In a musical landscape of introspective lockdown albums and scathing indictments of injustice, sometimes you need a sticky bongful of dope puns and raucous doom to turn on, tune down and drop out. In glorious mind-melting technicolour, TONS are here to supply a grooving nightmare of sludge as harsh as that first toke.
From the cover art and song titles, one might expect levity and humour from this record but it’s quickly clear that TONS are aiming to elicit more a sneer than a jovial chuckle. There’s a monumental approach that sets them apart from the sound of UK or US doom, pulling more toward the despondent stoned-ness of Toner Low, and a courting of extremity that moves in the other direction to their recent split-release-mates Bongzilla (Doom Sessions Vol. 4). I remember when my friend Tom collapsed his lung doing buckets in the basement. Sometimes bad times are good times.
There’s a definite sense of mischief about TONS, a gruelling monotonous opening (in a good way!) to the record sets us up for a drop into a swamp-boogie thrash-out. Ultra-harsh vocals and buzzing guitars stake a claim that Hashension is more punk than might be immediately apparent, all sharp corners, a frenetic hashish-ism.
a gruelling monotonous opening (in a good way!) to the record sets us up for a drop into a swamp-boogie thrash-out…
This vicious screechy sludge is balanced against more sedate tempos, drawing down into the nod, and – to refer back to Bongzilla again – this is a band that, like the original Amerijuanicans, also know when to give a song a bit of space. Bass and kick-drum rumble on, an ostinato of dread, but the guitar is given room to step back into muted chords or reach out into an epic metal melody. Ummagummo also brings a touch of more mellow stoner triumphalism, lest we forget to worship lady Mary, and serves as a resting place after the more spiky songs that precede it.
TONS seem to have been around for over a decade in some form, but with perhaps a bit of a quiet period from 2014-2018, and while by no means an obscure band, they seem to have not reached broader international renown. Whether this album, released via the increasingly market-dominant Heavy Psych Sounds, is a springboard to general acclaim or stands solely as another celebration of the good grimy feelings accessible through amplified music and intoxication remains to be seen. Regardless, I’ll be blasting this out on a few more disreputable nights when it’s well past bedtime.
Scribed by: Harry Holmes