Khemmis – Absolution ALBUM REVIEW

Not many bands attempt to describe their sound in four words. Even fewer put those four words up at the front of their bandcamp page. Khemmis is not one of those bands, and boldly attempts to describe what usually takes at least a paragraph in just about as few words as possible: Slow, Loud, Heavy, Denver. The first three are pretty standard for doom metal, so while they’re most likely correct, I don’t think they’re really breaking any barriers with that. Denver’s kind of a weird one, because although they are from Denver, bands don’t typically describe their sound with where they’re from. Though I guess it could be like when a rapper randomly says the name of where they’re from to get cred or something. I guess any city that’s cold as fuck and a mile above the earth has metal cred to it. There’s also legal weed, so that’s a major plus on any doom metal band’s origin cred. But of course, it isn’t just about how the bands describes themselves, I’m reviewing this to describe how I feel about it. And personally, I’m not quite sure they described themselves accurately. And no, I’m not just going to go through each of their self descriptions and analyze if they are indeed that, that’s dumb. I don’t think I can measure “Denver” in any objective sense anyway. Instead I’ll do it the old fashion way; through hard analysis, and lots of metaphors.

First off, before I take a microscope to every fault on Absolution, I do want to point out how great the production job is. It’s not really super unique, or especially fitting to the theme, but it is the quintessential “this is how doom metal should sound” kind of production. It has enough fuzz to make you feel the hammering, bring you down to earth, bone crushing tonics, while being clean enough to where you can actually hear every note. If there is a single kind of production that can go with pretty much any doom metal album, it’s the job that’s done on this album.

Unfortunately, Khemmis doesn’t fully capitalize on that fact. The very first thing I noticed within the first few minute of the first song, is how little of an atmosphere there is. Now, there’s a common misconception in the metal community that there’s a division between atmospheric metal and riff based metal. This is completely false. ALL metal albums have atmosphere. I could even go further and say that all albums in general have atmosphere, but I don’t want to go too far off topic. Even riff based metal albums have an atmosphere to them, because any time you play a note, or hit a drum, or do anything with any sound ever, you’re going to evoke a feeling in whoever is listening. And that’s all atmosphere is, the feeling the music brings. This is true all the way from Hellhammer’s first demos, to Filosofem, to  [INSERT ANY MODERN ATMOSPHERIC BLACK METAL ALBUM HERE]. The point is, all music has atmosphere, even if the main goal of the music is not to be atmospheric. So relating this back to Absolution, even though this is mostly a melody and riff based album, the lack of atmosphere still hurts it. It feels sterile and lifeless. The musicianship and musicality are rather good, but it lacks a certain sense of personality to it. Part of that the fact that this album has the strange and not often found problem of being too melodic.

Typically a strong sense of melody is a good thing in almost any circumstance. A common criticism of metal is how unmemorable the melodies are, especially in genres like power metal, melo death, and other more melodic based metal. Even outside of that, melody is almost universally seen as a good thing. The problem here is two-fold. For one, even though they do focus on the melody often, the actual melodies are a bit too obvious and unexciting, as well as overextending a bit, as to being more a long melodic line than being an actual repeated melody. Not that the songs don’t have repeated themes, but they get lost in slightly long-winded melodic sections, so nothing really sticks in your head. The second problem is that they traded being melodic with what doom metal is best known for: hard hitting, crushing, short, and catchy riffs. This is not a very riff based album, something which shouldn’t normally be a thing you want to say about a doom metal album. Not that the riffs don’t exist, but they often sound like slightly melodic chugging, rather than an actual hard hitting riff. So in the end, they trade riffs for melody, and end up doing neither well.

I mentioned earlier how the production was really quite good on this album, the kind that could sound awesome in just about any doom metal album. While this is still true, I did also mention that they didn’t capitalize on that. I expanded on that with mention of the atmosphere, however i want to further expand on that on a more general level than just notes and melody. Khemmis simultaneously tries to sound both clean and dirty at the same time, and of course, whenever you try to do two things at once, you’re much more likely to do neither well. In a more general sense, they contrast the very sludge influenced doom sections, with these much more melodic and clean sections, that sounds more like melo-death, or even deathcore (more on that shortly) than doom metal. While as a whole, there probably is a bit more focus on the sludgey doom sections (I admit, I wasn’t exactly counting the seconds that each got focus so I don’t know this for sure, shame on me), neither has enough of a focus overall to be done well. An even production job doesn’t necessarily mean even music. Because if you have an even production job, with an even amount of dirt, and an even amount of cleanliness, and neither is executed in a particularly good manner, you end up creating this middle of the pack, and ultimately bland sound that takes advantage of none of the strengths either influences has to offer. The great thing about this particular production job is that it can accent anything, not that you’re supposed to go middle of the road with the middle of the road production. Focus on doing one thing well, not multiple things mediocre.

Moving on from the production job while stilling talking about the overall bland atmosphere, one of the culprits to this is the vocals. Initially, I heard the clean vocals and was quite happy, and even noted that they sounded perfect with the music. I’m a huge fan of trad doom, even though I don’t listen to nearly enough of it. Clean, somewhat relaxed vocals in doom metal will always have a place in my heart, if anything because it reminds me of when I first understood Born too Late. But just as soon as I was writing the praise of this vocal style in my notes, the most awful noise cam about. As if taken right from a generic metalcore album, these uncouth, barbaric, uncultured death barks came in. It took me extremely off guard, and it put me way off on this album. It didn’t help that on the first track it was basically just injected into the music seemingly out of nowhere. It was like decorating a vanilla cake with Tapatio hot sauce. Tapatio is mentioned in particular, because although I love hot sauce, and I’m sure you could make vanilla and hot sauce work, Tapatio is like if hot sauce was twice digested, vomited up, shat on, then mixed with moldy cum rags and sold for people to put on their burritos. Therefore this negates any indication that what I said could be seen as a good thing. Anyway, the combination didn’t work and I initially wrote the death barks off as awful.

But a funny thing happened on the way to The Bereaved. Or rather, two funny things. For one, I noticed the pattern in how they used these vocals, and how it changed throughout the album. Initially, the harsh vocals were used as a change-up during the climax of the song, switching back and forth in a very core-like way, mostly accompanied by a melo-death like background (hence the melodic death metal influence I put at the top). Later in the album, starting towards the end of Serpentine, there was a switch. A slow one, but a switch nonetheless. The death barks became the main vocals, and the clean vocals took a backseat. As a result, you now had as a main focus the harsh vocals accompanied by the sludge/doom sections, and the clean vocals accompanied by the more brief melodic sections. This seemed a lot more natural, and better overall, which in turn leads to the second funny thing. I realized that the harsh vocals were actually better. The album really reaches it’s peak during the 5th track “Burden of Sin”, in which the transition in roles of the two vocal styles finally completes. The large majority of the track has the harsh vocals in it, and in turn, for the first time, there seems to be a focused atmosphere.

But why does any of this matter? I’m sure many (as in 4 out of the 7 total at least) of you reading this are probably thinking that I’ve spent this entire time nitpicking. And by itself, yeah this is mostly nitpicking. However there is a larger point to this, and it’s a great lesson in why reading the lyrics, even to a metal album, is extremely important.

While it’s hard to say exactly what in particular this album is about, the general theme of the album, at least lyrically, is that humanity has done a bunch of awful things, and that now they must pay with the apocalypse. This is especially apparent in the track Antediluvian. For those of you that don’t know (which included me until I looked this up, I’m not THAT smart), the antediluvian refers to the time before the biblical flood. So the obvious implication here is that we’re in the theoretical antediluvian, about to be swept up by the great flood, and the lyrics reflect that. In short, the theme here is the Apocalypse. That’s a pretty large theme to relate to in 41 minutes, or any amount of time for that matter. Which leads me to the ultimate failing of this album. It feels so small in comparison to how large it’s trying to be.

