I suppose that it might just be me, but I suspect that when we were children we all wondered how awesome it would be if we only ever had our favourite thing to eat for every meal. The callowness of youth might suggest that having Findus Crispy Pancakes three times a day for all eternity would be amazing, but I think as adults we’d probably all want a bit of variety. Maybe the occasional fish finger to mix things up so you don’t have to veer too far from foodstuffs covered in neon orange breadcrumbs?
Perhaps the same can be said for our own little corner of heavy known as stoner doom. I love the genre, but even I’m starting to worry that I might be getting a bit burnt out. Which begs the question (and perhaps strains the metaphor a touch too far): is it still possible to enjoy a straight stoner doom record or is it time for us all to search for the musical fish finger??
Now is as good a time as any to find out because up for consideration today is Slumber Woodfrom Swedish four-piece Moon Coven. For the huge majority of the running time it’s pretty much unadulterated stoner doom with nothing stylistically that you haven’t heard many times before: crunchy down-tuned guitar, rumbling bass, pummelling drums and vocals of the echo-y, occult-ceremony-in-the-middle-distance variety. It’s reminiscent of so many heavy bands that it’s hard to identify any particular one as a useful comparator. However, while Slumber Wood doesn’t offer anything startlingly new or different, it’s so well done that I don’t really care. Perhaps it’s because it’s because Moon Coven have been around the block a while (this is their third album), or maybe they were just great songwriters from the beginning.
Album kicker-offer Further opens with an awesome riff that is at once instantly familiar but totally fresh and brings you more rock than some sort of big excavating machine. The groove throughout the track is insistent and irresistible and Moon Coven twig that however great your riff is, you don’t need to hammer away at it for much more than five minutes. Ceremony follows a similar pattern with six more minutes of sweet, head-nodding riffs and creepy, atmospheric vocals. Again, it’s nothing that you haven’t heard many, many times before, but it’s not often that you heard stoner doom paired with tunes as good as these.
it’s ridiculous how many great new riffs Moon Coven have packed into this album…
Potbelly Hill is doomier still, upping the heaviness and slowing the pace a little, but still retaining the groove and melody of the earlier tracks. After this comes Eye Of The Night, which always starts to get me worried that the record is going to run out of steam after such a strong start each time I listen to it. It isn’t bad by any means, but definitely suffers from being just fine in a way that doesn’t distinguish it from the thousands of similar stoner doom tracks you’ve heard before.
Fortunately, help is at hand as mid-album the band head off on an intriguing detour. After a two-and-a-half-minute atmospheric interlude called A Tower Of Silence, they launch into centrepiece Bahgsu Nag. It’s the longest track on the record and feels very different from what comes before and follows it, with a definite space rock vibe. The cleaner guitar work here is excellent and really made me think of Tuber’s Desert Overcrowded: the perfect soundtrack for gazing at the night-sky in the desert and drifting off with the comets. It’s so good that at seven and a half minutes it feels far too short.
After that, normal service is resumed as Seagull kicks in with yet another killer riff that swings its way through another great tune like a battle hammer before My Melting Mind closes proceedings with… yet another crushing doom riff. For such a saturated style of music, it’s ridiculous how many great new riffs Moon Coven have packed into this album.
I did consider returning to my crispy pancake analogy from earlier, but frankly I think that’s best left up top and forgotten about. Slumber Wood is the most consistently excellent stoner doom record I’ve heard for a long while and, if you add in the awesome space rock detour of Bahgsu Nag, I’d say it’s pretty much an essential purchase for anyone who likes their music heavy with a dollop of groove.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc