Sunday, October 29, 2017
The story of Dopesmoker is one that's been told much better than I can. So I'll recommend that you look elsewhere and commence to give the super-condensed version. It goes like this - mainstreamish record label freaks out when their new act delivers a 64-minute song/LP devoted to the joys of recreational drug use.
As someone who's never really developed a taste for that sort of thing, I'll note that Dopesmoker stands on its own merits very well, thank you. You don’t need to be a dopesmoker to appreciate the music. That is, as long as you're a fan of heavy, heavy music that takes a riff or two and hammers away at them for more than an hour.
I'm sure these types of antics could go very much astray in the wrong hands. But I'd go so far as to say that Dopesmoker is just plain brilliant. Rather than being monotonous, all of that repetition with very little variation becomes hypnotic at some point.
My only quibble is that when the band does change things up, with noodly-doodly guitar breaks and whatnot, it actually detracts from the hypnotic effect. Release a remixed version without all of this nonsense and I'll be at the head of the line.
Sunday, October 22, 2017
Saturday, October 21, 2017
All hail the riff. Because it's all about the almighty riff. Strip heavy metal down to its essence and that's really all there is. The more I listen to Slomatics the more I realize that they have learned this essential truth about the nature of the universe, existence, reality and whatnot. They specialize in creating riffs Tony Iommi might have come up with if he was 400-feet tall - gargantuan, bottom-heavy riffs that have the power to destroy mountains and turn the citizenry into shrieking, fleeing masses. And I mean that in a good way.
Friday, October 20, 2017
Sleep's Holy Mountain (1992)
The first (only?) Black Sabbath album I ever bought was Technical Ecstasy. I was young and the price was right and it seemed okay in an era when you didn't have access to the whole of recorded music.
The only song I can remember now is a lame one called Rock and Roll Doctor, which sounded nothing like the Black Sabbath of their heyday. But if you want heyday-era Black Sabbath, you have maybe four albums to choose from (depending on who's counting) and even those contained some duds.
The point I'm working my way around to is that there wasn't enough 'good' Black Sabbath to go around and so I'm quite keen to discover, after being away from metal for a while, that there are now twelve zillion bands who have taken their music as a jumping off point. Sleep was one of the earlier examples of these and Holy Mountain and the album it appeared on are rightly renowned. If you gotta steal, steal from the best.
Sunday, October 15, 2017
They seem to gravitate toward the lowest of the low registers, these Slomatics guys. Who hail from Ireland and who have turned out five full-length albums so far - but you knew that.
Tunnel Dragger appears on the fourth of these, Estron (2014), and as your grandpa might put it, it's a real humdinger. How much more bottom heavy can you get? It's not for me to say but you can borrow my seismograph, if you need to do some research.
Anyway, the song rumbles and thuds and is dragged through tunnels for a while and suddenly there's a pleasant break that's all melodic and puppies romping in fields of daisies. Which only serves to emphasize the heaviness of the whole contraption once the thudding and rumbling start up again. Color me delighted.
Saturday, October 14, 2017
Sink to the Center
Age Eternal (2007)
An intense wave of sonic abuse designed to vaporize the listener? A heavy plodding tempo and one chord repeated over and over again (with a second one tossed in for good measure now and then)? Vocals that sound like a legion of fingernails dragged over a blackboard? That's gotta be early Swans, right?
Not so fast, Gira-breath. It's actually Middian, who released Age Eternal in 2007 and soon were driven out of business by a similarly named combo with a litigious streak. Sink to the Center is very old Swans-like indeed, if you ask me, but with more of metallic edge and screechier vocals.
It's heavy beyond heavy and of course it's way too soon to award it the Heaviest crown. But it will be a strong contender.
Monday, October 9, 2017
Black Fangs (2011)
What's the optimum BPM required to achieve the optimum level of heavy? Ain't got a clue, but I tend to favor something between downright plodding and pleasingly mid-tempo. A super-low bass bottom that sounds like its rising up from the bowels of the earth helps the proceedings along and of course a simple yet effective riff.
All of which are present in Holy Transfusion, from Sourvein's Black Fangs (2011) album, their third full-length release over the course of about twenty years. I hadn't heard of them before but that's no surprise since I've been out of the metal loop for a while.
(Jump to 17:33 on the video)
Saturday, October 7, 2017
Visions of Gehenna
Black Pyramid (2009)
A half century into heavy metal and you might assume it's all been done - and it probably has. But even at this late date you might run across a band who breathes life back into the moldering old corpse of the great beast.
For example, there's Visions of Gehenna, from Black Pyramid's self-titled first album (2009), a song I've had in heavy rotation lately. It opens with a catchy little bass bit and then gives way to a martial beat and a first-class riff delivered with an intensity that suggests a 30-piece ensemble rather than just a trio. Throw in some sword and sorcery inspired lyrics that actually aren't goofy and it makes for a very fine number. Wunnerful, wunnerful...