There isn’t just one reason for this, but we’ll start by going back to talking about the vocals. The cleans Khemmis uses here evoke a sense of homeliness, a sense of being down to earth, nostalgia, and relatively speaking are much more relaxed. Whereas the death vocals are urgent, punishing, and unforgiving. It’s sort of like your mom telling you that if you keep making that face it’ll stay that way, compared to gunnery sergeant hartman yelling “YOU HAD BEST UNFUCK YOURSELF OR I WILL UNSCREW YOUR HEAD AND SHIT DOWN YOUR NECK!”. You can ignore your mom saying that. You can’t really ignore the threat of literally eating shit. Considering the main point of this album is that humanity must pay or else, I’d much rather have this message relayed in a way I can’t just tune out. This is what the harsh vocals do. Again, there’s urgency involved, and in a more abstract sense, punishment. There’s a feeling that by listening to these, I’m already being punished, and I mean that in a good way. Sort of like that you know you’ve been a naughty boy, and now master Ben Hutcherson will punish you. Except then you realize you forgot the safeword and now he’s literally going to kill you. That’s how this album should feel. The harshness should be the punishment, the cleans should be the relief, but ultimately you should feel a sense of doom. This doesn’t happen nearly enough. In fact I’d really only say it happens during one part of Antediluvian, and the majority of Burden of Sin. The rest of the time it feels like they’re trying to relay the message of our demise in the meekest, and least pressuring way possible. It feels small… with one exception.

I referenced this earlier, along with a 1960s musical comedy, but the final track is called “The Bereaved”, a track which the label claimed was the “doom metal track of the year”. Seeing as how labels never lie about the quality of their music, I was shocked to find out that this is in fact NOT the doom metal track of the year. In fact, it isn’t even the best track on the album. One thing I will say is that this is the first time the album actually feels large. Unfortunately, sort of like a Dane Cook comedy routine, it’s obvious how hard they’re trying to be that way. Right away with the acoustic guitar intro, and then with the post-metal-like buildup to the main music, Khemmis is pulling in all the stops to make sure the track blows you away. Unfortunately for them, it climaxes at about 1:10 out of the 9:00 length, and then never goes anywhere. It’s loud, it’s slow, it’s heavy, it sounds epic, it’s from Denver, and it doesn’t do shit for the album. It’s sort of like ordering Bob’s Big Ass Burger at your local diner. Sure it’s big, and sure it’s filling, but in the end, you probably would’ve been much happier with a smaller, but much higher quality meal.

Now I just want to make this clear that although I’ve spent this entire review taking a big fat shit on the record, this is not bad by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, this is pretty dang good. Even though it has a lot of faults, and even though I said the nitpicking I did was important, it’s still nitpicking, and the point is, aside from taking a magnifying glass to it, this album sounds good. When they do get the right combination of vocals and instrumental influences, and it sounds like it should sound, there’s a lot to like. I’d probably rate this in the mid-high 7 range if the entire album sounded like Burden of Sin. There are also some unbelievably awesome solo work here, especially on The Bereaved, which is easily the best part of that track. These guys know how to play their instruments well, and it shows.

Unfortunately, and I know I’ve been going back and forth on this, even though those are just nitpicks, they’re important nitpicks, and they prevent me from putting Absolution into the official seal of approval. The album sounds good, but ultimately it took on too big of a theme for their sound. If they can get that combination of influences correct for an entire album, watch out. But for now I think I actually prefer the Muse album by the same name.


6.5/10

Grimmage – Tales From Beyond ALBUM REVIEW

Apparently, according to ever trustworthy urbandictionary.com, grimmage means something people find grim or disgusting. I had to look that up, because I needed to associate this band with something other than Grimace, the extremely creepy and incredibly purple McDonald’s mascot. Thought I will say if you want to have a band mascot that strikes fear in the heart of any man, that would not be too bad of a choice. Anyway, Tales From Beyond is the debut album of this german Stoner Doom metal band. Debut albums are always one of those things that have massive potential to fail, as the band doesn’t have the experience typically to execute their style well, if they even have fully developed their style by then. The cover also looks massively amateur, and not in the 2kvlt4u intentionally bad way. It looks like they were trying to make something cool, but ended up as nothing more than a weak photoshop job (it’s really just too clean). The question this review tries to answer however is, does the music follow it’s cover?

For starters, the vocals are actually pretty rad. One of the biggest reasons I rate start up bands low is because of how awful the vocals are. It’s one of the easiest things to botch in metal, and one of the hardest things to correct. These guys don’t have to worry about that, they nailed and approach that’s a happy medium between roughness and calm psychedelia. This actually follows the trend of the music in this album as a whole, which combines sections of heavy sludginess with softer sections more akin to the more relaxed side of doom metal. While this is very obviously stoner doom, it does lack a lot of the blues rock influence that the stoner genre is made up of. Not that it isn’t there (otherwise it wouldn’t be stoner doom), but it is certainly not anywhere near the focus of this record. This is much more on the heavy side of stoner doom. Thought that isn’t to say that this completely crushes you with riffs and such. Much of the tracks on this album are made up of one riff repeated throughout the entire number, which could be argued as either meaning it is the focus of the track, or simply the background to it. Personally to me it depends on the piece. Magic Rites, the second track on the album, has one riff very strongly repeated throughout the entire duration, without much break or anything to accompany it. For that I would say it’s the focus on that particular track. However on Hunter, the 3rd song on the album, one riff is still repeated the entire way, but with much more surrounding it, meaning to me that it’s not the focus like it is on Magic Rites. Most of the album follows this scenario, which I think overall is a plus, as Magic Rites is the weakest track on here.

Strangely enough, the strongest two tracks on the album, Black Wings and Calypso (which are the first and last tracks on the album respectively) don’t really employ this repeated riff concept too much. Calypso has the repeated riff, but it’s more in the form of a vocal melody and alternation between two chords rather than a true guitar riff. Speaking of the Calypso melody, despite it being incredibly simple, or perhaps because it was incredibly simple, I found it getting stuck in my head rather easily. It’s really the vocalist that brings it home, making the line sound like an emotional plea with a feeling of longing. Part of that is that it’s the only time in the album the artists speak their (I assume) mother tongue, German, which adds a bit more authenticity to emotions of the vocals. I’ve always thought it sounds more real when the vocalist speaks their native language rather than forcing some unnatural sounding english out of their mouths. The entirely of calypso is really the pinnacle of the album, rounding out an otherwise intense album with a stirring finale. Black Wings however does not actually have the repeated riff, and in fact has quite the opposite as it’s motiff. The track evolves throughout the entirety of it, with a wonderful buildup towards the true beginning of the piece, with awesome poly-rhythimic-like drum beats (the drum section is really stellar on both this track and Hunter), and changes from section to section in a logical way that nicely uses the entire 9 minutes of the song well. I would say that despite Calypso being the emotional peak of the album, Black Wings is actually the best track for those reasons. The only real critique I’d have for this, and this is a persistent seemingly minor problem in the album, is that all the parts of the track tend to slightly overstay their welcome. It feels like every idea lasts just a little bit too long, where you start to get a slightly tired of the current concept right before it changes to a new one. It’s really only by about 10-15 seconds, but it’s just enough so that everything feels a bit off, which adds up to be one of the albums most major problems.

This is especially prevalent in both Magic Rites and Wasteland. As mentioned before, Magic Rites is the worst track on the album, going more for a generic “wow so heavy” sound rather than anything unique. Simply put, it’s dull and boring, and almost seems like it’s just the band showing how heavy they can be rather than anything musical. So in a way, it continues the aforementioned flaw by making the entire track overstay it’s welcome, rather than by just a few seconds. Wasteland on the other hand is a very solid track with a similar awesome intro buildup as Black Wings. However it does come with some issues. For one, as is the topic of this paragraph, the solo at the end of it, while being a nice solo, goes on for way too long. It extends though the entire last 2 and a half minutes of the track, and it really isn’t varied enough to justify this length. It’s mostly just improvising on one chord progression involving 4 chords (well, technically 5, but one of them is only played for a short period of time). And while again it is a nice solo, it’s no where near good enough to close out a track. I usually like solos that focus on melodies rather than showing off skill, but this feels a bit too slow to last that long. A little bit of arpeggio work actually would’ve been nice in this instance. There’s also the problem of completely out of place and extremely loud blast beats in the middle of the track. I can’t think of a single reason why you’d ever put blast beats in a doom metal track. There’s no circumstance in which they would ever sound good or be appropriate.

In the broad scheme of things, the middle 3 tracks are simply not as good as the opening and closing tracks, and that’s what brings this albums score down. Had we had an entire album full of tracks like those two, this would’ve been in the 9 range. As it stands, this was a very tricky record to review because nothing I gave it seemed right. I usually go back and forth between many ratings before my head finally arrives at something that when I say to myself “I give this album a __/10” I feel comfortable with that. Nothing gave me that feel here, so here’s to going by way of the goose and winging it. Overall Tales From Beyond is a solid debut that doesn’t deserve the low score it has on RYM, but this band needs to be more consistent and find it’s sound, as all the tracks on this album feel a bit too different from each other in style, creating less of a cohesive album, which leads to some tracks dominating the others. Also they need a better graphic designer, but I’m sure that’ll be easy to find. You can’t do much worse than “Grimmagc”.


7/10

Grave Disgrace – The Mystery of the Dead Revive ALBUM REVIEW

And here I was beginning to think that it was impossible for me to hate a stoner doom album. I figured it was my one weakness, something that no matter how bad it is, I would always like at least somewhat. I actually became kinda worried about that, as I want to remain as unbiased as possible when I review something. Thank god that’s been proven to be false.

It’s funny, because it actually started out as something I thought I would enjoy. I love really dirty doom/sludge, and that had that guitar tone nailed way past my expectations. To a fault actually. You can only get so dirty before you eventually need to take a shower. This guitar tone reeks like a NEET who lives in his mom’s basement and hasn’t showered in weeks. And then it just kept going. And going. It didn’t help that it was accompanied by a really awkward cymbal tap the entire 4 and a half minute intro. Which leads to the worst part of this EP. The vocals. I actually would’ve done a better job at vocals than the vocalist of this band. And I’m an awful singer. Like, nearly tone deaf at singing. Not only can you hear the russian accent in this guy’s speech, but the way he speaks just sounds robotic, like he’s a 7th grader doing a speech presentation who is reading the entire speech from a sheet without looking at the audience once. It would be laughable if it wasn’t so annoying. At the end of the 12 minute long title track (yes, there’s 12 minutes of this) there are some actually pretty cool riffs, but they’re so distorted and garbled up by the production that you can barely hear them.

The second track, Sacrificed God, is another behemoth at 20 fucking minutes. Thankfully it’s better than the second track by virtue of not actually being the title track of this album. Also it has some pretty cool bluesy solos that remind me of 60s psychedelic rock, which is always a plus. But then…. is that… yeah I heard that right. That’s cowbell. They actually put cowbell in this album. The thought “This needs more cowbell” actually went through the band’s head’s and they implemented it. It’s almost like a sick joke or something, like they knew this was bad and wanted to add humor to distract from the fact that they aren’t good musicians. The rest of the track honestly isn’t awful, though one major issue is that the actual song is basically over at 8 minutes, but it continues on for another 12. There is absolutely 0 reason for Sacrificed God to be a 20 minute track. Actually had this EP been just the first 8 or so minutes of Sacrificed God, everything would’ve been perfectly fine (except for the vocals, those are still terrible). But they had to quadruple the length of that for seemingly no reason at all. There’s no substance to justify the length of the tracks, even if there are only two. It just seems like they had a few ideas, realized they didn’t have enough for an entire album, and said “Hey, wanna fuck around for 20 more minutes and call it an EP?”.

