In terms of sheer volume, the last couple of years have been a bumper time for new stoner doom bands to appear, but it hasn’t always manifested as continuously high quality output. There have often been a lot of records treading the same tired ideas over and over again, and I always ended up asking myself whether those riffs, melodies and tones were themselves tired and worn out beyond revival, or whether with the right energy and attitude they could have new life breathed into them.
Bog Wizard and Dust Lord certainly set about this rejuvenation with their respective debut albums last year, both of which were absolutely brilliant and seemed to add new spirit to an increasingly lethargic scene. The question is though, can they keep this resurrection going on their split EP Four Tales Of The Strange?
Although they both fall into the stoner doom genre, and both bands hail from the states, Dust Lord and Bog Wizard are quite different in their thematic ideas and this generates certain nuances that differentiate their sounds. Dust Lord have more in common stylistically with the dessert rock bands such as Kyuss and Fu Manchu, though their indebtedness to Sleep is also quite evident in their cosmic themes. Bog Wizard employ a much darker sound that is closer to the likes of Conan or Cough. Their tales of grim swamps and fantastical monsters are much more downward looking than Dust Lord, and it comes out in the murky fuzz and punishing riffs. Essentially, Dust Lord are gazing up at the stars while Bog Wizard are staring down into hell.
For a bit of context, here are few of the things I wrote about Dust Lord‘s debut album Machine Cult back in August: ‘fuzzy and spacey with a nice spoonful of rock’n’roll, a few drops of melancholy and just a dash of psychedelia’, ‘a nice hybrid bake of stoner and old-school doom, with vocals that sound like they came straight from the early sludge scene’, ‘a sci-fi themed wonder full of delicious riffs cooked to perfection.’ While their contributions to this split are both pretty good, they don’t quite fill me with the same enthralment as Machine Cult.
Their side of the record starts with Career Opportunities, with a big catchy riff that is pushing the silicon fuzz to its outer limits. However, it goes on for nearly four minutes with very little to colour in the canvas. Eventually the track moves on to its second leg, another massive stoner riff with a bit more melody and some harmonising guitar leads. We’re six minutes in before it launches off, giving us a new set of Sabbath-esque riffs and melodies that are accompanied by a huge roaring vocal. It’s a complete transformation of the track, bringing forth a ferocious energy and an addictive groove.
Dust Lord and Bog Wizard are two of the finest and most exciting new acts in the scene…
Their second track, Not Men Not Women Not Beasts, kicks off sounding like Cathedral at their haziest before dropping an octave into a filthy Electric Wizard style riff. We’re half way through before the classic doom riffs enter and things get a little more colourful with those thrilling vocals and splintering guitar lines. The band introduce an intriguing middle section with some dark melodies and chugging riffs, though I think they could have done a bit more with this before heading back into their comfort zone.
Here’s a little of what I wrote in September about Bog Wizard‘s debut album From The Mire: ‘Bog Wizard‘s music hurts, but it hurts in a good way’, ‘a relentlessly heavy journey through stoner doom riffs and smokey atmospheres’, ‘on repeat listens there is more to this record than it’s pure heaviness’. Whilst I’m able to say similarly positive things about their two tracks, I’m not entirely convinced that they’re stronger than anything on From The Mire.
Paladin Of Death begins with a highly atmospheric intro, the rain and wind of a storm overlaid by brittle guitar chords and a soft droning synth tone. Once the riffs begin, the gloom starts to wash over and combined with the clean vocals, which have that classic doom tonality, it reminds me of Candlemass at their most depressive. For the chorus things slow down further and the vocals turn to a ripping Chuck Schuldiner-esque growl whilst the guitars mutate into something with added abrasion.
Gelatinous Cube is driven by an unyieldingly heavy riff, and along with the tribal call vocals, it unquestionably brings to mind Conan’s caveman battle doom. It’s brutally depressive for the first four minutes, before a sudden change of tone into an old-school garage/psych style clean section. A creepy guitar line takes the lead while the bass and drums are placed far away in the background, and even when the distortion does kick in, everything remains claustrophobic and tight, before the band head back into the Conan riffing. It’s not the kind of sound you often hear in stoner doom, and whilst I feel it could have expanded into something more, I can’t fault the band for trying out something rather interesting.
I’m not sure that Four Tales Of The Strange would be enough on its own to convince new listeners of either band’s brilliance. That’s not so say the tracks aren’t decent and worth your time, and there are certainly some fantastic and highly enjoyable moments on both sides of the record, but I don’t feel quite as thrilled having listened to this split as I did when I listened to Machine Cult or From The Mire. I still believe both Dust Lord and Bog Wizard are two of the finest and most exciting new acts in the scene, but for me, that quality is better displayed on their respective debut albums.
Scribed by: Will J