Tape Wyrm XIX: The New Doom Tape Wyrm XIX: The New Doom

Early 2012 Doom

Doom technically predates all existing styles of metal. The transition from hard rock to heavy metal was marked by a dark lyrical change as well as a sonic embrace of low end. These characteristics are still the signposts of doom. Before metal splintered into the grandchildren of speed (black, death, thrash, power) it swayed, crawled and swaggered. It was doom before it had its name. Doom is prehistoric. It is a dinosaur which not only celebrates its past but makes strides towards the future.  

While doom has always existed, the early part of 2012 has been a tremendous quarter for slow heavy records. With multiple high profile releases combined with equally strong underground albums, doom has been making its way out of obscurity and into new living rooms. Much like black metal in the mid 00’s, doom is being appreciated by new audiences. This is perhaps the era of narcotic crawls, of darkened skies, and of ruined civilizations.    

Doom is interesting as it holds different styles all with varying characteristics. Stoner, drone, sludge, traditional, gothic, death, blackened, and funeral are all practiced in contemporary metal culture. To illustrate my point regarding variation I present 10 records, all from 2012, all from the doom sub-genre, but with vastly different proposals and conclusions.  

I wish this article could be used as the harbinger of a new era on appreciation for doom. Perhaps all styles of metal become interesting given the right amount of patience. Even if doom does not experience a renaissance and continues with midway appreciation, one can still take solace in the fact that it’s never boring.

Of course, I have made a playlist bringing together all available albums for streaming. Additionally, For anyone interested in the history of the style. I have put together a playlist of classic doom milestones and highlights which span across 40 years.  


New Doom Playlist [spotify]
Classic Doom Playlist [spotify]

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Pallbearer – Sorrow and Extinction

We might as well talk about Pallbearer. Across the greater metal landscape this Arkansas band has been bestowed a great amount of praise and responsibility. Due to their appearance in indie rock and non metal magazines, Pallbearer is perhaps the introduction of doom metal (besides Black Sabbath) to a vast majority. Much like Wolves In The Throne Room, Pallbearer has been receiving counter criticism for their overnight popularity. The punchline to the previous statement is it is all deserved. When experienced as a whole, Sorrow and Extinction crystallizes funeral dirges, epic doom, and gothic tendencies into one record. It is also a surprisingly wonderful hangover record. Perhaps one of the reasons for its accessibility are the clean and wailing vocals which drift over waves of harmonized riffs and earth shattering low end. Pallbearer will most likely be seen and felt in the end of the year due to an outstanding performance on this record. Newcomers, veterans doom fans, and people with chronic hangovers could possibility find potential in Sorrow and Extinction. It may not be for everyone but in all likely hood, it is for you.

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Pilgrim – Misery Wizard
Continuing with the theme of popular doom we arrive at Pilgrim. Pilgrim is not as popular as Pallbearer yet their 2012 release Misery Wizard has received much needed attention. Comparing Pilgrim to Pallbearer will reveal critical differences. Pilgrim plays a complex variety of doom. The band is almost split between a straightforward stoner doom and a more interesting traditional doom which drones and scares little children. Pilgrim centers themselves around stories of magic and fantasy. If you know me personally, then I am clutching my Conan comics and doing a dance. The three marathon tracks on Misery Wizard celebrates the very essence of doom by taking a standard metal song and stretching it to 14 minutes. Within that elongated space comes the appreciation for subtlety and nuance before it all crashes like an avalanche.

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Frailty – Melpomene

Let us get this out of the way. The album art for Frailty’s Melpomene in no way speaks to the caliber of music inside. Frailty is a Latvian death/doom outfit which amplifies their struggling national identity through an album full of uneasy dislocation. The cross between death and doom is already an odd fit. To add synth and gushing melancholia sends it over the top. Many things work for Frailty but the shining aspect of this record are the vocals. The drenched growl from Martins Lazdāns is teeming with gothic sorrow raised in the dysfunctional house of death. Additionally, the track lengths on Melpomene vary from the brief 5 minutes to the more common 14. The result is 76 minutes of confused anger and sadness which somehow and surprisingly succeeds. Album art aside, Frailty deserves the attention of death metal fans who are in need of some deep emotional catharsis.

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Lethian Dreams – Season of Raven Words

Gothic and symphonic doom come with a very concrete reality. The female presence in this family is staggering with the majority of singers posed as feminine narration set against a dying world of destruction. While most “classic” doom is male driven, the amount of female fronted doom metal bands is overwhelming. Lethian Dreams is a French duo who have made the jump into female fronted vocals after their Bleak Silver Streams debut. Comparing Season of Raven Words to their previous effort is difficult. While the same atmosphere is employed, the effect is vastly different. Season of Raven Words is an exquisite record which uses shoegaze techniques as an advantage rather than a selling point. Both iterations of this band are with merit but Season of Raven Words is phenomenal. From album art to style, Lethian Dreams is a superior act pushing recognition for an under-appreciated branch of doom.

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Black Pyramid – II

Inherently, stoner rock/doom is a throwback genre recreating the styles of proto-metal enhanced with modern technology. Many stoner rock/doom acts fail because of their inability to push past recreation and costuming. Black Pyramid succeeds because no one told the band the 70’s ended. Following their successful 2009 self titled debut, Black Pyramid hits harder in an equally strong sophomore record which drives, pushes, and tackles all at once. At 60 minutes, the band shines during their longer tracks (into The Dawn, Dreams of The Dead) due to an almost limitless area for creation. II reminds me heavily of The Sword’s debut record. I may be biased but I am already stoned in my basement with headphones.

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Lurk – Lurk

Sludge doom is a primarily American style. Sludge began as a fusion between doom and hardcore punk and has its roots stretched back into late 70’s and early 80’s. While the style had its formative period during the early 90’s in regions like New Orleans and Washington, the influence rippled through the globe. In 2012, sludge can now be experienced via multiple countries including Finland, with the entrance of Lurk and their self titled debut. By all lab tests and scientific analysis this is a stellar first hypothesis. With the help of elongated post metal, Lurk trolls along the bottom of an ocean floor gulping pounds of water into their buccal pump before pushing it through their gills to respire. Sorry, my wife is studying fish physiology for her test tomorrow. Lurk is massive and their hatred towards the human race comes in multiple waves of resonating riffs. Even in Finland the traditional despondency of sludge can break cultural barriers and produce an album of vile anguish.

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Nahrayan – The Beginning Of The End

And as we round the roulette of doom we land on post metal. Post metal was huge in the mid 90’s before being subjected to equally large criticism and derivations. Perhaps there is only so far to go with elongated doom which is played at the bottom of an oceanic trench. Post Metal, like post rock, means something different today as the majority of post metal bands are merely heavy instrumental acts rather than experimental doom. I understand I may be splitting hairs, and everyone at this party has left, but we are getting to Nahrayan. During the early 2000’s, Nahrayan was an unsigned Spanish post-metal/atmospheric doom metal band who created two incredible yet virtually ignored records. Since 2007, the band has been officially disbanded for various reasons but if I were to guess I would place my bets on internal frustration. 2012 marks a new dark chapter for the band as they release The Beginning Of The End. While the title sounds like a retrospective compilation, it is a new full length album posed to storm the hill and reclaim post metal once again. At first glance, Nahrayan appears to be another Isis / Neurosis knock off with dark album art and moody yet poetic song names. The funny part, however, is The Beginning of the End is not only good, it is equal if not stronger than all of Nahrayan’s releases combined. The band has pulled their collective forces and offered post metal a record which could be a milestone or resuscitation for the genre.

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Asphyx – Deathhammer

What? Are you fucking kidding me? I haven’t written, mentioned, or alluded to a retrospective on Asphyx during my tenure at Tape Wyrm? This will not do. I understand I already talked about death/doom previously but Asphyx begs for more understanding. First and foremost, Asphyx is a death metal band who uses doom to accentuate their brand of putrid evil. Much like Autopsy and Incantation, Asphyx downtunes deathmetal to a lumbering crawl and rips insides out in slow motion. Ohh, its 2012 and Asphyx is still making records which peel the skin from my face? Amazing. Deathhammer is the groups 10th album celebrating 20 years in existence. While Lineups become sketchy around the mid 90’s, Martin van Drunen (vocalist for Pestilence and Asphyx’s two earliest albums) retains vocal duties following the band’s reunion in 2009. Is this album a thin death/doom played by 50 year olds who are desperately trying to reclaim their youth by taking a last stab at glory? Fuck no and you will pay for those remarks. Deathhammer is a triumph and, much like the band which created it, deserves an audience.

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Swallow The Sun – Emerald Forest and the Blackbird

Swallow The Sun is in league, in terms of popularity, with Pallbearer. The similarities and parallels, however, fall short. Swallow The Sun has been around for much longer than Pallbearer and their fanbase seems to be concentrated more on hardcore fans of epic melodic doom. To even begin enjoying Emerald Forest and the Blackbird comes with extensive research and appreciation of the band’s near 10 years in existence. By the first track into Emerald Forest and the Blackbird, the listener is aware of an extensive structure of atmosphere and close attention to detail. Emerald Forest and the Blackbird is less an album and more a diagram to the greatest theater production ever made. Clean vocals, harsh growls, grief ridden monologues, double kick, breathless ballads, and bombastic symphonies all work together to create a theater of eternal suffering. To appreciate Emerald Forest and the Blackbird and to a larger extent Swallow the Sun, one must meet the band half way and suspend dissatisfaction for melodramatic elements. Once you have locked the door and disconnected the phone, Emerald Forest and the Blackbird is pleasing and goddamn amazing.

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Ufomammut – Oro: Opus Primum

Hearing people describe music in terms of density and weight is strange. Hearing the term “heavy” is odd. While I am sure there are scientific attributes such as sonic levels and tempo which contributes to “heavy,” the term seems to still be very subjective. Perhaps people just know when something is heavy and mimics a planet colliding with another. Ufomammut is an Italian experimental trio who uses their records as a psychedelic journey through the galaxies of sludge, drone, and doom. The band plays metal in the same way early German krautrock did but just with weight measured in tons. 2012 will see two records released apart of one world ending opus. Oro: Opus Primum, as a record lacks the superficial qualities for instant hooks. The songs, which run from 7 to 14 minutes are a dense blanket of droning fuzz and buried vocals. Once one can accept this,Oro: Opus Primum is outstanding. Ufomammut’s music has always been based around the build of heavy riffs.Oro: Opus Primum is a terrifying and exciting freefall into a void with rapidly changing pressure. If any album is capable of inducing the bends, it is this one. This Fall will see the release of Oro: Opus Alter, but at this moment, Spring and Summer will burn.

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Well you have read the entire article, or just skipped down to the bottom for no apparent reason. While I have your attention before your next wild foray into the world of social media and hardcore pornography, I would like to take this opportunity to talk about me. First of all Tape Wyrm has a Facebook page where you can get metal videos delivered to your front door without the hassle of dressing nice. Secondly I participate in a weekly music podcast called Champions of the Universe. For the majority of the podcast, I make everyone listen to new metal records. But I also have a deep love for disco and 1950’s lounge. Wow, you are still reading this aren’t you?

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One Response about “Tape Wyrm XIX: The New Doom”

  • ZeagleFiend says:

    Thanks. Doom is my favourite subgenre, so I’m definitely bookmarking this for some further exploration.