Even though I’m used to listening to industrial quantities of new music every week, there always comes the time when I come across to a record released by what I think to be a new band, but then, as soon as I check on google, it turns out that the formation is active for a long time. And when the music played by the band is as interesting as what I found in the new album by Samavayo, the pleasure of having finally filled a gap in your musical knowledge is combined with the regret of not having followed the musical growth of the band, which means not having enjoyed in full what they did in the past. In any case: better late than never.
Samavayo is a trio of German rockers based in Berlin. The band is active since 2000 and with their newest LP, called Vatan, they have published to date six full-length records. When approaches them for the first time (as I did) it’s fairly unlikely to guess that they come from the heart of Europe. The style played by Samavayo, in fact, is absolutely impregnated with the flavours of desert stoner and alternative metal, two kinds of music that usually accompany the production of American bands. Regardless of their Country of origin, however, what really impresses of Satamayo is that they play a kind of music that’s absolutely enjoyable and exciting to hear.
Vatan offers a sequence of truly amazing tracks that you will start to appreciate from the very first listening. From a musical point of view, their sound is basically what you would get by injecting heavy doses of fuzz and stoner into the music of Tool. This comparison is anything but risky, given the fact that really many passages that we hear in Vatan are clearly inspired from the songs of the legendary band from California, starting from the very first notes that we hear in Vatan‘s opening track Prevarication Nation.
The resemblance with Tool is more than just a hint, and this is at the same time a positive aspect of Vatan but also, in hindsight, the major limit of this record. It’s not by chance, thus, that most of the tracks that impressed me the most are those where the stoner and psychedelic influences become more strong, like for example in the title track, or the closing song Children of Kobane.
My final rating is a convinced 7/10. Favourite songs: Prevarication Nation, Sirens, the title-track Vatan, and Children of Kobane.
Samavayo’s new album is avilable on Bandcamp, and it can be streamed also from Spotify.
The history of music of the recent decades teaches us that the musical style referred to as stoner doom was born as an interesting derivation of the classic doom genre. This version of doom metal, however, over time has assumed the characteristics of a well-defined sub-genre and we have today many excellent formations that are grouped into this category of music.
In this new series of articles, I’m selecting and presenting to your attention the most interesting records that are published in the context of this style of music, including also those bands that have added a strong dose of psychedelia in the recipe of music.
This is the first episode for 2019, and it includes five different albums that were published in the first two months of the year.
As far as geography is concerned, we have two bands from Sweden (Ordos and Witchers Creed), two from U.S.A. (Yatra and Palace in Thunderland), and one from Estonia (Mang Ont).
Enjoy the ride, and don’t forget to come back periodically to check the future updates of the PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM Radar.
“The End”, by Ordos
Expectations were very high for the new LP by Swedish band Ordos, if only because their previous album (2017’s House of The Dead) received so many appreciations from both critics and fans. Here in this blog, it was included in the list of the best albums of the year, taking into account all genres of music.
The band’s new LP, The End, basically confirms the same style of stoner doom that was already offered in their previous record, with the addition of higher doses of psychedelic and occult rock. Also, the melodic component, which was already a key point in House of The Dead, has acquired fairly greater importance, making the songs of The End gain remarkable ease of assimilation.
In more general terms, maybe I was expecting something more innovative from Ordos’s new record, but, on the other hand, their music remains so exciting and fascinating than just the fact of having new songs to listen from the band is something that can change your day for the better.
I have dedicated a specific review to the LP, you can read it from here.
“Death Ritual”, by Yatra
If The End, by Ordos, was a sort of confirmation of what we’ve heard so far from the band, one of the most interesting surprises we had in the first months of the year was definitely the debut album by Maryland-based trio Yatra, and I’m not referring only to the perimeter of stoner doom.
Death Ritual is the first LP from this promising formation, and it’s one of those records that have the capacity to take you away from the physical world, projecting your mind into a magical dimension full of pagan rituals, dangerous spells, ancient legends and dark visions.
I wrote a dedicated review of the album, you can read it for a few more details about the LP.
“Awakened From the Tomb…”, by Witchers Creed
Witchers Creed is one of those bands that I discovered almost by chance thanks to a recommendation that I’ve read on a social media, and which became an instant favourite.
This is a formation of young musicians from Sweden, who grew up influenced by the music of Black Sabbath and Judas Priest, and then eventually released their first (impressive) LP: Awakened From The Tomb…
Their sound is characterized by a few but effective features: a warm and powerful stoner-like bass, which perhaps the element which impressed me the most in the LP, a guitar that churns out endless sequences of catchy and sticky riffs, a simple yet effective rhythmic session and, last but not least, a powerful and fascinating voice.
I have published a short review of the LP, you can find there additional details about this excellent debut album.
“The King of the Empty Aeon”, by Palace in Thunderland
Just a quick mention for the new LP by Palace in Thunderland, a psychedelic stoner band from Springfield, Massachusetts, in the U.S.A. The band is formally active since 1998 but, after a period of standby, it was basically re-activated only in 2011. Since then they have released three LPs.
Their newest record is named The King of the Empty Aeon and it features nine enjoyable and intriguing songs alternating between heavy moments, and other fuzzier and definitely more psychedelic pieces. This second category of tracks is the one that I liked the most in their LP, especially the 11-minutes long song This Illusion’s Come Alive, which is right in the middle of the album.
For what concerns the heavier and quicker kind of songs, the single Vicarious is definitely a good hit.
“Maa Sarv”, by Mang Ont
I’m concluding this list of albums with Maa Sarv, which is the new LP from Mang Ont, a stoner doom metal trio which arrives from Estonia. The band is active since 2011 and their brand new release is the third entry in a discography which includes also the EP Neli Aastat (2015) and the debut LP Võhk (2017). The style of their music is characterized by slow, powerful and epic songs. Their sound is thick, heavy and impregnated with psychedelic and stoner atmospheres. In some sections of the band’s songs, we can also appreciate the inclusion of fuzzy drones that introduce a further element of restlessness to their sound.
Maa Sarv is an impressive record because in the short span of only three long tracks the band has managed to develop a journey into a hallucinated and psychedelic world: at first we are greeted by inviting and intriguing sounds, but soon we realize that we ended up in a universe of obsessive riffs and hypnotic rhythms from which it is almost impossible to go out.
Drawing inspiration from the album cover, some have described Mang Ont’s sound as “prehistoric riffs echo from the Mammoth’s cave”. This is actually another good way to transfer the idea of their special and intriguing sound of the band, for which I foresee a very promising future.
I’m starting to collect the best songs for this exciting category of albums in a dedicated playlist, called THE PSYCHEDELIC AND STONER DOOM RADAR. Check it out and follow it, it’s going to grow with time.
Another place where you can enjoy some good stoner doom is the famous playlist SLOWLY. It features more than 8 hours of the best doom, sludge and post-metal that was released in the last three years. If you weren’t already following it, you should do it.
Back in 2017, the impressive second LP from Ordos (House of the Dead) was included here in this blog within the list of the Best Albums of the Year, across all genres of music. As I wrote at that time, I felt in love with the band and in particular with House of the Dead since the moment I started listening to the initial guitar riffs that are in that record, and the positive impression remained unchanged after many and many other listens of the entire work. This could justify the great expectations that I had for their new record, The End, which is the third LP of their career.
If their second LP was reminiscent of the ’70s and fitted with many elements from heavy rock and doom, The End further amplifies this aspect and introduces additional elements of psychedelic and occult rock. From this point of view, while it still maintains an extremely dark and gloomy sound, the music played by the Swedish band seems to have settled on the less abrasive side of stoner-doom. The melodic component, which was already a key point in their music, has acquired even greater importance, making the songs of the album gain remarkable ease of assimilation. In this regard, even the riffs seem to adopt almost all the same pattern throughout the entire record, where a chord, or a single note, is repeated obsessively, with the addition of small intervals of semi-tones in order to increase the sense of restlessness and gloom.
To give an example, the sixth track of the LP, Upsala (S:t Erik), which I presume is a cover from the first demo of the psychedelic Swedish band S:t Erik, begins with a blues and southern motif that seems to break the atmosphere of darkness and despair that characterized the earlier songs. But it takes only a minute and even this song returns to embrace the same style of the other songs, except for the sporadic return of the bluesy sounds during the chorus and the guitar solo.
Based on these stylistic choices, and because of how homogeneous and similar are the various songs of the album, The End seems to be like a single story told through one haunting introduction, 6 gloomy chapters, and one instrumental conclusion. This aspect obviously has tangible positive effects in terms of the obsessive and emotional impact of the record, but it also carries with it the limits of making the LP definitely linear, and fairly monochord. This phenomenon is further amplified by the fact that the rhythms are constantly settled on an average mid-paced beat count, and in this respect there aren’t significant variations from one song to another.
On the other hand, the sounds, the melodies and the atmospheres that these guys from Uppsala can generate with their instruments are absolutely unique, beautiful and engaging, and the fact of finding yourself entangled in a continuous and uninterrupted flow of obsessive and repetitive music is something that can be definitely rewarding. Probably the longevity of the album will be compromised by the similarity that there is between all the songs, but, at least in the short term, the effect is absolutely impressive and overwhelming.
In summary: maybe I was expecting something more remarkable from Ordos. The End is basically a new collection of songs that confirm and consolidate the style that was already introduced in their previous work, except for a certain softening of the most abrasive parts in favor of the melody. On the other hand, their music remains absolutely exciting and fascinating, and the fact of having new songs to listen to is, by itself, something that can change your day for the better. My overall rating for the LP is 7/10.
Favourite songs: The Hunter of Hades, III, and the beautiful haunting intro Exordium.
Songs from The End have been included in some of the playlist that I’m curating on Spotify, such as SLOWLY (dedicated to stoner/doom and sludge), and THE DELICATE SOUND OF THUNDER (dedicated to the softer side of stoner music). Check these out!
Summer proceeds relentlessy towards its conclusion and we can only to try to keep its spirit alive with through the warm and arid sounds of stoner rock. In this chart I’m presenting the list of my favorite stoner albums and EPs that have been published since the beginning of 2018, including both “conventional” stoner and its psychedelic variations.
You’ll find here both legendary bands such as Fu Manchu, Monster Magnet and Orange Goblin, but also a bunch of extremely promising formations coming from many different parts of the World.
Enjoy this list of albums and don’t forget to check if there are newest updates in the stoner section of the blog.
#1) Sundrifter, “Visitations”
Sundrifter is a three piece stoner rock band from Boston, in the United States. Visitations, their second full-length album, makes no effort to conceal the origins of the sound of the band, which draws heavily in that inexhaustible source of inspiration that is given by the first couple of albums from Kyuss. But even where the imitation goes so far as to almost plagiarize the original (please listen to the beginning of the third track, Lightworker, just to get an idea) these guys still managed to put in their music so many elements of innovation that, in the end, they’re actually playing their own and unique version of stoner. And this album succeeds in being together a celebration of the great masters of the past and an absolutely valid and original piece of work.
From a musical point of view, the band shows an impressive capacity to blend together classic stoner music with elements from psychedelic rock and space rock. The development of the songs, in most of the cases, is that typical of stoner music: an initial riff of guitar, loud and rhythmic, on which are added to follow an opulent bass and an essential – but still warm – rhythmic session. On top of that there is the fantastic voice of Craig Peura, which is in effect the winning element of this album and perhaps the real element of differentiation from the many other stoner bands we have today.
In summary: Visitations is a really valid LP from a band which managed to fuse together the celebration and the homage to the legacy of stoner rock with a number of characteristic features which make their music absolutely solid and unique.
The album is available on Bandcamp and can be also streamed from Spotify.
#2) Orange Goblin, “The Wolf Bites Back”
As a long-term fan of stoner music, I must admit that I have never developed a particular affinity for the English metal band Orange Goblins. I clearly appreciated the various albums they have published in their twentythree-years long career, but without ever developing an emotional connection like the one I have for other formations playing the same genre of music. On the other hand, the emotional bond with certain bands sometimes comes (or not) independently from their absolute value.
The sensations that I had once I heard their latest work, however, were completely different and probably The Wolf Bites Back is the first album among the nine that they have released until today which made me feel an immediate sense of enjoyment and adrenaline. Maybe it’s because of the stripped-down and raw attitude that they put in the recorde, perhaps because for the first time the level of intensity of the songs remains high from the beginning to the end of the record, the fact is that Orange Goblin’s last record it remains permanently in my music player from the date on which I entered it for the first time.
Surely one of the elements which I appreciated the most of their last LP is that the bluesy rock elements are nowadays relegated to a secondary role and what you get in most of the album is a straight and fierce attack of genuine stoner, without any esitation or vacillations. The band really decided this time to ride with the accelerator pedal always pressed to the bottom, and the rare ballads that appear sporadically among the songs are short and concise breaths of fresh air rather than a signal of a more general slowing down of the machine. It’s nice when an historical band manages to keep the quality of its productions so high across the years. And it’s even better when the same band manages to surprise you with one of the most effective and direct works of their entire production.
Weedpecker are a relatively new psychedelic stoner band from Poland. In the relatively short timespan of six years since their formation the band has already released three full-lenght LPs, all of them of absolute value. The last one, named III as the position that the album has in the discography of the band, is a joyful ride through desert soundscapes burned by the sun.
There are many different influences in their sound but these guys from Warsav still managed to maintain a unique style and direction in their music, which may be summarized as a dirty and fuzzed version of stoner rock. As correctly reported in the album release notes, III sees Weedpecker experimenting with light, colorful jams that remind the listener of Tame Impala or Morgan Delt. Moving seamlessly between styles and moods organically, it’s easy to get lost, only to find yourself emerged in a different world entirely.
A couple of songs of the album (Embrace and Liquid Sky) may be considered real masterpieces of this particular style of music.
ASG is one of those bands that didn’t achieve the success they deserved. Active since 2001, this quartet of veteran stoner rockers have gained the status of cult band in the underground movement, but they remain fairly little known to the international audiences. Probably this is because their studio albums can’t match the reputation which they gained for their wildly energetic live shows. Anyway, for everyon who’s been lucky enough to appreciate the works of this band from North Carolina, the news of the release of a new album is always welcomed with great enthusiasm.
Survive Sunrise, their sixth full length and first new album in five years, provides the listener with another fine selection of psychedelic stoner rock. Most of the songs of this album have slow rhythms and the music conveys the feeling of a hot and sweaty evening, when the sun slowly gives way to the blue of the night, and your face, burned by the sun rays and made harsh from the dust collected during your journey, can finally enjoy a breath of fresh air. Singable and delicate melodies develop over the psychedelic and southern atmospheres that are drawn by the guitars, and the scene is then completed by the incredible voice of Jason Shi.
