Mass Doom Review: Chapter 1

Doom Charts

The Doom Charts are a monthly collective effort between many different bloggers, writers and reviewers. The purpose of the charts is to share new and underground releases from bands playing doom metal sub-genres and similar genres, such as desert rock, stoner-psychedelic rock, and all that good stuff. Every month, the Doom Charts release a new list of 25 of the year’s most “spectacular” albums, most of which have been released since the publication of the previous month’s charts. I, in turn, listen to all the albums, present to you all a ranked list of those albums (from worst to best), and provide a short review of every single one.

• • •

With the ending of July come August’s Doom Charts! This month’s edition came out a few days ago, and included some fantastic albums, along with some that I didn’t particularly enjoy. In total, there were 6 albums recycled from previous months’ Doom Charts. None of the albums here are really horrible, so be aware that I’d most likely recommend all of them gladly. However, my list will be short today, due to the fact that I am currently in the North where there is no Wi-Fi connection to be found anywhere. Prior to my departure, I saved as many of this month’s albums as I could using my streaming service, Deezer, but not all of this month’s albums were represented there. What I can present to you today are 16 of the 25 albums. In order to compensate, I’ll be writing a second part to this month’s chapter upon my return. Good? Good.

Without any further delays, let’s begin, shall we?

16. The Judge- The Judge

Simply put, the reason this album is in my last place spot is that it sounds sort of generic. I didn’t hear much that especially grabbed my attention. The album does have some really Black Sabbath-esque moments that are cool but at times get so close, they’re off-putting. The vocalist obviously has some technical skill, which I appreciate. The guitarist has a clear Iommi influence and is jamming some nice riffs, and at some points you can hear a reasonably clear Angus Young influence (specifically on Movin’ and Groovin’). Planet Doom sounds ripped straight from a Sabbath album. Rock Kickin’ Blues is one track that I really got into, but aside from that, there isn’t much here that interested me.

15. Foghound- The World Unseen

So, I turned on this album, and the very first thing I noticed was that the vocalist straight up rips off the Hand of Doom phrasing on all verses in the first song. The riffs are also too familiar. Not cool. I’m all for Sabbath worship, but not for blatant rip offs that are quite frankly unoriginal. The one good thing that I have to say about this track is that the drumming is really tight. These guys are basically Black Sabbath clones (with a spacier vibe) for most of the album.

They do have moments of originality such as Message in the Sky, which is mostly aggressive, and Bridge of Stonebows which is really cool, followed by Street Machine. I quite liked all of those songs. This album is mostly Sabbath worship, but they don’t always pull it off the way bands such as The Sword do. The reason I specifically mention The Sword is that, simply, Foghound sounds a lot like them. The similarities are all too close for comfort. Though to be fair, this album did grow on me as it went on. By Give Up the Ghost, I was feeling this much more. The vocalist seems to have some pitch issues and doesn’t always hit the right note, which is my second main gripe in regards to the album as a whole. All in all I liked this, and it improves as it goes on, but there are lots of parts I’m not a fan of. It is worth noting that this album ends on a really strong note with Never Return.

14. Salem’s Pot- Pronounce This!

Really bluesy stuff here. I’d recommend this for fans of psychedelic rock since this is easily more of a rock album. The bass tone is fantastic, and it really stood out to me the first listen through. The keys are a nice touch, and country influences are showing through, which I always love to see. laughed when I heard So Gone, So Dead- it’s a great track to spice things up, with an undebatable country vibe, and really helped make the album great. The best track is Desire, in my humble opinion.

13. Mos Generator- Abyssinia

This album really has some damn nice bass lines. It’s got a bit of a desert rock vibe, short songs, and gets down to business right away. The energy of this album is really high, and the vocals are something that immediately jumped out at me. Tony Reed, guitarist/vocals, has a really nice sounding voice that works nicely on top of the thick riffing here. Though it’s a really clear sounding voice, he is not lacking a healthy dose of grit.

12. Slow Season- Westing

This is some serious Zeppelin worship. If you’re after hearing some really obvious and blatant Zeppelin influences, look no further. But I’m quite okay with that- these guys sound Zeppelin influenced, but still have a clear originality in their sound. This album was a fun, mostly high energy listen. Miranda, however, is the only track on the album where the Zeppelin influence is too close for comfort. If I had to state a single good quality about these guys, it would be that they have a truly great drummer. Cody Tarbell lets a considerable amount of Bonham shine through in his playing, and all the drum parts on the album have feel to them and are highly interesting to listen to in their own right. Take away all the other instruments, and you would still have an interesting listen with the drums alone. Vocalist/guitarist Daniel Rice’s vocal prowess is also highly audible here. Overall, this is a band that sounds like they love what they do, and this album is all the better for it.

11. Turnip- Window Killer

The best way I could describe this is just really heavy blues. It sounds really thick and swampy at times, but the vocalist soars overtop of it all like some sort of majestic eagle. They seem to describe themselves as being coyote rock. I heard a strong country influence here as well, and with some really cool slide guitar going on throughout the album, it’s truly a solid piece of work.

One of my favourite things about this album is that even though the vocalist has the chops, he doesn’t sing any more than is needed, and lets the music speak for itself. It’s obvious that these guys put the music before their need to show off, which is refreshing. I personally really liked Open the Sky. Coming For You is a really interesting turning point in the album that drew me right back into what they were doing. There wasn’t really a song on this album where I wasn’t feeling it, and overall this is a good release that held my attention throughout.

10. Oak- II

This is drone/death/doom, and it’s definitely really dark and with an absence of any and all melodic appeal. This works both for the band and against them, because at times I found this album difficult to sit through. The vocals, I found, were kind of bland and too dry, and I could hear vocalist Jo Gonzales sort of straining himself on the highs. This took away from the album as a whole, which was kind of a disappointment considering the high praise their debut received. The beginning of Cowards & Undeserving Part 2 was just annoying and didn’t make any sense within the musical context. The drumming felt heavy handed at times.

Not to say that this was a bad album, because it had several moments that I really enjoyed, such as Sorrow is Dead- which is just bleak and miserable and droning in a cool way. It sounds like evil and suffering for the most part. Then, it picks up at around 8:42, and turns into a dissonant mess for about 30 seconds, before going into a mixture of a Slayer song gone wrong and Burzum’s War. As unappealing as I make that sound it’s actually a really interesting end to the album, meaning that it definitely woke me up from the soggy mental state I had sunken into listening to the rest of it. To be blunt, this album deserved a much lower place on the list than the one I ended up giving it, but on the parts that I did like, I was getting really into it. I guess this release just feels somewhat bipolar.

9. Bus- The Unknown Secretary

The Unknown Secretary starts off with a classic 80s vibe, then sinks into something more bluesy. The first track has a bit of a punk vibe, but is overall heavily blues influenced underneath the raw energy. Vocalist/guitarist Bill City really stands out on this album, and helps pulls everything together. If not for the vocals, the album would sound much more generic. This is another album that gets increasingly better as is progresses. The second side of the album is by far better than the first, with tracks such as New Black Volume taking on an interesting sound. Some truly cool stuff starts to happen during Rockerbus, building up to Over the Hills which is my personal favourite of the album- it reminds me of early Scorpions at times. This is a solid effort, straddling the border between doom/heavy metal and hard rock quite nicely.

8. Vokonis- Olde One Rising

This is another really bluesy album with excellent riffs. The vocals here are slightly reminiscent of a Swedish JD Cronise. What this album does notably have is possibly some of the best riffing in the whole Chart. I wasn’t able to remember the names of specific songs that I really liked, but this is just an overall great album and I don’t think any particular song jumped out at me as being exceptional anyways. It just sits really nicely together and is a tight stoner doom release.

7. Boudain- Way of the Hoof

The album opens with a really cool riff, and sounds kind of like stoner metal Gwar but obviously without the ridiculous subject matter. Fuzz is everywhere, drenching absolutely every note, drawing the listener’s attention to a collection of great mossy riffs. While listening to this, I often found myself wondering if the vocalist had a beard- that is the best way I can possibly describe his voice. Disco Jimmy is my personal favourite track of the album, and Godzilla is a really suitable ending. I found this to be quite enjoyable to sit through.

6. Stone Animals- Stone Animals

Immediately I noticed an exceptionally cool guitar tone. This is stoner doom, and it’s heavy as fuck, for lack of an adequate descriptive word. The songwriting here represents a great use of space, and the vocals are not used too much nor too little- which is refreshing seeing as to just how many vocalists these days embrace the opposite approach. Though at this point I had been listening to nothing but fuzzy riffs for 8 hours, these riffs have a really original sound to them, which made them stand out even amidst the piles of notes already buzzing around in my brain. Go To Sleep is a genuinely cool and notable track.

5. Lacertilia- We’re Already Inside Your Mind

The start of this album is very interesting, incorporating tribal drums and the distinct twang of a sitar. This sort of opening seems like it should be out of place, but actually fits right in. The overall sound of this album comes across as very trippy, though not overly experimental, and that sound is perfectly represented by the tastefully done album art. That album art! Let’s talk about that for a minute. It’s just gorgeous, and refreshingly creative. Generally I don’t have too much to say about this because I found it to be a smooth listen that did not generate any complaints.

4. Indica Blues- Ruins on the Shore

This EP is like a symphony of really great tone. The guitar tone specifically is amazing, and the bass tone is also noteworthy and deserves a mention. The super heavy opening to the EP, Arms to the Sky, features cool riffs and amazing variations on time and space keep it very interesting and fresh. The way Indica Blues experiment with phrasing kept me hooked throughout the entire thing, and it represents a great trait for a psychedelic doom/rock album. As I mentioned, first track is really heavy and probably my favourite from this EP, although generally I highly recommend the entire thing, to be listened to as a whole.

3. Horseburner- Dead Seeds, Barren Soil

Horseburner (and I really do appreciate that name) truly reminds me of the Danish band Bersærk, but with English lyrics. Not to say that either band is generic–those who know me well know the extent of the high regards in which I hold Bersærk. There have been many a cool riff on this month’s Doom Chart, but the amazing use of pauses and variety in Dead Seeds, Barren Ground keep this album fresh and largely unpredictable, landing it a dizzying third place on this list of mine. I can see myself revisiting this one many times in the future.

2. Wo Fat- Midnight Cometh

We’re beginning to reach some dizzying heights on this review of mine. This is one psychedelic doom metal album that grooves really goddamn hard, and from the first second of the album to the end, I just wanted to wreck shit while listening to this. Cool guitar harmonies, tasty ass guitar solos, great vocals that sit well in the mix… This album has it all. Smoke and Fog is a really well written track that just brings the whole album together into a tight little package. I love the blues influence that is distinctly present here. Some cool experimentation with time signatures is also detectable, which actually fits really well with the music. Definitely something that’ll stay in my playlist for a long time. Hell, not only will this stay in my own playlist, I will personally see to it that it ends up in other playlists as well.

1. Messa- Belfry

Now, time to discuss a 2015 release that didn’t generate close to enough noise when it was dropped. Belfry is a stellar demonstration of female fronted, ambient and droning doom metal with a heavy jazz and blues influence. Guitarist Alberto (last name not specified anywhere I could find) definitely knows his shit, and it is evident in the many tasteful solos on this album. There is a strange clicking in the track Blood which I assume is saxophone valves working (yep, there’s a saxophone)- it doesn’t take away much from the music, but may be distracting to some, since it’s happening underneath an extremely cool sax solo. Later on, the song New Horns leaks in and mixes things up a bit. It represents a refreshing change of pace, followed by the track Bell Tower, which is quite ambient and contrasts greatly with the previous track in a really artistic way.

The collision of those two songs is one of the most attractive parts of this album to me. As a listener, it gave me a mental reset and allowed me to continue listening to the rest of the album with fresh ears. Bell Tower bleeds smoothly and tastefully into the next track, Outermost, where the album picks up again. I normally have a strong distaste for female vocalists, but I feel that Sara (last name unknown) really performs her roll nicely- and interestingly enough is also the bassist for death metal/grindcore band Restos Humanos. I tried to stop myself from majorly dickriding this album in my review, but I really can’t say enough about it. Listen to this.

• • •

That about wraps up this instalment of the series! Thanks for reading.

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