Update: I’ve published on the blog a mixtape with all the best doom songs of 2018. Two hours of uninterrupted music from ten different bands. Check it out!
Of all the genres of extreme metal, doom is perhaps the most fascinating. Partly because of the mystical and magical themes that are usually addressed by the songs, partly for the dark and “dense” atmospheres that are created by the music.An in fact, even if I’m not particularly passionate or a purists of this kind of music, there are some particular days in which I enjoy to immerse myself in the trascendent expericence of listening to doom metal. It’s a unique experience, satisfying and engaging, but which however requires calm and time.
This year seems to have started really well for doom. In the very first weeks of 2018 we had the opportunity to listen to a few of albums (including Grajo’s and Sinistro’s) which still remain to this day among the most interesting publications of the year, across all genres. And also the following months have been fairly positive. It wasn’t difficult to assemble a list of “best albums”, and we have still more than half of the year for other good LPs.
As usual, this article is not aimed at providing an extensive report of all the doom albums that have been released in the last six months, rather it’s a selection of those few works that in my opinion stand out from the mass because of something particular and unique, that “something” which drives you to listen and listen again to the songs.
And if you arrived here through a search engine, don’t forget to have a look to the section of the blog dedicated to metal, you could find other interesting charts or even updates of the current one.
#1) “SANGUE CASSIA” by SINISTRO
Sinistro, from Portugal, entered the doom metal scene in 2012 with their self-titled debut album and they eventually released in 2018 the third LP of their discography, named Sangue Cassia. From a musical point of view, it’s not easy to tag and characterize this album into a single genre of music. Sangue Cassia may be defined as a variant of the classic doom-metal style which incorporates heavy influences from post metal and some slight elements from sludge.
One of the main features of Sinistro, and perhaps the most brilliant element of their music, is undoubtedly the splendid voice of Patrícia Andrade. Her vocal lines are basically an additional instrument through which the songs of this album manage rise from the status of “regular” metal tracks to something deeper, and special. At times it seems that all the music composed and played by the group was made exclusively to be the soundscape over which the singer could release her charismatic charge and free her splendid voice.
Sangue Cassia is an album for those who have time. Time for long songs, time for repeated listens, time to get rid of all the distractions and be carried away by the incredible music composed by the band. And because of the above, this album is absolutely out of context compared to our days, when most people want simple and short songs to be heard in the background while chatting or driving.
#2) “SLOWGOD II” by GRAJO
Grajo is a psychedelic doom band from Cordoba, in Spain, which is active since a few years and that have published in 2018 their first full lenght record, Slowgod II. Comparing the new album with the previous works from the band it’s possible to recognize how they’re trying to make their music relatively more accessible and, as such, potentially capable to hit a wider audience. The debut LP, however, shows that this has been achieved without compromises in quality and inspiration.
Grajo plays a version of doom metal that manages to move with great ease between trippy moments and more abrasive sections. The LP consists of 6 tracks, all of them interesting and deep, with a couple of peaks which elevate the album among the best things we heard so far in 2018. One of the most interesting characteristic of the music from Grajo is the capacity of these musicians to build up breathtaking atmospheres and to insert so many interesting and varied elements in their songs that, in the end, the experience of listening to the album becomes a very pleasant journey with many stages. It’s easy to recognized the great effort that these guys from Córdoba have put into the realization of this work: the songs are never imprecise or approximate, and the band really managed to balance the multiple influences from which they draw, without ever losing the direction they have given to their music.
#3) “HEXENHAMMER” by Witchsorrow
For many years I’ve been visiting the area of Farnborough, in England, which is home to one of the most important events in the aerospace and defense sector (where I work). I’ve thus become quite familiar with the green hills of Hampshire, where you can still breathe and feel the atmospheres of the Saxon times. These lands so rich in history have guided and inspired the first steps of the British doom metal band Witchsorrow, which released this year the fourth album of a notable and excellent discography.
Hexenhammer, the new LP from the band, generates from the passion and the hard work of three doom metal fanatics, and I like to think that they have been somehow guided by the mystic and creative influence of Lee Dorrian, who’s one of the most important figures of British doom scene. As a matter of fact, Hexenhammer owes a lot to the sounds and style of Lee Dorrian’s band Cathedral, especially for what concerns the perfeect balance between the sung parts and the thick walls of sound that are generated by the guitars. There are of course many other influences in their music, from sludge to stoner, and everything is mixed to perfection.