Survive Sunrise is a really solid and valid album from a band that, despite not being not very prolific, has always managed to leave its mark in the stoner world with every new work. Perhaps the stylistic choice to contain the energy and to prefer the most introspective aspects of stoner rock will not make them achieve mainstream success, but their road is now signed and these guys do not seem willing to negotiate popularity with their unique and special vision of rock music.
The album is available on Bandcamp and it can be also streamed from Spotify.
#5) Akula, “Akula”
It’s not easy to find many details about Akula, this new band from Ohio, in the U.S., which dropped an intriguing album of psychedelic rock mixed with sludge, doom and post-metal. The material included in their homonymous debut LP is extremely interesting and provide the listener with an absolutely innovative approach to this kind of music. Some elements of their songs, such as the clean vocal sections, are absolutely brilliant and in some moments create a very special contrast with the hardness of the guitars. The album consists of only 4 tracks – very long – and it’s basically divided in two sections: a radio-friendly first half with the most accessible music, and a more experimental second part where the band plays with more articulated rhythms and more dissonant and atmospheric sounds.
Fu Manchu are one of the most famous and appreciated bands in stoner rock and, as such, every new release from them is awaited by fans with great trepidation. They also managed to become one of those groups that can be recognized after only a few seconds of listening thanks to the particularity (and the beauty) of their sound and also the unique voice of Scott Hill.
Unfortunately, however, the years pass for everyone and with their recent album Clone of the Universe, this iconic quartet begins to show some signs of regression. More than 30 years have passed since the foundation of the band and that magical fluid that until today made all their songs to be vivid and fresh seems to be in short supply. It is no coincidence, then, that in this last LP these legends from Southern California seem to play with the brakes pulled, favoring the sounds and the atmospheric aspects of their music rather than that immediacy and spontaneity we were used to find in their songs.
There are still very good moments in the LP and also some clear signals from the band to accept new challenges and take new paths, as can be seen from the track “Il Mostro Atomico” (yes, in Italian) which is an epic 19-minutes tracks that reiterates almost indefinitely the same riff.
King Buffalo is a trio of extremely talended psychedelic rockers from New York, in the U.S. Three years after their formation in 2013 the band released their first full-lenght work, Orion, which gained in short time a relevant consideration, initially limited to the underground scene but which rapidly expanded to an international audience. These guys play in fact a beautiful kind of psychedelic rock with many elements from blues, stoner and sludge.
Early in 2018 the band published a short EP with three tracks, named Repeater, that in some way may be seen as an extension of the previous album. The title track, in particular, is an hypnotic and psychic anthem which grows along 13 minutes of pure musical beauty.
Monster Magnet are considered among the most important and influential bands for stoner rock (the “Godfathers of Stoner” as I’ve recently read on a magazine) and indeed through their numerous publications and vigorous live performances they have really cemented their status of one of the most legendary groups in the contemporary rock universe.
Given this premises it’s easily understandable that Dave Wyndorf and his bandmates don’t feel any urge to follow the trends or to force their music to sound “modern” and catchy. As a matter of fact, their name is in itself a guarantee of quality and their fans already know what to expect when a new record from Monster Magnet arrives on the shelves.
Mindfucker is their eleventh album and, as expected, the record continues to move along the same road that has been traveled so many times by the band, with no major changes in their typical sound if not for the fact that in many parts of the LP we feel a stronger aspiration to reach the real essence of rock and roll: smooth riffs, fiercy rhythms, powerful and stunning guitars. This is pure and simple retro-rock, and the stoner elements in many songs leave the field to a more basic “hard rock” style.
The album is basically an excellent collection of new songs from a band that doesn’t want to make any surprise, they just try to improve every time what they can do best, and they actually do it. For many fans of the band, in fact, Mindfucker has all the characteristics and the potential to become a classic in the band’s discography. From such a legendary formation, however, one could also expect sometimes to see them exploring new directions, not because of larger consensus but simply to enrich the journey, so interesting and full of inspirations, that they started now thirty years ago.
Yellow Dust is a German stoner band and Slodge is their new album, released in January 2018. The album sees the band engaged ith both the sound and dynamics of stoner rock and the slower and more abrasive sounds of sludge metal. In all honesty I can say that in the first case (i.e. with the stoner songs) the results are undoubtedly better. The sludge tracks in fact do not take any particular advantage from the raw and low-fi production of the album, and they don’t show neither any particularly exciting idea that can sustain and valorise the longer and relatively psychedelic songs that complete the record.
Anyway, the album is a good step forward with respect to the band’s debut LP and brings the signs of a raw talent that could give us great surprises for the years to come.
Slodge is available on Bandcamp, where it can also downloaded for free.
#10) Black Moth, “Anatomical Venus”
Black Moth, from England, is a band which is trying to find their own way into the stoner genre through the integration iof elements from psychedelic rock and doom into their music. Anatomical Venus, their last LP, brings a bunch of good ideas and a number of interesting deviations from the canons of the genre. The album, however, doesn’t always manage to match the expectations that were raised from their previous releases.
Black Moth’s music is characterized by the nice insertion of interesting and “cinematic” pieces as well as many psychedelic and doom elements. Anatomical Venus is also enriched by one of the most fantastic female voices of the modern rock panorama.
The new album by Black Moth can be streamed from Spotify.
Stoner music is typically associated with heavily distorted guitars and mighty bass sounds. There are some rare moments, however, in which our favorite artists abandon the heavy and scratchy sounds to give us glimpses of desolate landscapes and delicate moments of poignant poetry.
I’ve collected in a Spotify playlist some of the most contemplative and intimate songs that were produced in recent years by the most famous artists of stoner music. You’ll find here musicians of the caliber of John Garcia, Brant Bjork, Truckfighters, All Them Witches, and many others.
Enjoy this collection of songs and follow the playlist because this is expected to grow with time as soon as new gems are discovered. And don’t forget to recommend new songs if you feel that I missed some major contribution to the playlist. Enjoy!
I love stoner music, at this point it should be clear to all the readers of this blog. It is a passion that stays with me since I was a teenager and this music, in some way, brings me back to that exciting phase of my life. But it is not only nostalgia, of course, there are the impressive sounds, the desert atmospheres, the exciting riffs and, very often, some of the most beautiful voices we can find in a rock band.
As a long time follower of stoner music I can tell that the musical production in this case is anything but uniform and regular: there are peaks in which two or three albums of absolute value arrive to the shelves and then, sometimes, absolute silence for long months. The first part of the year, fortunately for us, belonged to the first category and in particular we had the opportunity to listen to one specific work, Sundrifter‘s Visitations, which immediately entered the prestigious club of the Best New Music. Let’s see now the complete group of stoner publications of the first months of 2018.
When you’ll read my comments on these four albums you may notice that these are not always enthusiastic despite the fact that I’m collecting here the “best records” of this period. As far as stoner is concerned, my standards are extremely high and I’m generally not satisfied with a couple of good tracks per record. In the end, however, these remain valid and interesting albums and you will get your own opinion when listening to the songs that are proposed below.
This chart reports the best albums for the first part of the year. Everyone who landed here via a search engine could be interesed in having a look to the stoner section of the blog, you can check by yourself if there are more recent updates. Enjoy!
#1) VISITATIONS by Sundrifter
I already mentioned that VISITATIONS, by Sundrifter, is by far the best stoner album of the year so far. In this LP the band from Boston shows an impressive capacity to blend together classic stoner music with elements from psychedelic and space rock. The development of the songs, in most of the cases, is that typical of stoner music: an initial riff of guitar, loud and rhythmic, on which are added an opulent bass and an essential – but still warm – rhythmic session. On top of that we enjoy the fantastic voice of Craig Peura, who’s is in effect one of the winning elements of this album and perhaps the real element of differentiation from the many other stoner bands that we have today. The full review of the album is available here.
#2) CLONE OF THE UNIVERSE by Fu Manchu
Fu Manchu are one of the most famous and appreciated bands in stoner rock and, as such, every new release from them is awaited by fans with great trepidation. They also managed to become one of those groups that can be recognized after only a few seconds of listening thanks to the particularity (and the beauty) of their sound and, in particular, of the unique voice of Scott Hill. Unfortunately, however, the years pass for everyone and with their recent album Clone of the Universe, this iconic quartet begins to show some signs of regression. More than 30 years have passed since the foundation of the band and that magical fluid that until today made all their songs to be vivid and fresh seems to be in short supply. It is no coincidence, then, that in this last LP these legends from Southern California seem to play with the brakes pulled, favoring the sounds and the atmospheric aspects of their music rather than that immediacy and spontaneity we were used to find in their songs. There are still very good moments in the LP but, unfortunately, we also cope with less exciting and excessively slow and conceptual tracks, like an epic but somehow questionable track of almost 19 minutes that reiterates almost indefinitely the same riff.
#3) SLODGE by Yellow Dust
Yellow Dust is a German stoner band and Slodge is their new album, released in January 2018. The album sees the band engaged ith both the sound and dynamics of stoner rock and the slower and more abrasive sounds of sludge metal. In all honesty I can say that in the first case (i.e. with the stoner songs) the results are undoubtedly better. The sludge tracks in fact do not take any particular advantage from the raw and low-fi production of the album, and they don’t show neither any particularly exciting idea that can sustain and valorise the longer and relatively psychedelic songs that complete the record. Anyway, the album is a good step forward with respect to the band’s debut LP and brings the signs of a raw talent that could give us great surprises for the years to come.
#4) ANATOMICAL VENUS by Black Moth
Black Moth, from England, is a band which is trying to find their own way into the stoner genre through the integration iof elements from psychedelic rock and doom into their music. Anatomical Venus, their last LP, brings a bunch of good ideas and a number of interesting deviations from the canons of the genre. The album, however, doesn’t manage to be always exciting and thrilling in all of the songs and when compared to their previous LPs we can feel that their creativity seems to have reached a stasis point. Although there are still some interesting and “cinematic” pieces, the problem with this record is that the loss of ferocity and aggression generated by the insertion of psychedelic and doom elements is not compensated, in the end, by an equal level of creative inspiration. The approach taken by these musicians, whose music is also enriched by one of the most fantastic female voices of the current years, remains thus interesting and intriguing, but this new step in their career is not at the same level of their first two records.
If you enjoyed this post, have a look at the following:
SIDEWINDING, a stoner / sludge mixtape released a few weeks ago.
Sludge metal is an extreme style of music that originated through combining elements of doom metal, stoner and hardcore metal. It generally features slow tempos, heavy rhythms, dark atmospheres and abrasive sounds. There are today many good bands dedicated to this genre of metal, each one giving its own interesting interpretation, and judging by the results the year 2017 has been definitely important: we have in fact some excellent albums that will leave a clear mark for a long time.
In collecting and selecting the 10 albums to be included in the list I had to make some choices, both because of a few good bands that didn’t enter the chart and also to assign the positions in the list for those groups who where included. As always these choices will generate some criticis, but I believe it’s part of the game and there is always the opportunity to comment. In any case, I’m much confident that the present selection of the top ten albums of the year is fully representative of the status of sludge metal in modern times and even a few modifications that could occur in the list wouldn’t change the overall situation.
An interesting element that emerges from this list is how sludge metal has become an universal musical genre, practiced successfully everywhere in the world. The top ten chart includes two bands from U.S. and Sweden, one from Germany, one from UK, one from France, one from Belgium, one from Italy and one from Poland.
Before leaving the floor to the top ten list, I take the opportunity to provide below the access to one of the most recent mixtapes dedicated to sludge metal among those published in the blog. This features most of the bands included in the chart and it may be the ideal soundtrack for reading the rest of the post. Enjoy!
DARK TOWERS, BRIGHT LIGHTS by Cranial
Darl Towers, Bright Lights is the debut release of the German band Cranial, which features in the line-up some members coming from the the mythical band Omega Massif, now dissolved. In 45 minutes and 4 long tracks, these guys from Hamburg deliver an epic sludge and post rock opera, somehow reminiscent of Isis, Cult of Luna and Neurosis.
The music of Cranial keeps all the main features of sludge metal with clear deviations towards the more elegant melodies of post rock. There is no particular innovation or creativity in the music produced by these guys but pure, simple and beautiful marching riffs, repetitive bass lines, and apocalyptic atmospheres.
In summary: the debut LP from Cranial features a satisfying and exciting collection of modern sludge medal songs, although I am convinced that these musicians have the capacity – for their future works – to contribute in a more innovative and personal way to the evolution of this musical genre.
WIZARD BLOODY WIZARD by Electric Wizard
British doom veterans Electric Wizard have published this year the ninth studio album of their long career, the second featuring the new rythmic section played by Clayton Burgess on bass and Simon Poole on drums and percussions.
The latest work from the Wizards, whose publication has been quite tormented and affected by a series of delays and postponements, sees the band from South West England abandon any desire for complex and dynamic structures. Almost all the songs of the album are in fact built on a simple and linear implant where the initial riff, slow and sometimes bluesy, is repeated substantially until the end of the song, with few variations and evolutions. Where this mechanism benefits of an intriguing and engaging riff the final result is certainly captivating. But in some cases, unfortunately, the songs appear too simple and flat to become memorable.
At the end of the day we can say that this record is not comparable with the major masterpieces that the band has released in the past, although these guys confirm themselves among the best representatives of that variant of sludge which bases its roots in doom metal.
DOMAIN OF EMBER by Boson
Boson is a new sludge metal band from Minnesota, in the U.S., and Domain of Ember is their promising debut full-lenght album. As the name of the band suggests, the music composed by this quartet takes inspiration from the “Boson”, which is that fundamental element of quantum physics named after the Indian physicist Satyendra Nath Bose. Basically the Bosons are elementary particles that – once combined – generate all the most complex atomic structures that we see around us. In the same way the music of this band also starts from the combination of simple, linear elements, which are placed next to each other to develop long, complex and articulate songs.
The result is definitely interesting and the group shows ambition and personality, all features that foreshadow good things for their future. Surely there must be a little more attention and effort to increase the variety of songs, which in this debut seem excessively similar.
TRELU by Fallow
Fallow is a metal band from Southern France formed in 2010. Trelu (which means “Full Moon” in the old language of Southern France) is their second album and it’s basically a live session that the quartet recorded at the Darius Milhaud Conservatory of Music of Aix en Provence, France. This work follows their previuous LP, Werra (“Controversy”), published by the band a couple of years ago.
