I would normally associate doom metal with later in the year, like November, when everything is dying. But with summer festivals and early summer release schedules, the time to doom out really gets going in June. Last year, of course, Black Sabbath made history when their Rick Rubin-produced reunion album 13 made history by souring to #1 on both the British and U.S. Billboard album charts, a first for doom. This got me cautiously excited about the prospect that mainstream would go crazy for doom (see Doom Goes Pop), or at least recognize it as a thing. You know, a genre of music worth noting and seeking out as the logical conclusion of the blues. But no. Most see Black Sabbath as just plain metal, or worse, Ozzy’s backing band. Saint Vitus or Trouble won’t be haunting the Billboard charts anytime soon.
But on a smaller scale, doom does seem healthier than ever. Doom bands are getting top billing in at least a dozen festivals in Europe between April and October. Tours in the U.S. are still sporadic, and sadly the great Days Of The Doomed IV was the last one, but the Scion Fest in Pomona, CA shows there’s still a growing audience. Bands like 40 Watt Sun and Pallbearer have gotten a good amount of attention in the music press beyond the usual doom and metal blogs. And bigger names like Down and Corrosion Of Conformity continue to pay homage to doom. And there’s a killer batch of doom albums that were released in June. Probably the most impressive release of the month was Wo Fat, The Conjuring (Small Stone) on June 17. The Dallas, TX band’s fifth album is the best example of their unique voodoo blues-doom-boogie fusion. Read the full review here.
Serpent Venom – Of Things Seen & Unseen (The Church Within)
This band has been steadily growing on me since they released their debut Carnal Altar on the German label The Church Within in 2011. It’s an addictive mix of traditional Sabbath worship, blown-out Electric Wizard distortion, and lyrics that delve into occult pop culture and horror. The second album, produced by Chris Fielding, who produced fellow Brits Electric Wizard and Conan, refines the formula only slightly, holding on to that gloriously heavy, fuzzed out sound. While five of the seven songs on the debut stretch beyond 8 minutes, the new one is more concise with just two of eight going to epic length. The playing seems both looser and more fluid, reflecting the years spent gigging and rehearsing. Gary “Gaz” Ricketts’ vocals have become stronger and unique too.
There’s a nice balance of pacing and variety throughout the album, a tricky thing to navigate when also trying to maintain a consistently doomy essence. “Death Throes At Dawn” features some of their best writing. Never has despair seemed so tantalizing. “The Lords Of Life” eases in with a seductively liquid psychedelic bass line. It goes on to a crushing stomp, and then a beautifully jazzy guitar solo towards the end. “Pilgrims Of The Sun” is the longest dirge at 9:23, and the closest tie to their earlier stuff, but it ties things together nicely. The concluding “Burning Free” ends it on a highpoint of furious riffing with an overlaying, eerie synth melody that closes it out perfectly. Some compare Serpent Venom to Warning, the band 40 Watt Sun’s Patrick Walker released two albums with. I don’t particularly hear it, other than the fact that Walking From A Distance (Miskatonic, 2006) was an incredible album, and so is this. | Available from Swedish site Record Heaven, and soonish should be found at Shadow Kingdom.
Moab – Billow (Scion AV)
Man, I overlooked these guys when they first came up in ’09-’11 because Andrew Giacumakis’s sounded too Ozzy derivative. That’s been corrected big time, as now he stays mostly in an ethereal falsetto range that really works. Stoner/doom may be the closest descriptor, but they do some really unique stuff with textures, structures, rhythms. They don’t really sound like anyone else, maybe because Giacumakis, who produced and engineered and mixed Billow, Ab Ovo (Kemado, 2011) and Fu Manchu’s recent Gigantoid, spent years in indie rock bands. It took him a while to find his tribe, fellow travelers who shared his appreciation for the likes of Pentagram, Sleep, Dozer, Floor and Witchcraft. Once he did, his diverse experiences contributed to a refreshingly unique twist on traditional doom. For example, “Nothing Escapes” starts with some delicate but slightly detuned guitar that has more in common with 90s indie band Polvo than Sabbath. A couple changes later and the song evolves into a psychedelic masterpiece that Josh Homme would envy. Every song is strong and worthy of its own description and story. But not by me, I gotta get some sleep! Those who like what Pallbearer and 40 Watt Sun have done with doom should appreciate, or even LURVE it. L.A., whoda thunk? Kudos to Scion AV (the company behind the Scion Rock Fests) for choosing this band for their first full-length release, and offering a free download! This is so good I’ll happily plunk down cash for the CD when it’s available. | Free!
Ogre – The Last Neanderthal (Minotauro)
Shit-tons of ugly fun to be had in Portland, Maine with these guys, 15 years worth of bluesy rock ‘n’ doom and proto-metal, all four albums, demo and singles worth having. Don’t confuse fun with dumb though, guitarist Ross Markonish is a Harvard grad who first started playing experimental rock with bassist Will Broadbent in Hello Monster in the 90s. Ed Cunningham’s vocals used to remind me a lot of Bon Scott’s, but he’s developed a more Ozzy-esque wail lately. Guitarist Some might appreciate the amazing single-track 37:15 Plague Of The Planet (2008) the most, but this is a great summary of strengths. | Bandcamp
Purple Hill Witch – Purple Hill Witch (The Church Within)
Purple Hill Witch are a young Norwegian band who released their first EP, Alchemy last year, and now have their debut come out on the same label and same day, June 27, as Serpent Venom. The guys are clearly loving students of the old denim and leather days of British metal when Witchfinder General and Pagan Altar were cementing the blueprint that much doom would follow. Throw in some of Pentagram’s early proto-metal elements and Sleep’s stoned psychedelia into the formula, and you’ve got a great sound that doesn’t break any ground, but has enough of a voice so as to distinguish them from peers like Count Raven, Lord Vicar and Funeral Circle. Just counting such bands as peers first time out is a win, and fans of the genre won’t be disappointed.
Hornss – No Blood, No Sympathy (Riding Easy)
Another great entry from the label formerly known as Easy Rider ’til a magazine forced them to change the name (but they’re having a great year with Monolord, Salem’s Pot, Sons Of Huns and now San Francisco’s Hornss). Their style of punked up garage doom has some similarities with the early EP by Venomous Maximus and Funeral Horse, both from Houston, TX. I’ve been craving more of this, so kickass!
Druglord – Enter Venus (STB)
This came out earlier in the year, but I just heard it a few weeks ago. Fellow students of blown-out Electric Wizardry along with Monolord and recorded by Garrett Morris of Windhand, this Richmond, VA band is a no-brainer fuckyeah, especially for just a 5iver. | Bandcamp
Novembers Doom – Bled White (The End, Jul 15)
Cardinals Folly – Our Cult Continues (Shadow Kingdom, Aug 19)
Pallbearer – Foundations Of Burden (Profound Lore, Aug 19)
YOB – Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot, Sep 2)
Chicago’s Novembers Doom has been together since 1992. I haven’t heard it yet, but there seems to be much better promotional muscle behind their ninth album. The band has specialized in a unique mix of doom and death metal for a while, and this could be a significant breakthrough. I have heard a promo of Cardinals Folly’s second album and it’s great. The Finnish band originally formed as The Coven in 2004, released a couple EPs, changed their name in 2007 and put out two more EPs (collected on Strange Conflicts of the Past in 2013) and came out with their debut full-length Such Power Is Dangerous! (Shadow Kingdom, 2011). Building upon the path set by great Finnish doom like Lord Vicar and Reverend Bizarre, they have crafted their own signature blurred heavy fuzz in a developmental arc and pace like Serpent Venom’s. Pallbearer, hoo boy, that’s likely to be the biggest doom release of the year. Folks went apeshit for Sorrow And Extinction (Profound Lore, 2012), and while I haven’t heard the new one yet, there’s plenty of buzz from those who did that it tops everything. I hope it does! Also coming on September 2nd is YOB’s seventh album, Clearing The Path To Ascend (Neurot). The Eugene, OR band has a loyal following, and could eclipse Pallbearer’s, but it’ll have to be really amazing.
Metal Blade signed the great harmonizing doom/proto-metal band Brimstone Coven of Wheeling WV. They will remaster and reissue last year’s self-released album that made my top 13, along with their debut from 2012 as bonus tracks on August 5th!
Oh, and something that was supposed to come out in June but was delayed. No date yet, but this is coming: