Doom metal has always been a celebration of traditional heavy metal. Though the biggest influence for genre is Black Sabbath, proto-metal bands like Blue Cheer, Budgie, Sir Lord Baltimore, and Flower Travellin’ Band also had a hand in shaping doom. Bands like Candlemass and Count Raven used a lot of melody in their sound, bringing influences from the NWOBHM into the doom metal melting pot. Sleep and Electric Wizard took the sheer volume of Blue Cheer, and slow, brooding pace of Black Sabbath, and forged them into stoner doom. Cincinnati, Ohio’s Blessed Black take a little bit of all of this, and have crafted a fantastic debut in the form of Beyond the Crimson Throne.
Blessed Black start things off with the instrumental “The White Wolf,” which balances out the heaviness with a strong melodic edge, and lets the listener know right away what to expect. The riff on “The Black Gate” reminds me of Grand Magus, who have a similarly epic-sound that mixes stoner doom with classic NWOBHM melodies. Vocalist Joshua Murphy (who also plays guitar in thrash metal outfit War Curse) has a rich, occasionally gritty baritone that perfectly compliments the huge sound the rest of the band pumps out. “The Shadows” has a heavy Black Sabbath riff that will be stuck in your head for days, and also shows a slightly soulful side to Murphy’s vocals.
If there was one word I could use to sum up Beyond the Crimson Throne, it would be “majestic”. The riffs are larger than life, the drums and bass give the tunes a strong backbone, and the vocals pack energy and emotion into every line sung. Though Blessed Black can certainly be considered part of the stoner metal crowd, the production isn’t quite as fuzzed out as most other releases are in this genre. The guitars are heavily distorted, but come across crystal-clear in the mix; while the overall sound on this record is clean, the riffs lose none of their heavy potency. If you were to mix Elder, High On Fire, and The Skull, you’d get a pretty good idea of what to expect before listening to Blessed Black. The production on Beyond the Crimson Throne is undeniably modern-sounding, but tracks like “Heavy is The Crown” and “Arioch’s Bargain” have some pretty classic metal-influenced riffs. If you like your doom sprinkled with melody, mid-paced heavy riffs, and a nice clear production, Blessed Black might be just what the doctor ordered.