The music played by Fallow is an interesting version of post metal with many elements of sludge and psychedelic metal. There are in fact many moments in Fallow’s songs where the walls of heavyness and the poderous guitar riffs leave room for more rarefied and dreamy atmospheres; but it’s usually a short breath, a small parenthesis of delicacy before the most powerful sounds make their return.
As the band writes on their social media pages, the songs in Trelu are about witchcraft and legends in Southern France. And as a side note, currently the album can be acquired for just 1€ on their bandcamp page.
MATTER & VOID by Sorxe
Sorxe, from Phoenix in the U.S., are one of those groups that managed to find the right balance between the typical musical structures of post rock and the heavy and brutal sounds of sludge metal. Matter & Void, the second full-lenght album released by the band, represents an evident evolution with respect to the debut album (Surrounded by Shadows, published in 2014), especially for what concerns the introduction of slightly lighter atmospeeres in most of the tracks. It looks lite these guys from Arizona had established that the monotonous oppressiveness of their first LP was a bit of a limit to their creativity, and therefore decided to loosen a little the grip to explore new territories.
An aspect which is definitely interesting about Sorxe is that they feature two bass players in the four piece line-up. The “sonic” management of the two bass lines has been exceptional: there is no “bass overload” in the sound of the band and, on the contrary, this stylistic choice gives additional flavours to their pieces.
It’s really a pleasure to see a band that managed to improve so well the already good results obtained at their debut. Surely this band is among those to be observed and tracked carefully from here on.
RUST by Monolord
Today it’s almost impossible to see a rock or metal chart that doesn’t contain a couple of Swedish groups, and this ranking is no exception.
Monolord, from Gothenburg, released this year their latest album, Rust, which is the third since their formation four years ago. Despite such prolificity, all the albums published by the band so far have always been characterized by interesting and innovative elements. Moreover, during these four years the band has also shown a positive trend with a steady improvement in the quality of their music, something that is fully confirmed with their new album.
From a musical point of view, Monolord is one of those bands which like taking a given rhythm and keep it constant through the whole song, or even the entire album. What makes the difference, in this case, is the beauty of the bluesy guitar riffs, always intriguing and definitely enjoyable to hear. Stylistically we’re in front another variation of that marriage between sludge and doom that proved to be so successful in recent years, with atmospheres and melodies that are in this case less oppressive and gloomy than the norm.
Monolord is another band that has been capable to build its own style even by drawing heavily into the sounds of the masters of this genre. And if these guys will continue to publish albums with the same frequency that characterized their production so far, we won’t need to wait a lot to see if the positive trend they have shown up to this point will be confirmed with their next albums.
CHILDREN OF THE HAZE by Dopelord
Children of the Haze is the new studio effort by Polish sludge quartet Dopelord, and it’s the third entry of their discography since they were formed in 2010. The music of Dopelord is an oppressively slow and psychedelic trip into heavyness and as they say on their bandcamp page, their music is inspired by “old movies, 70s music and magical herbs“. And indeed, this is probably the most hallucinated album on this Top Ten chart.
One of the peculiar characteristics of Dopelord has alway been their innate capability to be heavy and expressive at the same time. This element is fully represented in their last work, where the powerful guitars and the massive rhythm section creates an impenetrable and oppressive wall of sound, slow to exhaustion, but at the same time capable to generate incredibly expressive melodic lines, further enriched by abundant psychedelic inserts and a few light touches of keyboards and synthetizers. To complete the picture, the extensive use of clean vocals adds another peculiar element of innovation in the succesful recipe crafted by this quartet of doped metallers.
It’s almost impossible to remain indifferent to the music of Dopelord, and Children of the Haze is for sure another masterpiece in their very good discography.
MASS VI by Amenra
If there is an album that can be fully summarized by its first two minutes, this is Mass VI by Belgian domm & sludge masters Amenra. Every constituting element of this new masterpiece from the band of the West Flanders is in fact contained in the initial moments of their last album: disturbing melodies, suffocating atmospheres, and a crescendo of anxiety that ends up in violent screams and an explosion of guitars.
The eerie quietness of the first couple of minutes of “Children Of The Eye” announces the coming storm, and the nine explosive, cathartic minutes of this opening song hold in themselves all the strikingly disparate emotions that we have come to expect from Amenra (from the album’s bandcamp page).
As a formation that is active since many years, we could somehow anticipate what would have been inside their new album: contrasts of light and darkness, plenty of crescendos, brutality, intensity and melody perfectly balanced in every song. What we couldn’t imagine, maybe, was the brilliant and astonishing way in which all of these elements have been composed together. Taken as a whole, this is one of the most satisfying records we had in 2017, and it fully deserved its position in the Top Three of this chart.
