Friday, 24 August 2012

Review: Dystopia - S/T

See The World Through Sunken Eyes

Dystopia are a difficult band to pigeonhole. Sure, you could try to label them as a crossover between crust punk and sludge metal, but that would merely be scratching the surface. They are one of those bands that wholly posses their own sound. Their self titled album is the final chapter in their abysmal, misanthropic existence. “An endless downward spiral of misery and pain” is part of a lyric on “Leaning With Intent to Fall”. These words seem to be an appropriate way to describe Dystopia. The band has always focused on negative – the inevitable corruption that plagues politics, drug abuse, domestic abuse, violence and suicide are just some of the unpleasant aspects of modern life that Dystopia dwell on. Their final release is as negative as ever; a deep-rooted hatred of society runs through their music. The band is able to channel that negative energy into something truly creative.

I actually was into Dystopia before I got into metal at all, for me they served as a gateway into the genre. When I first heard Dystopia (I was 14 at the time) I was really into punk, especially crust punk. When I mentioned my tastes, someone recommended Dystopia. I looked them up on the internet and I was immediately intrigued. For one, graffiti isn't something one would usually relate to crust punk. Dystopia had bleak images, as did most of crust punk, but they were doing something much more interesting and creative with those disturbing images. Upon first listen they were a bit more harsh than I was used to, but I quickly became acclimatized to their abrasive sound. This rough sound piqued my interest as to what metal had to offer. As I became more and more obsessed with the band, I learned that the looming release of the final record was to be soon. The band had already broken up and this album was recorded between 2004 and 2005, but was delayed until 2008 because of artwork concerns and whatnot. I soon picked up the album at a record shop in Toronto on clear vinyl, which to this day remains one of the most prized items in my vinyl collection.

This release's sound wavers a bit from Dystopia's previous material. For one, this album is better produced. While the production is not quite as abrasive as some of the band's earlier work, it is still quite a filthy affair. The guitars remain dirty and distorted, and the spirit of the music is as raw as it ever was. While the music is poignantly murky, no instrument is obscured or lost in the mix. The drums are especially well thought out, being high in the mix and produced with more clarity than the rest of the instrumentation. Strong songwriting is an integral component of this music, and like the drums, it does not get lost in the filthy mass that is Dystopia's sound. 

On Dystopia's past releases, both conventional and unorthodox songwriting was applied in fairly equal proportions. While songs like “Hands That Mold” and “They Live” feature pretty conventional songwriting (not to say that the instrumentation isn't experimental) songs like “Sanctity” and “Sleep” spit in the face of convention. The success of “Sanctity” is due largely to it's samples and it's intriguing bassline. On their final effort, the band relies largely on more conventional songwriting. This is no problem, as every song is carefully thought out and made with skillful craft. Dystopia are a band who experiment a lot and this album is no exception. However, that experimentation would be fairly pointless without this strong songwriting. 

Instrumentally, this is largely riff driven. While Dystopia have a penchant for repeating a riff for an extended period of time, they choose their riffs extremely carefully. The riffing is always memorable and hard-hitting. The repetition of the riffs is very effective, as it makes sudden riff changes, which often come with tempo changes, something very forceful and enthralling. For example, on “Illusion of Love”, the change between the fast riffing at the very beginning and the slow sludgy riffing that follows is an extremely effective way of making a dynamic shift that keeps the listener interesting. The fact that it comes after a fast grindcore section makes the sludge riffing all the more crushing. This album's riffs are almost exclusively rooted in sludge. These slow, churning monoliths of riffs are the meat of the record, proving to be an unbreakable backbone. 

The reason Dystopia works so well is that every element of their sound is interesting. Their rhythm section is no exception to this rule. As previously mentioned, their drums are much less abrasive compared to other releases – here they possess an almost organic quality. The drumming is generally somewhat minimalistic, which works well with the way they are mixed. Since the drums are high up in the mix, a constant bombastic fury might drown out the rest of the mix and prove to be a colossal headache. Fast aggressive drumming is included on this released, but it is reserved for the grindcore sections as well as the occasional fill. The fills are a large part of why Dino's drumming is so successful here. While the drumming is usually somewhat restrained, the fills are always well done and imaginative. They make sure the drumming never fades into the background. 