This is an album that has the potential to become itself a classic and a reference for the future generation of doomers. The quality of this work is absolutely top-notch, both in terms of sound and atmospheres. Of course this music is not easily accessible outside the ranks of the fans of doom and sludge; nevertheless, I believe that everyone should try the experience of listening to a piece of this record, at high volumes, even for just a few minutes, ideally with the night breeze of Farnborough blowing on your shoulders.
The album is available for streaming on Spotify.
#4) “FEAST FOR WATER” by MESSA
Thanks to one of those fortuitous circumstances through which we sometimes discover small niche groups, a few weeks ago I came across the new work of the Italian group Messa, which has released an extremely interesting album called Feast for Water. The band plays an intriguing blend of genres that they define “Scarlet Doom” and which merges basically the sounds of stoner metal with the style and themes of doom. The recipe is further enriched with nice inserts of avant-garde and sonorities of the 70’s, and the final product is then completed with the beautiful voice of the female singer Sara.
What is really fascinating about this album is the global sense of elegance that permeates the entire work: nothing is trivial, exaggerated or rough. Every sound is cured and studied in a meticulous manner and especially when there are the slower and atmospheric pieces it seems to be listening to the sound of a jazz enemble rather than your typical doom metal band. One thing that maybe is lacking in the album is the presence of solid and memorable melodies, something that could stay impressed in our memory for a little longer than just the duration of the song. In some parts of the LP, in particular, it seems that the exterior aspect of the songs take all the attention of the musicians. The band, however, is still young and therefore we can for sure expect many improvements from the point where they are today, which is already well above the average level of the doom music that we can hear around.
#5) “EMBRIO II” by MISTICA
Mística is a doom experimental instrumental duet from Barcelona, in Spain. They began to play in 2016 and recorded their first demo Embrió I in 2017. One year after the duo released their debut LP, Embrió II, which highlights a further improvement over the already interesting material that was published in the EP.
As the band confirms in the release notes of the album, their music draws from the legacy of cult bands such as Celtic Frost and Electric Wizard. They managed however to develop a relatively original style of doom which is characterized by dirty and scratchy sounds, obsessive repetitions and dark atmospheres. The songs are often enriched with excerpts of poems recited in Spanish, and the final result is certainly interesting.
To be a debut album the level of quality is quite good and within the 27 minutes of the LP we have a couple of songs that are engaging to hear and also emotionally impressive. The opening song of the album, in particular, is one of the best doom songs of the year.
#6) WITCH MOUNTAIN (self-titled album)
Witch Mountain is a doom metal band from Oregon, in the U.S.A., whose career has been characterized by moments of stasis, changes in line-up and side projects, with the collateral effect that both the qualitative growth and also the increase in popularity have been relatively slow for a band that is basically active since twenty years.
After a couple of LPs released between 2012 and 2014, the formation went through another reshuffle with Justin Brown and Kayla Dixon taking the roles of bass guitar and vocalist, respectively. With this brand new line-up Witch Mountain released in 2018 their new album, named as the band, which, despite the unfavorable premises, contains however an interesting and solid collection of doom songs, some of them showing also nice influences from stoner and southern rock. The style and skills of the new singer, in particular, has brought a really positive contribution to the sound of the band: we enjoy in many pieces of the album a fascinating contrast between the warm and charming voice of Kayla Dixon and the scratchy sound of the guitars.
In addition to that we have of course all the other typical characteristics of doom, including the slow, obsessive and hypnotic rhythms – in this case with intriguing bluesy flavours. In some parts of the album, however, the riffs would have benefited by some fairly catchier melody to support the dilated temporal extension of the songs, and this is somehow the weak point of the disk.
If you enjoyed reading this article and you liked the music from the selected albums, I recommend to listen to “SLOWLY”, the playlist I created on Spotify with the best of sludge, doom and post-rock. It features most of the bands that were introduced in this article and, most important, it’s updated regularly with new songs. Enjoy!