New York’s Magnetic Eye Records seem to have a knack for digging up bands that sit comfortably in the realms of stoner rock and doom but don’t conform to the scene’s stereotypes. I’m thinking of bands like Elephant Tree, Heavy Temple and Besvarjelsen as heavy, riffy bands that bring a more… cerebral approach to their rock. Now, I’m personally a big fan of the scene’s more well-worn stereotypes, but it’s definitely good to know that there’s a label out there putting out heavy records that don’t feature muscle cars, cannabis leaves or goats’ heads on the front cover.
Anyway: Domkraft, a three-piece from Stockholm who have been around for a while – Sonic Moons is their fourth album and they recently had a jaunt over to the UK to play ArcTanGent Festival (I mention this as they also played in Bournemouth, which is vaguely local to me and I only found out over a week after the event). Now, the slightly cartoonish album cover and Facebook page motto of ‘Riff. Hook. Repeat until numb.’ doesn’t really fit with what I’d usually expect from Magnetic Eye, but never fear – the music contained within very much falls under the label’s MO of ‘stoner-doom with an interesting twist’.
Opening track Whispers gives you an idea of the rocky goodness to come, and gives me a welcome opportunity to make an obscure and unhelpful comparison: do you remember the Iota album Tales released on Small Stone fifteen or so years ago? Well, if not you should go and listen to it as it’s an excellent record, and if you’re familiar with it I’d say that Whispers would sit comfortably on it – heavy riff rock featuring crunchy metallic guitars, rumbling lysergic bass and a generous lathering of space rock flavouring. It’s an expansive track that never feels like it’s meandering and is pretty darned awesome.
Stellar Winds is similar in tone but follows a more conventional quiet-verse-loud-chorus format that gradually builds in intensity. I’m torn on this one as at seven and a half minutes it’s quite substantial. On some listens I’ve felt as though it doesn’t really go anywhere, on others it feels as though Domkraft hit the jackpot in hypnotic riffy nirvana.
crunchy metallic guitars, rumbling lysergic bass and a generous lathering of space rock flavouring…
Magnetism slows the pace and ups the heaviness, rolling out a satisfyingly weighty, vaguely Middle-Eastern flavoured riff that demands you nod along to the irresistible groove. Next up is Slowburner which was the first single (should such a thing still exist) released. I can definitely see the logic of this as it’s one of the more straightforward tracks on the album, alternating between choppy palm-muted sections and a big, arse-kicking riff that serves as a chorus. It’s a quality track that always grabs the attention.
Downpour and Black Moon Rising feel like they’re setting you up for the big finale, which is where my only real criticism of the record comes. The former is a decent space rock-tinged track driven by a rolling bassline, whereas the latter is the heaviest on the record with a sweet verse section where the guitar and bass lock together for some neutron-star heavy chugging.
After these starters, you’re ready for the main course of The Big Chill, which I had every expectation of being an epic, sprawling, fuzz rock odyssey transporting me to the edges of the cosmos. Sadly, I always find it rather anti-climactic. It’s by no means terrible but clocking in at nearly ten minutes, it feels like a substantial addition to an already substantial record and doesn’t feel interesting enough to justify its running time.
Even allowing for my minor gripe though, Sonic Moons is still an excellent album. It rewards repeated listens and I’m sure you’ll enjoy exploring the interstellar rock heaviness contained therein.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc