With a name like Temple Of The Fuzz Witch you should be fully aware of what you are getting yourself into when you hit play on the Detroit band’s eponymous debut. What is surprising is how good of a debut album these seven tracks make up. These disciples of the mighty Electric Wizard are charting their own course in the land of fuzz and feedback. Album closer Servants Of The Sun deviates from the template a bit by touching on a loud/quiet dynamic that really pushes the band outside traditional fuzz-drenched doom territory.
Hot takes on new and recent releases as well as some that we just discovered.
Beastmaker – Eye Of The Storm
With one final EP release (the 11thin less than a year!) Trevor Church winds down the mighty Beastmaker so that his new project, the more traditional metal band Haunt can rise up. The EP series was an amazing feat that ends on a high note with our favorite of the series. Eye Of The Storm combines the best elements of Beastmaker with the new stylings of Haunt to craft a perfect epilogue to the Beastmaker era and prologue to what is to come from Haunt.
Gale – Gale
Arizona band Gale immediately hits you in the face with huge riffs on the opening track of their new self-titled release. Big, thick riffs paired with vocalist Brandon Tutty’s distorted screams make for a formidable follow up to the band’s 2014 release Vol.1. The decimated forest on the cover of the album is a perfect wrapping for this scorched earth sludge release.
Flight – A Leap Through Matter
A fresh slab of late 70s NWOBHM from Norwegian group Flight. The band takes a big leap in both production and song writing on their second release A Leap Through Matter. Flexing their guitar muscle on tracks Reviving Waves and One With The Sun show that the band is comfortable stretching out a tight riff with a solo or two to create a dynamic metal album.
Green Lung – Woodland Rites
The highly anticipated full-length debut from Green Lung lives up to the hype with eight tracks of fuzzed out occult rock. Green Lung brings a slightly more subdued, melodic sound to Woodland Rites which ups the sinister feel of each track without losing their edge. Let The Devil In pulls back just enough to let the hook really grab you before the riff takes over.
Sometimes an album cover is all it takes for me to instantly love a band. Even in the digital age where you only get a thumbnail preview, a good album cover will speak to me no matter the size of the pic. Witchers Creed’s new full-length release Awakened from the tomb… brings that quality doom artwork that signifies this is a release that requires immediate attention. The Swedish band is relatively new to the scene having formed in 2016 shortly after the members left high school. Based on a lot of repeated listens so far, the future is bright (or should it be dark?) for this doom band.
Witchers Creed mine the depths of classic rock, doom and proto-metal to form a modern take on a classic metal sound. Raven’s Claw recalls early Pentagram with a chorus that sounds as if vocalist Dennis Blohm Hedlund was mentored by Bobby Liebling himself. The band absolutely crushes through nine tracks climaxing with the song Monolith that is the heaviest track on the album. Although it spaces out in the middle, the track ultimately falls back to earth with an instrumental groove that segues perfectly into the album outro. Rather than layering on additional fuzz or distortion, the production is surprisingly polished allowing for the band to expose some of its jagged edges. It is very early in the year, but I cannot see another release in 2019 dislodging Awakened from the tomb… from the top of my list. And the cowbell, so much glorious cowbell!
Portland’s Holy Grove is a modern doom metal band that perfectly balances forward looking song writing while leaning heavily on past musical influences. In fact, those past influences mean so much to the band that they posted a playlist of tunes that gave them the inspiration to craft the epic “II” (thanks for the Beck, Bogert, Appice tip by the way). II is the anticipated follow up release to the band’s 2016 self-titled debut album which garnered well-deserved praise for strong doom riffage and Zeppelinesque vocals. Using that album as a launching pad, Holy Grove blast off for the stratosphere with II.
The drum kick to start off the album swiftly demonstrates the band’s intent to up the heavy on this new release. Crazy drum-fills provided by Eben Travis throughout opener Blade Born adds an extra layer early on that signifies a heavier direction for the band. II clocks in at over 43 minutes spread across five tracks which allows the band to explore each song thoroughly. Epic closer Cosmos is a showcase for the entire band, especially vocalist Andrea Vidal. Her wail fades perfectly into a Trent Jacobs guitar solo just past the half-way point of the track that sets the course for the closing of the album. Many bands will never be able to write a song as epic as Cosmos and Holy Grove has found it within themselves on only their second release. This bodes well for the future of the band, but in the meantime set the controls for the heart of II and get lost in the riffs.
Chicago band Rezn’s second full-length album Calm Black Water is certain to end up on many best-of lists this year due to a unique blend of heavy psych and doom metal that requires repeated spins in order to sort it all out. The riffs emerge from the murky depths early on album opener Iceberg and continue throughout six heady tracks. Rezn creates additional atmosphere by layering heavy effects on the vocals that help to fold them into the textures of the music. The vocals maintain an ‘under water’ type vibe that contributes to the overall nautical feel of the album.
Vocal effects aside, this album floats (literally) between spacey interludes and mile-high climbing riffs that explode but then drop out in an instance as demonstrated in the track High Tide. The track ebbs and flows along a calm beat and vocal delivery building up to a crushing riff that finishes out the track. Rezn has crafted a beautifully heavy album that tweaks the doom metal formula with their own unique spin. Set sail on the black waters!
Drug Cult’s self-titled first release comes fully formed like a seasoned veteran band hitting it’s creative peak. Guitars grind and wail on opening track Serpent Therapy as if they are awakening from a long slumber before finally hitting a groove above two and half minutes into the song. The Wall is the absolute highlight of the album that breaks open with lumbering riff that seems to gain steam like a charging elephant. The song contains a sweet hook that nearly turns the song into a hummable tune.
The tone and feel of the album is very much set through the production, especially with the sound of Aasha Tozer’s voice weaving with the guitars and frequently rising above the fuzz. It has the vintage feel of an Electric Wizard album with a cleaner sound and without the movie clips. Bloodstone late in the album seems to capture that drugged out feel that I think the album is attempting to convey. Hearing Tozer hypnotically repeat “Blood is the drug I have been searching for… I want more” creates a chilly soundscape unique to the album. My guess is that this album will show up on many “best of” lists coming our way in a couple months.
Hot takes on new and recent releases as well as some that we just discovered.
Jesus Piece – Only Self
Philly hardcore band’s much anticipated first full-length does not disappoint. Dense production and multiple influences elevate this album above the standard hardcore fare. Only Self firmly establishes Jesus Piece as the standard-bearer of the new generation of hardcore bands.
Deathbell – With The Beyond
French doom band that absolutely kills it on their first release. Soaring female vocals float over huge riffs. If Windhand is your thing, pick up this release right away.
Potion – Women Of The Wand
Doom three piece out of Sydney, Australia adds some big guitar solos and psych flair to the fuzzed-out riffs. Two excellent singles released so far.
Shadowmaster – Shadowmaster
Cinematic doom metal in the vein of Electric Wizard or Ramesses. Hypnotic riffs awash in swirling cymbals punctured by tortured, distorted vocals.
Vuil – Hell
Old school thrash out of Scotland takes us back to the early 80’s packing plenty of speed and riffs. The band channels Motorhead on the ferocious track Hellracer.
A lot of new or current stoner/doom/fuzz metal bands seem to have a sound that can be traced back in some small part to Seattle grunge legends Alice In Chains. Whether it is Jerry Cantrell’s guitar tones, the vocal stylings close to Layne Staley’s, or just the band’s dirge-like sound qualities, AiC’s influence is clearly in the mix. Green Dragon’s debut full length released earlier this year incorporates some of those qualities with the results being one of our favorite 2018 releases. The band hails from the basements of Maplewood, New Jersey and is made up of veterans of the local metal scene.
In addition to the aforementioned AiC touches, this album is loaded with plenty of fuzzed-out Sabbath riffs and distorted vocals that quickly engage you on the first listen. Songs such as Dark Rider show the band’s ability to switch gears between an eerie shuffle to an all out fuzz riff groove and back in a single song. Dead Space kicks down the door showcasing the band’s more up-tempo sound with a riff that could have been right at home on any Kyuss record. Hoping this is just the beginning for Green Dragon as we look forward to more excellent riffs and some touring if we are lucky.