8 by Ufomammut
I cannot hide the pleasure of presenting an Italian band in one of the main positions of this chart. But Ufomammut, from Alessandria, have nowadays achieved such a reputation in the stoner doom panorama that I can’t be accused of giving them a favorable treatment.
A particular stylistic choice that the trio of Italian metallers has adopted for their new record, which is named 8 as the position that the disc occupies in the band’s discography, is that the 8 songs of the album are merged one into the another without a real separation, creating a single uninterrupted flow of crushing sounds with sparse touches of psychedelia. Making an album as a single stream of heavy music could generate serious drawbacks in terms of accessibility and overall enjoyability. To avoid this effect the band has produced one of the most beautiful sequences of sludgy riffs among those we have heard this year.
Ufomammut have been often accused in the past of writing songs and albums bigger than themselves. But with this work, which comes after 18 years since the band’s formation, we can say that the band has eventually reached its maturity. Their last work signs the definitive inscription of the band among the masters of modern sludge. The ambition that these musicians had always manifested in their previous works has been finally combined with a brilliant capacity of songwriting and a particular attention to every detail of the production process. Passion and experience generated a memorable result, an album that has the full potential to leave a clear mark in the sludge and stoner world.
HOUSE OF THE DEAD by Ordos
Ordos is the name of an incredible stoner-doom band from Sweden, which released early this year their second album, House of the Dead. The LP follows their 2013’s homonymous debut work.
The band does nothing to hide that their sound is inspired by the legacy of the the 70’s, and although there are no particular traces of innovation in their music, the product that they have packed for this new album is so incredibly addictive that the lack of novelty is not perceived at all.
I’ve fallen in love with House od the Dead since the first time I’ve heard it on Spotify, and the initial positive impression remained unchanged – indeed it has further grown – after many and many other listens of the album. I’m convinced that this record has got all the necessary elements to excel: the variety of the songs, an incredible enjoyability of the riffs, the perfection of the production, the skill of all the musicians and also the right level of roughness which makes the product genuine.
And as a matter of fact, day after day this album has become one of the favourite LPs of the year, well beyond the boundaries of sludge, stoner and doom. Competition was tough this year for the Top Ten chart, but in true honestly there have never been doubts that this record would have given the way to some other contender.
As per today, the number of mixtapes that were published on the blog during 2017 settles just above 80, which makes an average of a new playlist every 4 or 5 days. Among these mixtapes, some of them became particularly appreciated by the readers of the blog and I’m collecting here the most popular compiliations for you to enjoy them once again. And stay tuned because a final bunch of compilations are expected in the coming days to celebrate the best music of the year!
And remember that there are many free on-line services that you can use to download these mixes and listen them off-line. Just make a search on your search engine and you’ll be provided with many alternatives.
Guitar Jazz, when the magic travels on six strings
Featuring Ferenc Snetberger. Ralph Towner, Jakob Bro, John Abercrombie (R.I.P.) and Mary Halvorson.
Best of Piano Jazz in 2017
Featuring Tigran Hamasyan, MEM3, Colin Vallon, Note Forget, Omer Klein, Jan Lundgren, Omar Sosa, Adrien Chicot and Cameron Graves.
SKYRIM BELONGS TO THE NORDS – An Epic Metal Compilation
Featuring Jeremy Soule, Nightwish, Amorphis, Myrath, Orphaned Land, Therion, TYR, Serious Black, Arthemis, Battle Beast and Lacuna Coil.
KINGS OF THE ROAD – Music for Stoners
Featuring As They Come, Cairo Knife Fight, Mastodon, Sasquatch, Bang Bangalow, Kadavar, Cortez and All Them Witches.
Drops of Ancient Melodies – Classical Inspired Modern Contemporary Jazz
Featuring Benedikt Jahnel, Gwilym Simcock, Michael Wollny, Note Forget, Iiro Rantala and Aaron Goldberg.
I’ve assembled an explosive compilation with the best of modern STONER, which features the best songs released in the last 12 months. Stoner veterans such as Mastodon, John Garcia and Sasquatch are accompanied by more recent musical realities like All Them Witches and As They Come. You’ll find here experimental and psychedelic tracks tracks played by Cairo Knife Fight and Kadavar together with more conventional stoner pieces from Brant Bjork and Cortez.
Enjoy the playlist and come back from time to time because new tracks will be added as soon as a new stoner masterpiece is released.
Enjoy an healty dose of stoner rock with this compilation of the best songs released in the year and also a few gems from the past. This is an uniterrupted flow of distorted, groovy and heavy sounds, this is the music of the desert.
The list of artists featured in the mix includes a number of bands which have released their last album in the last few months, such as All Them Witches, Cortez, Lowcaster, Mammoth Mammoth, Mastodon, Royal Thunder, and Sasquatch.
The mix features also a few songs from albums released in 2016, such as Brant Bjork, Kyng, Red Fang, Truckfighters, and Wo Fat.
Finally, the mix is closed with a couple of gems from the history of stoner rock, I’ll let you discover and enjoy them at the end of the compilation.