Friday, December 25, 2015
The Top 10 Stoner / Sludge Metal Albums of 2015
10-He Whose Ox is Gored: "the Camel the Lion the Child"
This Seattle band has been called progressive doom gaze, but progressive sludge is more apt to describe their sound. They often go from Isis like bellowing to a monotone chant that indie minded metal bands like Jesu use , but these are harmonized making them thicker. They have a great guitar tone and the album is really well produced with their drummer really knowing how to get the groove and play around it.They eventually come to a place of slinky atmospherics with higher androgynous vocals that bring to mind Circa Survive . At times this band comes across as a more mature and thoughtful version of the prog-minded emo bands that came out in the last days of Myspace. This albums takes a few listens to finally sink in, but when it does you will find it work the wait.
9- Sans Soleil: "A Holy Land Beneath a Godless Sky"
Beautifully mournful in it's melancholy, my first impression of this band was that they bordered on funereal doom. This Texas band carries you off into a four song excursion that flows like an ocean of tranquil despair.The narrative voice of the album is a viola that drips off of the riffs.If you were digest this album as if it were a strictly a metal affair, you might notice that the void left by the absent vocals. The arrangements keep this missing component well hidden. If this was funereal doom band the guttural gravel of phlegm drenched vocal chords would actually be another layer to the bottom end. The viola instead of trying to replace the vocals occupies that space the lead guitar melody would sit in. The spacious sound could edge this towards being post-rock, as an instrumental project they ravish a similar sonic sphere as Godspeedyoublackemperor. As the aural journey progresses their trip takes a darker turn. The bass player drifts into a stoned jam of his own wandering around under the guitar solo, that rips like 70's freedom rock.They lack the mournful tone of doom , but trippy and aggressive enough to belong here, though metal heads will need to have broadened horizons to embrace this album.
8- Serial Hawk -"Searching For Light"
With the heavy legacy of grunge haunting their homestead, this Seattle takes an approach more akin to the Melvins and Tad than any of their flannel clad forefathers. The vocals are forced out in a throaty shout, with the guitars being the focus of more melody. The bass and drums work together as a punishing unit with machine like precision. They are oppressive like sludge rather than invoking the morbid sense of loss of doom. The pace lumbers with the liberate stomp of a juggernaut. They are heavy, but not weighed down with the typical trappings of metal.I think these guys captured what they do best in the studio and look forward to hearing where they go from here. These guys are just as good as anything else along these lines I have heard from bands backed by records labels so someone is really losing out on a ton of potential until these guys are picked up, I guess for what ever a record label is worth these days if anything.
7- Vaee Solis:" Adversarial Light "
This band from Portugal takes some of the most hateful vocals to touch a microphone and throws them against some depraved riffs to make for music that brings an uneasy feeling when you are listening to it alone . The production that makes this possible is impeccable and milks the most anguish out of their performance as possible. The initial slap of this band is powerful, but how well can they you in this mental state for the duration of the album or do we just go back to color by numbers metal? Equal parts sludge and doom. The have the disdain for melody that a band like Eyehategod possess , but less of the punk aesthetic and a heavier emotional presence . They use some of tricks from the ultimate book of doom metal, but molest them with their malicious intentions. Though some of the songs seem to drag at times this is the only one that goes past the nine minute mark. I have gotten tired of some of the twelve plus minute epics so many bands to so these guys keep that normally reigned in, but if you are going to write a long song you have to have the dynamics to make it pay off. They beat the dead horse in manner that can be pleasing to morbid ears.
- Wand: "Golem"
I have been over the so called "occult rock" bandwagon for some time now, which was also known as vest metal, the Devil's Blood influenced the sound of many of those bands, the formula was retro fuzzed guitar and a female singer. It was stoner rock of a different color and dressed up in pentagram etched bell-bottoms. So this California band, who might not fit neatly into that scene , though carries a similar sound, gets credit for grabbing my ear. Wand released this album on an imprint of Ty Segall's Drag City label. The feature an ex-member of Pangea, if that matters to you. They get called garage rock and while there is that sort of sound to the drums, they are more entrenched in psychedelia with an almost metal thump to the bass lines. The real question you might want to ask yourself as how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go. It might not be your thing if you have never done drugs before, I recommend starting with pot and working work way up, but you don't have to plunge your self into a Fear and Loathing lifestyle to enjoy "Golem", but it would be a whole lot cooler if you did.
5-Clutch: "Psychic Warfare"
These guys have been at it for a while now and have developed more of straight up rock fee and less of the bouncing , chanting stoner version of nu-metal they came out with in the 90s. They know how to write a catchy chorus and doesn't take long to hear how these guys have made the name for themselves. Singer Neil Fallon throws his voice around with tons of personality.They knowingly wink at their influences ZZ- Top and If I still smoked pot I am sure they album would sound all the better , but even as is it grew on me as these guys really crafted this well.
4- Windhand : "Grief's Eternal Flower"
This is the third full length from a band who has been the darlings of the metal blog-o-sphere since hitting the scene. On this album they have begun to move out from behind the altar of Black Sabbath not the fuzzed out but carrying a hypnotic quality to the rumbling drone they kick up . The melodies seem more secure in their languid state and provide the needed sheen over the blown out distortion coming from the amps. The powerful vibrations the first song hits you with causes a similar reach most extreme metal also solicits in that you are wowed by the power so it doesn't matter how good the actual song is if the sound that hits you is solid.They begin sounding less like doom and more like grunge , namely Screaming Trees. It actually benefits this band that level of Black Sabbath worship has decreased and singer Dorthia Cottrell is really coming into her own as a singer and finding her identity, I suppose the solo album helped get her to this place. While some might consider this band to be doom, I am so used to listening to darker drearier funeral doom, until it feel more like sludged out stoner rock. They impressed me this time around and I looked forward to hearing here they go from here.
3- Irreversible- S/T
Even though these are guys are from my current city of residence I am not going any easier on them than I would any other band.The Atlanta sludge band has been around for a decade now so they have time to hone their sound. Like most Atlanta metal bands they started off with more punk roots and later morphed into something more metallic until now they share a similar landscape to their sound as Isis. After a wash of atmospheric sounds the almost math rock of "Undertow" lurches into motion. This album is very well produced for an independent release. The first vocals to surface are some monotone Jesu like cleans.The drummer is not a slouch either.Some of the more chuggy moments, barrow from the pillars of the genre all the bands like Isis that engaged in Neurosis worship in the early 2000s. Some times the tightness even creates a Tool like feel.This is one of the few local bands that makes me want to leave the couch with this album and go check them out, fans of sludge and post-rock should not miss this one.
2- Ragana :"Wash Away"
There is a slight touch of black metal to these gals , but it's when they lock into the crusty bong loaded grooves that this album soar. Sometimes tribal in it's lumber they coast into hypnotic riffs with the vocals screaming over it. The folkish vibe of the earlier work now gives way to more of an indie rock feel. There is a vast growth in their songwriting as it's both delicate and dynamic. At times it might remind you of Kylesa's more atmospheric wanderings, flowing back and forth from the slow to soft dynamic very smoothly despite the jarring nature.They pull very emotionally raw and organic tones out of their guitars in almost a grunge like manner , though this is mixed with almost early post hardcore while lingering around a melancholy throb of guitar. If you have not heard this band do yourself a favor and click on the link below, they will go down as the years most under rated band.