*Note: I know I’m sort of late with this review, but my opinion still applies as much now as when I first heard this record when it was released.
Ok, I know this is the second doom metal album I’ve reviewed this week, but I keep hearing new, interesting releases from this particular sub-genre, and when it’s a slow week for high profile releases, I can always expect to find something enjoyable in the world of just-under-the-surface metal. While the Darkher album I gushed over like a fanboy a little while back wasn’t a traditional doom project, it took what makes the genre so appealing to me and mixed it with other sounds. I guess I just love how the doom sound sort of contradicts some of preconceptions a lot of people have about what makes metal… well, heavy. While most extreme metal groups would think to up the brutality by ratcheting up the tempo and peppering the music with dextrous double kick and blastbeats, doom takes it in the opposite direction, often dropping down to ponderously slow BPMs and hypnotic use of repetition. While this approach often results in bands that just sound like they really want to be Black Sabbath, when some extra forcefulness is applied, you can get some of the heaviest music ever recorded. An obvious but pertinent example of this would be Electric Wizard’s essential Dopethrone, an album so heavy, I needed a U-Haul trailer just to get the CD back to my house from the store! All joking aside, that record was nasty, lumbering, and hypnotic, and totally awesome.
Those are also the words I would use to describe Future Echo Returns, the new record from Slomatics, the band with the most appropriate name ever. This record is slow, heaving, and trippy as hell might I add. While produced a lot less harshly than the shrill high end and the distorted vocals of a record like Dopethrone, I get similar EW vibes as this is running along. The guitars here are tuned pretty close to the bass range, and I’m not sure if there even is bass guitar on this album, to be honest; I couldn’t really hear it if there was. The music trudges along at snail’s pace, but that’s not a criticism, mind you. The sluggish march is essential to the record’s overall attack. The rhythm section is absolutely pounding, yet the spaces in between notes are stretched close to a breaking point before the next note slams into you. It’s a tried and true technique but it’s still really effective here. However, the consistently guttural instrumental approach may grow tiring to some not used to the sound of doom. On top of this, the first several songs are all linked, with each song starting where the last left off, so some may get the impression tha the songs all sound the same, and there may be some validity to that, I think the second half of the record has more in the way of variety than the first half. There’s not much of a break from the dissonant riffing, with two notable exceptions. The first comes in the form of an instrumental about halfway through the runtime with a healthy amount of clean instrumentation. The second is an out of left field but really cool tangent off into a major key chorus in the song “Super Nothing” before returning to all the diminished-fifths that us metalheads love so much.
Another things that adds a level of the unique to this is the enthusiastic embrace of synth sounds. There is a sort of sci-fi vibe emanating from Slomatics, looking at their cover art and some of their lyrics, and the ample amount of synths on this record add to that atmosphere. They never really take a lead role, often functioning as atmospheric pads that set the backdrop for the slamming riffs, thus avoiding the cheesiness that often comes with trying to incorporate keyboards into metal (I’m looking at you, Sabaton). Speaking of pads, the vocals here, while quite good, also function more to the atmosphere than anything else. There’s a good deal of diversity in the singing from traditional rock vocals to some gruffer shouted lyrics, and while they’re riding lower in the mix than vocals usually would, I can see why this was done because they blend really well with the instrumentation, which I think is the real star here.
Overall, this is some good ‘ol fashioned meat-and-potatoes sludgy doom metal, but honestly it’s done really damn well so I’m happy to give this a recommendation. There’s just enough unique texture here to keep it from being too familiar, and let’s face it, we all come to this type of thing for the massive riffs, and this has that in droves.
-Into the Eternal
Released September 2nd, 2016, via Black Bow