Dystopia have always used the bass as much more than a background instrument. In the past, Dystopia has used loud, fucked up basslines that were heavily distorted. Unfortunately that aspect of their sound is not too prevalent on this release. However, the bass is still put to good use; it does not resign to constantly following the guitar haphazardly. The bass is best put to use in the more atmospheric sections. As the often harrowing atmospheres linger, the bass provides interesting textures, furthering the sense of dark atmosphere while creating tangible (albeit often subtle) melodies to follow. This can be best seen in the intro to “My Meds Aren't Working”.

Much of the Dystopia's charisma lies in the chemistry between the two vocalists. Mauz's vocals are the deeper of the pair. This is by far the best they have ever been. Here his vocals feel more cavernous and ominous than ever. When he screams “See the world through sunken eyes” (a lyric that relates to drug addiction) on “Leaning With Intent to Fall”, you can hear the contempt for humanity in his voice. If Dystopia stayed together and released another album, it would not be a stretch of the imagination to assume that his vocals on that album would be a full blown death growl. Dino's voice is much higher pitched than Mauz's. His voice is filthy and raspy (although not in a way that relates to black metal), which perfectly fit in with the band's crust punk influences. On previous releases, his voice would sometimes end with a whimper, while however silly as that might sound, it was highly effective at portraying the pain prevalent in Dystopia's music. On this release the whimpers are completely omitted from the music, which while effective in the past, works out for the best here. The whimpers wouldn't work very well with this songwriting.

The album starts off with “Now and Forever”, a song that explores time and it's effects on politics and war. It's unlikely that Dystopia could find a better way to start this album. The slow build up that makes up the first three minutes of the song is one of the best releases of tension in metal since, well, ever. Samples run through this section of the song for it's entire endurance. The instrumental component of the song begins with only a buzzing dark ambiance. Eventually a bass line joins in, which, after some time, is joined by very slow and simple riffing which gradually grows louder and louder. When the devastatingly crushing sludge kicks in, the build up makes it infinitely more powerful than it could of been (that said, if completely removed from the song, it would still be really powerful). The atmospheric introduction to “My Meds Aren't Working”, which completely lack samples, is also very effective at building up tension, which this time is released in the form of a more mid-paced (yet still hard-hitting) riff.

Dystopia's use of samples has always been very effective. The sample's used on previous tracks such as “Sanctity” and “Love/Hate” were truly disturbing, and went a long way to portray certain negative aspects of modern society. The samples used on this album are (for the most part) fantastic. The samples that make up the first section of “Now and Forever” relate to time and it's impact on power and society, just like the lyrics. They are deeply political, very interesting and highly critical of society. The samples are layered, with one voice in the foreground. This effect adds atmosphere and depth. The samples end with “Humans have learned to split the atom. Instead of killing ten or twenty people with a board or club, one person can now kill a million by the pushing a button.” After that, one voice says “Do you find that frightening?” and the other says “Is that real change?”. The samples at the beginning of “Leaning With Intent to Fall”, taken from a documentary called Union Square, sounds like what you might expect in an episode of Intervention. It details a heroin addict's descent into his own personal hell. 

While the samples are a great addition to this album, they also lead to it's one and only real flaw. “The Growing Minority” is an interlude which is based around samples. The samples detail mental illness and the government's response to mental illness. While the track leaves a strong impression upon first listen, it lacks replay value. It is hard to deny that the track is disturbing and even hard to listen to at times. The main problem with it is the lady who starts the samples off by saying “I have to put a lot of effort into keeping sane”. Her voice is quite annoying and is not something I want to hear for nearly two minutes every time I spin this record. Although the track is initially interesting and definitely proves a point, it is ultimately replaceable. 

