Earlier this year, independent music distribution platform Bandcamp claimed that many stoner rock bands are in fact doom metal. This is a common logical fallacy based around associating the pace and instrumental tone of the music with actual musical content. The stoner “doom” trend of bands that started in the late 90s and early 2000s and has continued non-stop right up until the present almost twenty years later was one of the earliest hipster attempts to assimilate heavy metal before the waves of speed, death, and now black metal aesthetics rehashed into pop rock for the safe space generation.
War Iron released their first album in 2010 with the explicit intention of making pulverizing heavy music and creating bone-crushing riffs. If they accomplish the first of these is up to each particular listener to decide, the second is true by the very nature of slow-tempo, duple-time patterns played in de-tuned guitars with incredibly fat but clear distortion. But music with a profound and long-lasting repercussions, that is, with depth, relies on its concrete and intrinsic (rather than an external argument for possible) multiple levels of appreciation, which go beyond attributes of heaviness.
As the sharp observer of metal artwork covers may notice, the colors and penmanship of Procession of the Equinoxes are a fair warning of what this music is and what it is not. The lyrical topics are a cartoonish and theatrical representation of topics deemed occult and dark in popular culture. It is then no surprise that the music is consistent with these as well. Sludge (a slow counterpart to the vacuous Stoner) riffs march in procession. One by one they march. They do not talk to each other, they do not communicate anything. They do groove though. And they groove heavily. And then the album is over.
Fans of intense and heavy riffing, slow trudging music and a cool, and dark atmosphere that feels like the music accompanying a recitation of Evil Dead‘s Necronomicon will love this for its uncompromising devotion to heaviness.
2013 has been a big year for Coffins, with the release of their debut album The Fleshland for Relapse Records in July and the recent announcement of their upcoming appearance at Baltimore’s Maryland Deathfest in 2014. Coffins toured with Noothgrush in 2013 in Japan, thus it is not surprising that the two, who have gifted each other with fresh ideas, have decided to release a split EP on Southern Lord Records.
While Coffins have always had their fair share of sludge influence, the band up the ante by incorporating more stoner rock riffing and melody. The result is slower and stripped down, with less of an Autopsy and more inspiration from Eyehategod. The band still retain their core sound with mid-paced riffing hybridizing Coffins’ downpicked death metal chug and Noothgrush’s crawling musical ethic. Lead work, although sparse, brings a brightly colored spark. The drums straddle the line between D-beat infused percussion in the style of Deathstrike and the breakdowns that are archetypal to the sludge hybrid-genre. Inflected riffing pounds through both tracks in the stoner metal style, inserting absurd jauntiness into droning music.
Noothgrush on their half of the split apply characteristic sludge riffing accompanied by sample-infused soundscapes which provide abstract narratives pertaining to the song titles. The material retains an earthy, doomy sound without digitised production artifacts. “Jundland Wastes” samples the kick drum from “Tusken Raiders” amidst desert winds, reminiscent of the tripped out atmospherics of “Dystopia” but with a more concrete narrative function. “Thoth” follows in very much the same footsteps, with a sample-driven interlude halfway through — complete with layers of ear-piercing feedback and tasteful synth pads — provides a welcome break from the crushing, monolithic riffing.
Whilst Noothgrush ominously work their trademark, sample inflected sludge machine, Coffins’ foray into the sludgier side of the doom-influenced musical spectrum is somewhat generic; it feels lacklustre in comparison to Noothgrush’s experienced assault. Where Noothgrush manage to keep things interesting, if a bit mundane, Coffins’ offering for this split EP feels rushed and uninspired.