Twingiant – Devil Down
Location: Arizona, USA
Label: Self released.
Thanks to bands like Fu Manchu and Queens Of The Stone Age acting as a gateway drug to stoner metal (pun totally intended), there are legions of bands devoted to the power of the riff. If you’ve got a Sunn or Orange amp, a guitar, and a handful of Black Sabbath-approved riffs, you too can start a heavy band! Therein lies the issue, however: while everybody CAN start a band, not everybody SHOULD, since this usually leads to over-saturation of the market, and a lot of mediocrity being forced down the throats of the listeners.
Stoner metal isn’t immune to this problem, and it is indeed experiencing what I consider to be an over-saturation, which causes me to get a bit leery when I see bands labeled “stoner.” That being said, I do get pleasantly surprised on occasion, and the latest release by Phoenix, Arizona’s Twingiant, Devil Down, is one such case.
The opening track, “Old Hag,” is a bit deceptive in its laid-back atmosphere; coming across as a desert rock piece that could easily be on any Brant Bjork release. Although the mood lulls the listener into a sense of serenity, be warned; massive riffs quickly follow, not even waiting for the first song to end before kicking you right in the teeth. Sure, there are plenty of twangy-sounding guitar bits scattered throughout Devil Down (check out the intro for “Under A Blood Moon”) and several Sabbath-like riffs (the title track, “Devil Down” is a great example), but Twingiant are no copycats. The vocals really stand out; they sound like an enraged Sasquatch, with vocalist/bassist Jarrod Leblanc managing to ride the line between guttural yells and gruff singing. Call it yelling in key, if you want, one thing it can definitely be labeled as is unique; the burliness of the vocals work in tandem with the often mammoth-sized riffs to create a crushingly heavy atmosphere.
While production can often be the weak point for many modern stoner records, that’s certainly not the case here. The tone is somewhat hazy, almost as if the songs are drifting in via smoke signals (pun also intended) but not so much that you lose clarity or power. While there’s plenty of low-end to go around, the guitars also have melodic riffs that lie somewhere between lead and rhythm, giving the songs an old-school metal vibe at times.
Devil Down is a thoroughly enjoyable record, and will certainly gain Twingiant some more fans and recognition.
Keeper / Sea Bastard – Split
Location: USA and UK
Label: Medusa Crush/Dry Cough/Tadpole Records/Black Reaper Records
Over the years doom metal has become a genre that encompasses a wide variety of sounds. You need look no further than Candlemass and Electric Wizard to see what I mean. Much like death and black metal, doom comes in many forms, and the split between Keeper and Sea Bastard is an excellent example of this. Though both bands have more sonic common ground than Candlemass and Electric Wizard, they’re still two very different animals.
The first half of the split is dedicated to a monolithic track entitled “777,” by California’s Keeper. The droning (yet crushingly heavy) guitars remind me of noise-mongers SunnO))), particularly in terms of tone and pacing. Lurching and siren-like, the guitars create a nightmarish landscape with a slightly blackened tone, backed by shrieking vocals in the vein of Lord Mantis and Indian. There’s not much in the way of variation for the duration of the 14 minute track, but fans of this type of doom are preconditioned to ride it out anyway, and the riffs are heavy enough that all is forgiven, and time passes by pretty quickly.
On the flip side, UK’s Sea Bastard offer up a slab of heavy doom in the form of “Astral Rebirth,” clocking in at nearly 21 minutes! Much like Keeper, Sea Bastard have a repetitive, hypnotic riff that stretches out over the length of much of the song, but where Keeper delve into drone/black metal territory, Sea Bastard opt for a sludgy, crust-influenced doom sound, similar to Samothrace. Chord changes take a while to pan out, but when they do it is well worth the tense build up, and will have your head bobbing along. The vocals are a deeper death-growl style than those on the Keeper track, which serves to separate the two bands’ sound even further. Around 8 minutes in, the drums and vocals drop out, leaving the guitars to slug it out with a sound akin to Special Low-Frequency Version-era Earth, before picking up the pace with higher pitched shrieks and faster drums, complete with double bass.
This split is definitely in the running for being one of the heaviest doom releases of 2015. There’s just enough difference between the two bands to make this a diverse sounding record, despite only containing two songs, and listeners will no doubt want to delve in to the discography of each band.