It’s a shame because I got excited at the cover art (cover art isn’t uploaded yet, but it’s basically a women with an axe through her forehead with fake blood around the wound, looked kinda kooky and cool to me). I was expecting lo-fi amateur stuff, but not something this bad. The fact that there is a stretch of The Mystery of the Dead Revive that isn’t awful is the only reason it doesn’t get lower. Speaking of which, what kind of name is The Mystery of the Dead Revive anyway? Sounds like someone took a mad libs that read “The (noun) of the (adj.) (verb)”. put random words in there, and called it good. Fitting shitty title for a shitty EP.


2.5/10

Domovoyd – Domovoyd ALBUM REVIEW

This had all the makings of an album I would love. Stoner Doom is my favorite genre. It had psychedelic influences that I love. The album had both progression and atmosphere to it. And also that is some sick cover art. And I really hate to give it a score like this, because concept wise it doesn’t deserve it. But sometimes it’s not really the big things that make an album not top tier, it’s just a bunch of somewhat little things that add up. That’s what happens in this album and it makes up one of the biggest “almost but not quite”s of this year.

First off I want to say that the intro track is absolutely amazing. Quite honestly had this been just the first track and it had been an ep, I would probably give this a 9. The start of it builds up tension perfectly with the violin and cello drones, along with the psychedelic wah-wahs of the guitar. Really what makes a lot of this so amazing is infact the trippy, psychedelic atmosphere of the track. It gives a pseudo 70s feel to it, albeit heavier overall. And just when it’s about to release that tension, it cock-blocks you and coolsdown. Another great part about this track is it’s ability to cooldown from the heat of the buildup so perfectly. Which then leads to a miniclimax, which continues the nature of the buildup but with the introduction of heavy, sludgy guitar tones. The problem comes when the vocals come in. Probably the single biggest flaw with this album is how unfitting the vocals are. I wouldn’t call them bad, as along they’re just plain mediocre, nothing special. But they never seem to fit in with the music no matter what style they do them in. At the first climax they seem just too nasally for the heavy tone of the track. After that there’s another cooldown, but this time with an increase in tempo that adds a nice change of pace. I also want to take this time to comment on how awesome the bass is on this album when it actually has a bit of focus to it. Really riff focused instead of just keeping counterpoint or letting you know what key the track is in, which is always a plus. I love bass when it’s done well, and have always been found of when bass gets either a solo, or isn’t just left to never be heard with the rest of the music. I really do think that’s one of the strengths of stoner doom, the ability to bring out the bass and give it a chance to shine. The final climax on the intro track comes close to the end, and keeping with the overall excellence of the entire song, delivers most of what you could hope for. I really wish the drums weren’t as loud however, they seem to drown out some of the rest of it, which is really unnecessary when you should be focusing on literally anything else. The vocals, once again, are also not up to part, as the far away sounding roughish vocals, while theoretically fitting in, don’t really seem right in context. Still though, it’s an amazing first track, and sets up high expectations for the rest of the album

Which isn’t really delivered. The entire first half of the second track is, to put it simply, lame. Nothing particularly goes on except for generic heaviness, and not really the bonecrushing kind, but the “yeah I guess that’s kinda heavy” kind. I will note that the solo on the latter end of the second track is fucking amazing. It plays along a harmonic minor, which is pretty standard for stoner doom, but with the extra added epicness you typically don’t see from this kind of music.

Third track is a spoken word ambient track that would normally fit perfectly in the middle of the album, and ambiance wise, it does. Except that once again, the vocals come to drag things down. Though really, this isn’t a vocal thing as much as just a talking thing. When you’re hearing someone ramble on about mystic shit to the tone of some psychedelic, otherworldly ambient music, you don’t want that voice to just sound like a completely normal Swedish dude. You want it to match what you’re talking about, you want it to sound mystic, wise, and from another world. Anything else just takes away from the immersion, which happens here. It’s a shame because it’s set up so well, that something so small really just drags down the track so much.

The next two tracks continue to bring down my initially high rating, because essentially, they’re filler. They don’t progress the album like the other tracks do, and nothing of note happens in them. They probably could’ve been cut out from the album entirely and nothing would’ve changed. Actually no, something would’ve changed, the album would be better. The 59 minute runtime feels more and more unnecessary as the album goes on, and it ends up being one of it’s major faults. But I had hope. The last track was actually longer than the amazing first track, and I expected it to really save the album and bring it up to an 8 so that I could put this on the Obscure Metal 2015 chart I’m making.

Only to be really disappointed. It starts off well, very similar to the first track, if more calm and less tension building. There’s the return of the violin and cello, which I really wish they would’ve used more of in this album, as it’s a really unique feature that adds something totally different than what other stoner doom bands have done, not to mention sounding awesome. But then it just sits there for about 7 minutes. I kept waiting for the tension to be resolved, only to be met with more nothing. And I understand prolonging the resolution so that when you do hear it it’s much more satisfying, but there comes a point where it no longer is building tension, it’s just boring the listener. Even when it does finally come it just isn’t as satisfying as the first track’s is. I can’t really explain why, but something about it doesn’t resonate with me as much. I think maybe part of why that is is because it just withdraws all the psychedelic influences that were used throughout the album. Though really looking back on it, the only really psychedelic tracks were the first and 3rd track, which seems strange when the bands lets on that psychedelic influences are supposed to be a major part of this. I mean, how can you look at the cover, listen to the first track, and not think you’re on an acid trip? And once again, the vocals just aren’t up to par. Just about everything about this track is complete disappointment and empty buildup, which is such a shame because I was really counting on that to be able to give this album a really high score.

Domovoyd would’ve been improved so much by just being instrumental aside from the spoken word. The vocals do nothing but this album, as do the sections where it goes way too much on the heavy and not enough of the psychedelic. I honestly think the reason this isn’t in the 6 realm is just how strong the first track is, along with how much potential I see in this band. This very easily could’ve been a really fantastic album, but again there are just too many things that are a bit off, and a confusion of identity and tendencies to be too sludgy for me to consider this one of the top albums of the year.


6.5/10

Shepherd – Stereolithic Riffalocalypse ALBUM REVIEW

Some many artists fail to do good stoner doom. They’ll get the vocals right, but the instrumentation will be off. Or more commonly, they’ll get the instrumentation right, but nothing else about it has anything to do with stoner doom. I’ve seen stoner doom with death vocals before. It doesn’t work . In honesty, it isn’t a hard formula. Mostly clean vocals with some screaming for emphasis, sung as if the person is stoned and crying our their troubles in blues like fashion, and then instrumentals that are psychedelic, but dirty as you can be. But above all, the atmosphere has to be relaxed, relaxed, and more relaxed. A good stoner doom album is something that you can get totally lost in and lose your mind to, without putting any kind of extreme stress on you.

This album does all of that and more. The vocals, the instrumentation, the everything. And they make it dirty. The opening riff on track two, “Turdspeak”, is like the title implies, the musical equivalent of someone taking a shit. I mean that in a good way. Coupled with the far out pseudo-ambient track in the background, and it’s really the highlight of the album. Though really, the entire album is a highlight in itself, it’s really that good. To boot, these guys are from India of all places, far removed from any kind of prominent stoner culture. You wouldn’t know it by listening to this album. Definitely an AOTY contender, and at the very least, it’ll be really hard to top this for Stoner Doom AOTY.


