Review: Various Artists ‘Women Of Doom’

Women Of Doom, released through Blues Funeral Recordings and Desert Records, is a collaborative project inspired by and celebrating the musical impact of women on the doom scene. An album of ten original songs bringing together female musicians, bands with female members and female industry professionals. The cover art, accompanying essay, mastering, and pressing have all been provided by women working within the scene. The project seeks to present itself as part of a collected spirit, with the ultimate hope being that it serves as an inspiration: ‘Women inspiring women. Women inspiring everyone.’

Women Of Doom

Nighthawk and Heavy Temple start things off with Astral Hand. Serpentine riffing and heavy hanging chords, insistent pounding bass, steady kick drums, and overwrought vocals call to mind the commanding majesty of Candlemass. A bold opening statement spearheaded by the controlled power of High Priestess Nighthawk’s soaring vocals.

Amy Tung Barrysmith of Year Of The Cobra has a special ethereal character to her voice that makes full use of the space provided by the minimal arrangement of Broken. Reflective, gloomy, and conversational, but rich and graceful. A delicate but insidious keyboard melody sits atop foreboding minor piano chords. Percussive clicks and rattles are drenched in delay and reverb as they and the low hum of cello, contribute to a sense of expansive darkness.

Besvärjelsen possess a metallic drama that reminds me of Paradise Lost. A Curse To Be Broken develops from a slow tread to a steady gallop driven by subterranean drums. Grim and persevering riffs are laden with a satisfyingly gothic heft and a doomy swing, while the vocals are stately and strong. ‘This time I’m not your saviour’, words from a voice that’s defiant, resolved and determined.

A Skeleton Is Born by MIny Parsonz of Royal Thunder makes use of wind tunnel atmospherics and stark acoustic guitar to present a worn and weary hard-lived vocal. It sounds like doom country with its lumbering bass, distant desert guitars, and rattlesnake percussion. While the track is both dark and gloomy, it has a surprisingly soothing quality effected by the richness and power of Parsonz’ voice.

Like a cross between Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me and latter-day Neurosis, Frayle rest then rattle your bones with Marrow. Slow beating drums and trance-inducing guitar usher in wispy Julee Cruise breathiness, sounding both unnerving and elegant as the vocals undulate from soft whispers to ghostly wails as things take an all-out crushing turn. An effective dichotomy, but a lot more than the obvious contrast of light and shade, especially when things twist into more jarring and unnerving territory.

Featuring ex-members of SubRosa, The Otolith get off to a beguiling start with Bone Dust, as a howling storm cuts abruptly to snaking tendrils of off-kilter guitars and strings. Disorientating and unsettling, hanging and swaying before the full weight of the song descends. The gothic, almost operatic vocals tread a fine line between melody and discord as the strings rise like hackles, tension building to an unbearable place before…everything just fades away. Unexpected and intriguing.

Women Of Doom is a diverse and dynamic collection of weighty and emotive tracks that highlights the formidable female presence in doom and heavy music…

Facade by Doomstress Alexis makes similar use of strings, working in tandem with a sort of stretched-out slowed-down doomed-out Cirith Ungol sound. Some times when I listened to this, I didn’t take to the vocals at all, other times I felt like they were rightfully disturbing, strange, and otherworldly. As the tempo picks up and the strings break out, everything sounds like its contorting and then unravelling, a cacophony of trad doom, mournful strings, and uniquely haunting vocals.

Deathbell switch from meandering guitar and swathes of organ to heavy plodding doom with Coldclaw, maintaining a heightened tension throughout as the guitar and drums emerge to provide a solid backbone for the far-off glory and command of the serene vocals. The keys lift this track to somewhere between 60s Manson chintz, 70s Hammer gothic, and 80s true doom. Rustic, dreamy, and possessed by an occult spell-binding atmosphere.

The penultimate track, A Shadow Covers Your Face by The Keening (Rebecca Vernon, ex-SubRosa), is a stark and sombre piano piece. At first reflective and gentle, the repeating lines build and build before finding their way to a place that sounds like a search for peace. A subtle shift implies a rising tension before the notes hang and then the melody returns with renewed focus as the heavy weight of minor chords rumble underneath. A beautiful piece that sounds like finding your way.

MIny Parsonz returns to close the album with the strength and beauty of Broke An Arrow. Her vocals are mournful, pained, and wistful, but lively and tinged with anger. A piano ebbs and flows as a distant vocal loops. Bass and percussion gently bolster as the song leads to an emotional peak before softly fading away.

Women Of Doom is a diverse and dynamic collection of weighty and emotive tracks that highlights the formidable female presence in doom and heavy music. Much of the music is based on classic and traditional doom styles, as well as having a more expansive scope which takes in all sorts of genres and influences. It’s what you might call ‘doomy’ rather than strictly ‘doom’. And that’s important precisely because it doesn’t matter. This project is about artists doing their own thing and presenting it in a way that doesn’t so much set it apart as show how it belongs.

This project has the power to challenge, reaffirm, or reach out. It presents the potential for positive change, which in its most direct form may just be inspiring someone to come into the fold and discover heavy music. If that someone had previously felt unwelcome, disinterested, or repelled, it’s great to think that this album could make them feel otherwise.

Women Of Doom is not a combative statement. It’s not trying to define doom or women, it’s simply a collaborative and inclusive project that seeks to celebrate and inspire, and maybe most importantly, it’s a fantastic album, too.

Label: Blues Funeral Recordings | Desert Records

Scribed by: Josuph Price