by Kyle Kessler
“Doom” is one of the vaguest sub-genres of metal. So many extremely different bands exist under that umbrella term that I find it almost impossible to describe without delineating sub-sub-genres. In the name of fairness for this list I have chosen a selection from each of a wide variety of styles that could all be considered “Doom.”
BONG – Stoner Rock
How could I not mention the mighty drone warriors, BONG? Jesus H. Christ is this album heavy and totally not stoner rock. I mean, beyond the fact that it technically qualifies as “rock” and is best enjoyed with a steady dose of THC. In their own words:
“It is a tongue-in-cheek dig at our usual classification as stoner rock and what the term has come to represent. The idea is to create our own definition of ‘stoner rock’ by creating an album so utterly stoned and repetitive to be a million miles away from the usual definition…”
This is only the latest offering from these incredibly prolific British doom-lords, and a worthy addition to their dense discography of disgustingly heavy LPs.
BONGRIPPER – Miserable
BONGRIPPER is a staple of American heavy music. Their newest offering, Miserable, continues their trend of bleak instrumental doom with three tracks “Endless,” “Descent” and “Into Ruin,” totaling out at 66 minutes of excruciating pain. This is not an album for everyone. This is an album intended for those who can handle it!
USNEA – Random Cosmic Violence
I have to admit, Portland’s USNEA are some of the friendliest folks in the West Coast metal scene. They deserve all the attention they are getting for their Relapse Records debut, Random Cosmic Violence. Psychedelic and doomed to the gills, USNEA is a must listen and brings a lot to the table. Buy this album and go see them live! You won’t be disappointed.
CULTED – Oblique To All Paths
CULTED is something of an enigma. Most of the band’s members have never met and live on different continents. Oblique To All Paths is a menacing release with elements of claustrophobic harsh noise and crushing doom with black metal flavor from their Swedish vocalist Daniel Jansson. This is a challenging and powerful album – a proper complement to CULTED’s first two LPs.
THOU – The Sacrifice
This album was recorded at the same time and intended to be a companion EP to THOU’s other excellent 2014 LP Heathen but in my opinion it excels beyond the scope of that 72 minute long beast of an album. The Sacrifice shows Thou at their tightest and its more accessible length, faster tempo, and more focused scope makes it the stronger of the two releases.
PALLBEARER – Foundations Of Burden
PALLBEARER is a big name these days. Having destroyed the competition in 2012 with their fantastic debut LP Sorrow and Extinction, the hype over this year’s follow-up was met and exceeded with Foundations of Burden. This band has brought a slew of new doom fanatics into the fold with their combination of beautiful songwriting, incredible guitar work, and powerful vocal leads. PALLBEARER is a band to keep your eye on as they continue to carve out a name for themselves in the halls of the Doom elite.
FLOOR – Oblation
Arguably the least doom album in this list (except that guitar tone!) FLOOR brings their signature sound found on their 2002 debut back to life for this 2014 release. Fans of FU MANCHU and upbeat punk will find lots to love here. You’ll be asking yourself how a band with no bassist could possibly be this heavy.
MENACE RUINE – Venus Armata
Montreal has a serious gem of a band in MENACE RUINE. Their powerful blackened drone is a testament to grim Canadian weather, a melancholy pulsation of dread and foreboding augmented by shockingly tasteful operatic vocals vaguely reminiscent of WARDRUNA. This album has dark magicks woven into its compositions that cut through the soul indirect and dissipated like a sunbeam through fog,
FÓRN – The Departure Of Consciousness
I had the pleasure of playing a show alongside FÓRN deep inside a cave outside of San Francisco earlier this year and can think of no more perfect setting for such a powerful band. The Departure Of Consciousness is a fantastic debut that unfortunately went out of print almost instantaneously after it’s release, and for good reason too. This is a strong contender for doom album of the year.
THE WOUNDED KINGS – Consolamentum
If you thought the ELECTRIC WIZARD sound was the thickest a riff could get, you haven’t heard THE WOUNDED KINGS. Consolamentum is as riff laden as it gets, with vocals like a combination of CANDLEMASS and BLOOD CEREMONY – which is just about perfect for this traditional stoner doom sound.
SLOMATICS – Estron
Good grief, this band is a subwoofer destroyer. The low-end crush coming from SLOMATICS is brutal and punishing the whole way through. Get ready to get your monitors re-coned if you dare to turn this sucker up. This Bristol doom act is heavy, heavy, and heavier the whole way through. For serious doom heads only.
WITCH CHARMER – The Great Depression
JEX THOTH released an album last year, but it’s nowhere near as good as WITCH CHARMER’s The Great Depression, a release that I would believe was JEX if I never saw the album cover or the gruff GOATSNAKE-esque male vocals behind the leads. Stoner riffs prevail throughout this badass exploration of roots doom metal. The guitar screams MOUNTAIN WITCH and the tandem vocal style is the perfect cheese frosting on top. Though I really must admit I’m a sucker for clean vocals in doom.
