussion to provide a more subtle buildup that is given even greater precedence on ‘Ololiuqui’ and the closing ‘Under The Fifth Sun.’ It’s an accessible listen as far as this sort of freakout sludge goes; the less than forty-minute runtime isn’t too tough to digest, and the rhythmic focus gives it a more pulsating presence than most. A strong journey suited well to the balance of brutal and trancelike.
8 / 10
Sleepwulf – Sunbeams Curl
Sleepwulf’s second album, Sunbeams Curl (Heavy Psych Sounds) continues down the path of Doomy Occult Rock set up by their 2020 self-titled debut. The mood is a tinge more ominous with a slightly heavier push in the guitars and tighter drumming, but the vocals retain that jovial warble with enough of that rustic aesthetic to trigger comparisons to Witchcraft, Kadaver, and Graveyard.
‘Stoned Ape’ and ‘Toad Licker Mushroom Picker’ are the biggest highlights, adding some extra Psychedelia as suggested by their righteous titles, while ‘Man Under The Mountain’ dares to stomp into full-on Doom territory. It’s a simple package perhaps better done these days by groups like Green Lung and Magic Circle, but enjoyable enough to satisfy fans of those bands looking for more of the same.
7 / 10
Fostermother – The Ocean
Fostermother’s sophomore album sees some considerable expansions to their Shoegaze-informed brand of Heavy Psych. In addition to a move to Ripple Music giving The Ocean a larger platform than before, the songs noticeably run longer and play heavier than those on their 2020 self-titled debut. The album isn’t too drastically different from its predecessor but upgrading to a trio lineup certainly gives the proceedings some appropriate power.
Putting more emphasis on the Doom portion of Stoner Doom admittedly makes for less varied songwriting, but this methodical approach works well in its own ways. The guitar and bass fuzz are as thick as ever with the vocal effects providing an ethereal contrast without getting too overwhelmed. Things really pick up in the second half as ‘Unholiest Of Days’ and ‘Redeemer’ put in more upbeat hustles, the former seeming to channel classic The Sword, that are strongly counteracted by the title track’s particularly oppressive riff set. It may not have the same quirky appeal for me as the debut, but The Ocean is a worthy step forward.
8 / 10
Hazemaze – Blinded By The Wicked
Hazemaze plays the sort of Doom Metal that’s somewhere between Cathedral and Electric Wizard, driven by fuzzy mid-tempo riffs and an occult aesthetic without getting too zoned out. Their third album, Blinded By The Wicked (Heavy Psych Sounds), offers more of the same albeit with a somewhat darker tinge than their previous efforts. While the execution is admittedly vanilla at times, there are some strong songs that come out of it.
‘Divine Harlotry’ is my pick of the litter for its winning riff and equally catchy chorus with ‘Malevolent Inveigler’ coming close with its thicker riff set. There’s also promise in the atmospheric keys on ‘Ceremonial Aspersion’ and ‘Luciferian Rite.’ Another album that’s simple in design with a style arguably done better elsewhere, but enjoyable enough to warrant a listen.
7 / 10
Obsidian Sea – Pathos
Obsidian Sea has seen some neat evolution since they formed in 2009, rooted in Saint Vitus-esque Traditional Doom and gradually picking up a more laid back, Psychedelic disposition ala Orodruin, Pale Divine, and Kings Destroy. Their fourth album, Pathos (Ripple Music), pushes the trajectory forward even further with the hazy overtones threatening to completely overtake the Doom riffage. Fortunately, it’s a natural transition as the guitars keep an organic vibe, the vocals are pleasantly workmanlike, and the structures allow for plenty of jammed out instrumental segments.
In a fun twist, the more mellow tracks may be where the album shines the most. ‘The Long Drowning’ is a pretty smooth Blues track complete with climactic speedup, ‘I Love The Woods’ has an almost Folky touch appropriate for its pastoral theme. Elsewhere, ‘Sisters’ has an almost Grungy swagger and ‘The Meaning of Shadows’ closes the album with its most disorienting, Prog-oriented structure. It’s great to see the evolution that came about with 2019’s Strangers followed-up with even bolder confidence.
8 / 10
Download Festival 2021 is postponed to summer 2022, but the fest has wasted little time stacking the bill. Already headlined by Iron Maiden, KISS, and Biffy Clyro, seventy new bands have been added including Deftones, Korn, Megadeth, Steel Panther, The Ghost Inside, Funeral For A Friend, Descendents, Electric Wizard, and Sepultura. Watch a video teaser with the updated poster and buy your tickets now!
Bongzilla’s fifth album comes with an interesting set of curveballs, being their first full-length release since 2005’s Amerijuanican as well as their first to be recorded as a trio. However, very little has changed about the Wisconsinites’ vision in the sixteen years they’ve been away. As evidenced by an appropriately dumb but endearing title like Weedsconsin (Heavy Psych Sounds), the Sweet Leaf remains the focal point of their aesthetic and their Stoner-Sludge sound is as potent as ever.
2R0I2P0 (Twenty Twenty RIP, Relapse Records) is a collaboration album from two luminaries of the Japanese experimental music scene, Boris and Merzbow. Boris has released a vast number of albums over the past 25 years, and their sound ranges from psychedelic post-rock to crushing metallic doom riffery. Noise artist Merzbow (the brainchild of Masami Akita) has been even more prolific, having released hundreds of records over a 40-year career.
Download Festival will return for 2021, featuring headliners KISS, Biffy Clyro, and System Of A Down and many more bands including A Day To Remember, Mastodon, Control The Storm, Gender Roles, Jamie Lenman, Myles Kennedy & Company, Deftones, Korn, The Distillers, Steel Panther, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, The Darkness, Black Veil Brides, Creeper, Alestorm and The Pretty Reckless. Seventy-three bands in all have been announced! Tickets go on sale on August 7th at 9 AM GMT. More bands have yet to be announced. The three-day festival takes place on 4-6 June 2021 at the spiritual home of rock in Donington Park, Leicestershire. Tickets will go on sale at this link here. Continue reading
Black Spirit Crown’s first proper album sits right on the line between Doom and Stoner Metal with hints of Prog seeping through. The fuzzy riff work is rooted in Sleep and Electric Wizard tradition, the hustling tempos remind me of Orange Goblin, and the tripped-out atmospherics and vocal filters echo Howling Giant or Mastodon. These traits were already distinct on the Red Sky EP released in 2017 and the Cleveland group takes them to even further extents with Gravity (Self-Released).
Crushing news for the summer festival season in Europe, as France’s legendary Hellfest, has been canceled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The festival announced today it was unable to host the festival, which takes place in Clisson, France, outside of Paris. Hellfest 2021 is already announced for next summer. The 2020 edition was to have had Faith No More, and Down will be joined by Deftones, System Of A Down, Incubus, Korn, Mastodon, Opeth, Deep Purple, Judas Priest, The Offspring, Infectious Grooves, The Darkness, Obituary, Death DTA (the Death tribute featuring members of Death), At The Gates, Entombed AD, Sacred Reich, Devin Townsend, Meshuggah, The Black Dahlia Murder, Dying Fetus, Misery Index, Mayhem, Abbath, Rotting Christ, Primordial, The Great Old Ones, Wardruna, The Hu, Taake, Watain, Alcest, Borknagar, Gaahl’s Wyrd, Electric Wizard, Baroness, Om, Witchcraft, Black Mountain, Elder, ASG, Envy, Mono, John Garcia & the Band of Gold, High On Fire, Pelican, Killing Joke, Perturbator, Life of Agony, 3TEETH, Inter Arma, Body Count, Suicidal Tendencies, Youth of Today, Slapshot, Jesus Piece, Higher Power, Social Distortion, Anti-Flag, Agnostic Front, Reverend Horton Heat, Grade 2, Code Orange, and more. Dumb and Dumbest Podcast had an episode dedicated to the fest last summer. Continue reading
A bunch of new bands have already been added to the bill on this year’s Download UK Festival. The new acts include Alter Bridge, Bowling For Soup, The Darkness, The Distillers, Frank Carter & The Rattlesnakes, Mastodon, Funeral For A Friend, The Menzingers, Employed To Serve, 3 Doors Down, Milk Teeth, Motionless In White, Holding Absence, Lacuna Coil, Loathe, Sepultura, Amaranthe, Cemetery Sun, Fire From The Gods, Gender Roles, Haken, Hatari, Heavy Lungs, Higher Power, JJ Wilde, Kill The Lights, Modern Error, Northlane, Press Club, Polyphia| The Raven Age, Renounced, Shvpes, Sleep Token, SULLII, The Glorious Sons, The Hara, The Skints, Tempt, Twin Temple, Thy Art Is Murder, Wage War, and Will Haven! Also announced are the Day And Stage Splits, WWE NXT UK returns, and Kerrang! Radio Hosts the Finding Fresh Blood contest for a chance to perform on The Avalanche Stage. 2020 Download headliners Iron Maiden (Legacy Of The Beast Tour), Kiss and System Of A Down this summer and takes place on 12 – 14 June 2020 at the spiritual home of rock in Donington Park, Leicestershire. Continue reading
Ghost Cult caught Electric Wizard on their all-too brief recent US tour last month. The six date run saw the British Doom Metal legends supported by Kvlt Punks Midnight for a run of clubs and theaters, as the band is still supporting 2017s excellent Wizard Bloody Wizard album. Having just spend a good deal of 2019 on the road, including a stop here for Pyscho Las Vegas, the band brought out a setlist celebrating their etire twenty-five year career. Check out these photos from Hillarie Jason.