Review: Jointhugger ‘Surrounded By Vultures’

Norwegian doom outfit Jointhugger is a band full of surprises. Starting with the band name, I thought I was going into a heavily downtuned, fuzzed out and noisy stoner doom record. Although they check most of these boxes, their latest album, Surrounded By Vultures, is way more nuanced and takes a lot of risks that catches you off guard, even after several listens. Surrounded By Vultures was released on 31st October, and it’s Jointhugger’s second release on Majestic Mountain Records.

Jointhugger ‘Surrounded By Vultures’

There certainly are elements of stoner doom but combined with manic prog-riffs and nods to psychedelic rock, you can’t really put Jointhugger in one single box.

The album opens with a second chapter of the In Dire Need Of Fire chronicle; a massive, instrumental psych-epic that over the course of eight minutes evolves and delves deeper. Alternating between psychedelic and crushing stoner doom, it’s a journey you don’t want to end… Until it does, and you’re completely thrown off by an intense, yet odd and proggy outro! It’s manic and trancelike, reminiscent of early King Crimson. A solid opening track to this album, and definitely a highlight!

Next is Midnight, the lead single, and the longest track on the album. It’s heavy, classic doom directly from the swamps. Yet it manages to make an impression with the high octaves that cut through the mix, keeping things interesting. The layered vocals make for a warm and big sound – clean vocals with a kind of bluesy feel adds a significant layer to the overall sound. About halfway in the tempo, and feeling changes, becoming more vicious and aggressive. Jointhugger really knows how to catch you by surprise and write constantly developing songs.

Alternating between psychedelic and crushing stoner doom, it’s a journey you don’t want to end…

Empty Space continues in the same manner as Midnight while adding that psychedelic vibe. Although the vocals sound very close to the previous track, the instrumentals are dynamic and evocative and fit so well together, which is also thanks to the production on this album – It’s warm and at the same time gritty. Nothing seems to drown in the mix, and the bass and guitar really complement each other, ensuring this warm and gritty sound.

The muddy grooves on Delysid Rex is another great example of this, that also show off how well Jointhugger elaborates their ideas and riffs. Contrary to their ‘catch-you-off-guard’ moments, Delysid Rex slowly and subtly keeps adding pieces, making for a very natural song progression.

Finishing the album, The Calm share a common thread with the two first tracks in terms of song structure, classic doom and one last proggy outburst. The fact that three out of five tracks do this says a lot: The formular doesn’t get worn out by any means, as these ideas are so well incorporated to the structure of the songs.

Surrounded By Vultures is a very enjoyable album that explores the limits of the genre, and with great success! One drawback for me would be that the vocals lean a bit too much to the blues inspired, making it difficult to really distinguish the vocal melodies. Regardless, this is an interesting take on the genre and a record that will leave you wanting more.

Label: Majestic Mountain Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Emil Damgaard Andersen