Spotlight: Riding Easy Records
This fledgling label, formerly known as Easy Rider (before they got a cease and desist from whoever owns the rights to the film) has been making waves in the doom metal scene in 2014, and they are responsible for unleashing some of the absolute heaviest albums of the year. They deserve nothing less than their own section in this list.
These are my favorites from this year’s releases:
WINDHAND/SALEM’S POT – Split 10″
WINDHAND is the Electric Wizard of the United States. Many bands aspire to that title but none have come as close. This split with Sweden’s SALEM’S POT is uncompromising occult doom front to back.
MONOLORD – Empress Rising
Another killer doom release from Sweden, MONOLORD brings the UFOMAMMUT psych/doom sound to a whole new level on Empress Rising. For fans of fuzz run through phaser pedals and crushing riffs.
THE WELL – Samsara
Austin, TX brings us THE WELL, occult blues rock in the vein of KADAVAR but with that ’70s proto-metal influence turned up to 11. This is a fuzzed out psyched blues jam meant to be played at 4:20 PM. If you love GRAVEYARD and heavy psych like PURPLE MERCY or ALL THEM WITCHES you will not be disappointed. This is possibly Riding Easy’s best release to date.
A semi-regular (i.e. whenever we get around to it) overview of new(ish) metal releases. \m/
by JJ McCabe
Over Kill – The Electric Age
For their 16th studio album, the veteran New Jersey thrash quartet has unleashed a lean, vintage thrash record that could have been recorded in ’86 if the production didn’t sound so good. The drums are tight and punchy and the guitars thick and shredding, and surprisingly the bass is very prominent with a trebly lead tone more reminiscent of Flea than your average metal bass player. Bobby “Blitz” Ellsworth’s Halford-esque vocals are starting to show his age a bit, but considering he’s been at it for 32 years, he sounds better than he has any right to.
3 Inches of Blood – Long Live Heavy Metal
With song titles like “Metal Woman,” “Leather Lord,” and “Die for Gold,” 3 Inches of Blood has given up on knowingly winking at some of the inherent humor in power metal and has instead made a full-blown parody album. If you’re looking for an epic laugh, pick up the new Tenacious D in a couple of weeks, and if you want to bang your head to some gloriously silly high-pitched wailing about trolls and stormy seas, pick up some old Blind Guardian records. Either way, I’d give this one a pass.
Meshuggah – Koloss
Whenever I hear Meshuggah, I like to imagine kids trying to mosh at their live show, and then I giggle a bit. The polarizing group is the Godfather of “djent,” and whether you love or hate them, Koloss probably won’t change your mind either way, as it’s more off-kilter odd time-signature groove prog heaviness with Jens Kidman’s guttural hollers. Not as strange and complex as Catch-33 or Obzen, this album finds them focusing more on the groove elements, resulting in an album that’s probably much more accessible (read: commercial) but may turn off some more “extreme” metal fans.
Bonus: YouTube video of dancing at a Meshuggah show
Naglfar – Teras
Don’t let the epic opening with the buried chanting fool you into thinking you accidentally picked up a tankard-swinging Viking metal record – this is modern Swedish black metal, kind of reminiscent of Watain’s most recent output. Melodic, but lacking the theatricality (or lame keyboards) of your Dimmu Borgirs, this is a pretty fun, grim, mid-tempo black metal album. The clean, high production and hard rock tempos make it accessible to black metal beginners, and I appreciate the blast beats and harsh vocals.
Asphyx – Death Hammer
Another band that’s been kicking around for quite a while and is approaching metal with a “If it ain’t broke…” attitude, Death Hammer sounds like it could have been written at the same time as the seminal “The Rack” album, though the production is noticeably better. Martin Van Drunen’s distinct howl (sounds to me like a Norwegian Obituary) is in place, as are the shifts between crushing death-doom (“Minefield”) and blistering thrash fury (the title track). In a year that has seen bands like Disma and Vallenfyre successfully rediscover old-school Swedish death metal sounds, it’s exciting to see bands like Unleashed and Asphyx releasing new records that embrace their roots.
Acephalix – Deathless Master
I love Amebix, and I love poorly recorded, murky, filthy death metal from the early 90’s, especially the sludgy doom-laced variety practiced by bands like Grave, Paradise Lost, and Unleashed. So not to be narcissistic, but it feels like the metal gods have gifted me personally with the filthy crust-doom brutality that is Acephalix. Real meat and potatoes death metal that sounds like it was recorded on a reel-to-reel live in a friend’s basement minutes before ritually sacrificing a virgin to the mindless Other Gods. And even better – they’re from San Francisco, typically home to melancholy and experimental (though often excellent) hipster black metal, so it’s even more surprising to discover such a Beast running loose just miles from the epicenter of the Summer of Love. My favorite new death metal band.
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