9.25/10

Monolord – Vænir ALBUM REVIEW

From the moment I heard this first line of this album, I knew it was amazing. For background, my favorite band is Electric Wizard. It’s why I tend to love stuff like Stereolithic Riffacalypse. Stoner doom is my favorite genre of metal, and even though I tend to like it more, I tend to also scrutinize it more. It has to meet a higher standard with me. So keep that in mind when I say this, and what I’m about to say hurts me, but at the same time, I can’t hold back from the truth: this is better than Electric Wizard. In every way. It’s dirtier, it has more psychedelic influences, it has more prog influences, the vocals are better, the riffs are better, everything is better. However initially, through the first two tracks, I could really only give it about a 9.5/10. Something was missing. Yeah, it was the album I’ve been looking for for years, but at the same time, it’s something I’d heard before, at least somewhat. Then it happened. About midway through the third track “Nuclear Death”, the riff happened. THE riff. I’m gonna call it the God Riff. Every strum of the downtuned guitars rocked my entire world for about 2 minutes. It was a semi, no it WAS a religious experience in music. That’s when I knew this was it. This wasn’t just any old album, this was possible the greatest album I’ve ever heard. And that wasn’t even the best part of the album. It can’t be, right? It’s only the third track. So the rest of the album was going solid when the title track came up, which I had previously heard was a great track. Oh yeah. Oh yeah it was. You know that God Riff I mentioned a few sentences back? Stretch that out 16 minutes.

This is a modern masterpiece. I was expecting a lot when I listened to this, and it exceeded my expectations in every way.

EDIT: Well it only took about a month but this is dethroned. Still fantastic however, please listen to this.


9.5/10

Goatsnake – Black Age Blues ALBUM REVIEW

I’ll always find it amusing that a band form LA is able to create a more southern soundscape than the large majority of southern based stoner doom bands. Even if they go a bit ham at times. The harmonicas, the southern church choirs, and bluesy riffs makes you feel like you’re right down in a the swamp of Louisiana. However what Goatsnake does differently, in the face of the mass movement to bluesify stoner doom, is to not forget the doom part. Make no mistake, this is a doom focused album, with stoner on the side. Personally speaking, I’ve always thought that’s how it should be. It’s stoner DOOM metal not doom stoner metal. Black Age Blues feels soulful, while also feeling a sense of despair and ugliness, as this kind of rank doom metal should. Goatsnake doesn’t lighten up on the guitar tone which so many other stoner doom bands do. You feel ever riff and every slam of the guitar. My one complaint would be that despite doing so many things right, at no point in this album does it make me feel “yeah, this is a top tier album”. I feel it’s all good stuff, but just that, good stuff. Nothing extra special spectacular that comes with the territory of an elite album. So while this is one of the best stoner doom albums of the year, I think it’s appropriate to leave it at that, rather than ranking it up into the AOTY category as so many have.


7.5/10

Ufomammut – Ecate ALBUM REVIEW

I don’t really want to describe an album this way, but this sounds just like noise to me. Not in the way of it not being music, but in that there’s nothing really here other than some sort of musical noise, which I know is not the most intelligent way of describing something, but it’s just one of those albums where I listened to it and thought “this is kinda nice” and then just went on with my life none the wiser. Not bad, but nothing spectacular.


5.75/10

Leather Nun America – Buddha Knievel ALBUM REVIEW

Good shit. Kind of a lo-fi stoner doom album that at times seems a bit amateurish, in not necessarily a good way, but god damn if Priestess is not a great song. Along with some other great songs. The vocals are something I really want to comment on, as they really got the stoner doom kind of vocals down pat. Laid back, a bit soaring but calm, far out, overall exactly what you want. Instrumentals are not too shabby either, though the album doesn’t have the best sound quality, which be it intentional or not, does detract from the album. But the rest of the album is so good, so it’s forgiven.


8/10

Elder – Lore ALBUM REVIEW

Really a fantastic album. It’s unfortunate that the first half is nowhere near as good as the second half, otherwise this would probably be AOTY. The title track is exceptionally good, and marks the turning point in the album. If anything, it’s a great album for curling up in a blanket and drinking hot cocoa or something. Really comfy but doesn’t make you fall asleep.


8.25/10