Review: Dopethrone ‘Broke Sabbath’

I’ve been a fan of Electric Wizard since their Dopethrone album came out. If truth be told I had a cassette copy for a few years before picking up the 2 CD set with Come My Fanatics also included… now there’s a diploma in just about everything you need to know about latter-day British sludge doom right there! So, with this in mind it’s perhaps slightly contrary that before Broke Sabbath, I’ve never consciously sat down and listened to the band named Dopethrone. Maybe the level of presumed ‘imitation is the highest form of flattery’ was just too much for me to bother with?

Dopethrone 'Broke Sabbath' Artwork
Dopethrone ‘Broke Sabbath’ Artwork

Broke Sabbath comes to us courtesy of Totem Cat Records and is available now. Far from being a one album flash in the pan tribute (whether that be to Electric Wizard or to Darkthrone), Montreal, Canada’s Dopethrone are now six albums (and numerous EPs/splits) into their career, so clearly, they are doing more than just aping I, The Witchfinder on an infinite loop. The album title’s tip of the hat to the Brummie Godfathers is also an intriguing addition to the equation – does that mean Dopethrone have gone all early-70s in their approach?… can we expect a Vol. 4 like voyage into occasional syrupy balladeering? In a word, hell-no.

Opening track, Life Kills You reminds me more of Ministry than it does anything that you would ordinarily cite as doom. It’s a short, sharp, shock of a track (SSS – now there’s a band I haven’t listened to for a while) and its blistering pace doesn’t let up for the three and a half minutes. As an all-out assault on the senses, you’d have to think that the album couldn’t possibly keep up this level of intensity, and you’d be right, but only just!

Truckstop Warlock (great song title!) does actually start with an Iommi-esque riff, but to my ears, it is robbed of some of its power by the production choices. It’s a case of everything more distorted than everything else, and I think this limits the dynamic impact of the album as a whole. If you don’t have tinnitus already, then you may very well have by the end of the album if you’re listening at ‘I hate my neighbours anyway’ volume.

Whilst Broke Sabbath does include the expected cult horror soundbites between tracks in that oh-so-Wizard way, the seven tracks that make up the album certainly don’t simply mimic Dorset’s finest – there is more going on here than that. In fact, it isn’t really until the third track, A.B.A.C., that I could have honestly said Broke Sabbath really sounds like Electric Wizard. On that track, we have a great slow and lumbering riff delivered with that swing that any fan of sludge will happily lap up.

a great slow and lumbering riff delivered with that swing that any fan of sludge will happily lap up…

One significant point of difference worth noting is the vocals as provided by Vincent Houde – his larynx-shredding performance is more closely related to Jeff Walker of Carcass than it is to anything Jus Oborn has ever delivered, and this certainly gives the whole album a more aggressive and nihilistic feel – it gives an almost EyeHateGod level of filth and the impression that at any moment, the wheels could come off entirely!

That EyeHateGod vibe continues to the strongest degree on the next track, Shlaghammer. If this track had turned up on any said band albums since Take As Needed… then you wouldn’t have questioned it. Rock Slock then ups the ante somewhat, and at over eight minutes long, this is Dopethrone opening up and varying their sound the most, and to my mind, it’s the most memorable track on the record.

Uniworse is the most lyrically interesting (and even comedic?!) track on the album – even the opening sound clip about humans being a curse on the earth stands out amongst the many such snippets. Sultans Of Sin with its similarly ironic nod closes things out with a musical summation of all that’s come before. And the final sound excerpt?… well it’s one of my all-time favourites, but I won’t spoil it for you here.

As it turns out, Dopethrone aren’t only for Electric Wizard fans, and they certainly might not accord with what old-school Sabbath fans might be hankering for, but on Broke Sabbath, the band have birthed a mutant offspring that will delight and disgust the ears of many a sludge fan. Dad note: Just make sure you turn your amp down a bit before you play the record… your speakers and your ears will thank you for it!

Label: Totem Cat Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: David J McLaren