Wether or not you agree with Dystopia's politics and worldview, which is by no means subtle or moderate, it is impossible to deny that the band wholeheartedly believe in what they are singing. The lyrics are filled with misery and hostility directed at society. The band sings of hard times, which is a common lyrical theme in both sludge and crust punk. The band aims it's fury at people in power – business men, politicians and warmongers are all targets of Dystopia's rage. “Leaning With Intent to Fall” paints a harrowing tale of crippling drug addiction and it's effect on a person's friends and family. “Number One Hypocrite” points out many problems with American society. “Illusion of Love”, originally performed by Dino's previous band Carcinogen (their demo Kure is definitely worth checking out), points out the hypocritical nature of many Christian establishments. The first easily discernible lyric in the song is “Jesus, fuck your love”, proving Dystopia isn't exactly subtle in their lyrical approach. This album easily features some of the band's best lyrics:

“See the world through sunken eyes
Infected soul, Infected brain
Feel your flesh turn stone cold
An endless downward spiral of misery and pain is what remains

You used to do that shit for fun...

A steady march of slow death 
With no intention of turning back
Feel the pleasure, you taste the pain
Getting high just to get sick again

You don't seem to be having much fun...”

Dystopia's image is just as much a part of their allure as their music. Their aesthetic is deeply rooted in crust punk, but it goes beyond that. Dystopia is a band that always put a tremendous amount of effort into their packaging. While bleak imagery has always been a staple of crust punk, Dystopia's packaging is more than that. While bleak, there is much more than recycled pictures of the aftermath of war. Their designs are aesthetically unique, thought provoking, in-depth and more than anything, interesting. One thing that always intrigued me about the band is their use of graffiti. Their logo points towards neither crust punk or sludge metal. In the booklet they have a two page spread where graffiti is juxtaposed on top of a photograph of wreckage and barbed wire. The graffiti is composed of such subject matter as skeletons and organs from the human body. The inner parts of the vinyl disc features graffiti on both sides. The A side features a different graffiti logo with a fish-eyed view of skyscrapers. The B side features circular abstract graffiti, which I must say looks pretty damn cool once the record is spinning. Their use of graffiti aesthetically distances themselves from a generic crust punk look.

The booklet is a true achievement. On the vinyl version I have, the booklet that comes with the record is about two times the size of a normal CD booklet. The cover of the booklet is their usual logo with a couple cages filled to the brim with people. There is a reoccurring font in the booklet (which also makes an appearance on the back cover of the album) that really goes well with Dystopia's image. It is somewhat similar to a typical black metal font, perhaps a bit more legible. Bleakness is a recurring theme in the artwork (as well as the music). Even the two satire pages for “Number One Hypocrite” have dark undertones in the imagery. 

The pages in the booklet often relate to the songs. The pages for “Control All Delete”, a song that explores internet's effects on society and the erosion of privacy, is very clever. The artwork for the page that contains the lyrics is a computer screen. The lyrics appear on different pages that have popped up over the desktop. The page for “The Growing Minority” has a newspaper clipping titled “More mentally ill in jail than hospitals”. The page for “My Meds Aren't Working” particularly stands out. The artwork is a suicide note placed on a desk which also has some personal items on it – weed, a vandalized ID, car keys and medication. The lyrics are on the suicide note, and they read like the thoughts of a suicidal individual:

“My body still clings to life
Only my spirit is gone inside
I pray for death every night
But I Keep waking up alive

I cut myself for infliction
And I still spit at my reflection
I hate everything I am
I have my friends to thank for that”

The lyrics end with “I'm sorry if you know my name, I'll probably fuck up your life”, which is how an actual suicide not might end. While disturbing, this image perfectly embodies the lyrics of the song.

No discussion of the artwork would be complete without mention of the artwork. To be honest, this is probably my favourite album cover of all time. An enthralling collage of juxtaposed images, mostly people, this is truly an innovative triumph of graphic design. It features a diverse group of people from all walks of life on the top, many of them cheering. In the middle, there are three people joyously celebrating, who are juxtaposed in front of the Eye of Providence, taken from the dollar bill. Their logo is dead centre. The bottom half is just fucking wonderful, it features George W. Bush (or King George the Second, as bands in the crust punk scene often call him) with a bloody chain saw juxtaposed in front of rebels holding guns above their head. There are missiles on both sides of this scene. Words can't describe how brilliant the gritty vigour of this cover is. While being ripe with social commentary, it can stand alone as a wonderfully engaging piece of art.

The major complaint listeners have about this album is that it's too short. Many people have said that while the music is great, there simply just isn't enough of it. The thing is, Dystopia aren't really an album band. Technically, this is their debut album. Anyone who knows the band certainly wouldn't consider this Dystopia's first full length, though. The way that the band has previously functioned was releasing compilations that served as albums. 1994's Human = Garbage featured songs from an Ep of the same name (which is Dystopia's best work) and various splits. 1999's The Aftermath featured songs from two Eps (one being of the same name) as well as songs from splits. Releasing a long album is just not how Dystopia works.

This only features seven songs, one of which being a brief instrumental. Some copies have an untitled bonus track, which is made up almost exclusively of samples, but for some time features subtle sludgy riffs and almost tribal drumming. I actually wish more bands release albums like this. There are countless bands who could have turned good albums into great albums if they shaved off ten minutes of filler. It seems that bands feel obliged to have at least 40 minutes worth of material on their full lengths, even if that means including filler. Here Dystopia not only prove that short full lengths can be successful, but show that sometimes a shorter length should be desirable. 

It really is a shame that Dystopia broke up, but at least they went out with one hell of an album. This album is successful on multiple fronts; the songwriting is amazing, the flow is great, the production is well thought out and the artwork is just as jaw dropping as the music. Dystopia has managed to finish not only with their legacy intact, but with their legacy strengthened. The band is a huge inspiration to both the sludge and the crust scenes, and they no doubt deserve the respect they get. With their final release they cement their place as not only one of the most interesting bands in sludge and crust, but one of the most interesting bands in extreme metal as a whole.


Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Ides of Gemini - A Black Metal Aesthetic Without The Black Metal 

When referencing a genre, or in most cases a sub-genre or theme as genres grow to be too wide, there is more than a subset of technicalities a band must follow. A (sub)genre often possesses a certain aura. One of the most prominent vibes in black metal can lazily be described as "Burzumic". Obviously, this is a vast generalization, not every band that possesses this sonic quality has an obviously Burzum influenced sound and some may not be looking to Burzum at all for information - the reference is just a generalization that serves to give a general idea. This particular breed of black metal (which is pretty much the most prevalent vibe) is hypnotic, often fuzzy and atmospheric (even if the atmosphere comes from the distorted ringing of the tremolo picked riffs). 

Ides of Gemini's debut EP The Disruption Writ is intriguing because although it is undeniably not metal, let alone black metal, it gives me the same feelings as listening to a Burzum or Drudkh record would. It has that hypnotic, hazy vibe. No doubt Ides of Gemini are influenced by metal, seemingly doom as well as black. I see to remembered them saying that they were honoured to be on Neurot Recordings as they were all big Neurosis fans. While the black metal influence is overt on the tremolo riffing present on The Vessel & the Stake the simmilar vibe would remain even if tremolo sections were completely omitted from this EP. It should also be noted that the starting of the video I posted has an ambient section added to the start of the song, ambient is often used in black metal to create a sense of atmosphere, and here it is used in a similar manner. 

The Ep is not wholly unlike Hvis Lyset Tar Oss, although musically they are obviously very different releases, the vibe remains the same. That atmosphere, that feel is just so prevalent in both releases. It goes to show that a band does not have to go down a conventional route to attain a preconceived aura. Obviously this is an extreme example, the type of music Ides of Gemini is pretty freaking far away from black metal on a surface level, but dig deeper into the sonic landscape, and Ides of Gemini and Burzum aren't really that far off.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Song of the Week: Cursed - Promised Land

I remember getting Cursed's final album after it came out and being completely floored. While their previous albums where, for the most part, crusty hardcore, this one was different. It still held on to it's crusty roots, but also contained near-lethal doses of sludge. One thing that was intriguing about Cursed is, that although being anti-government, they still somehow managed to get a grant from the government to record the album. Perhaps this is due to the fact that their lyrics are largely in metaphors, which might obfuscate the meaning to people who aren't paying close attention (for example "Kill the Shepard, save the sheep", and that's one of the more obvious ones.) 

 I, of course, didn't know this was different than their other albums since III: Architects of Troubled Sleep. Intrigued by their sound, I picked up their first album on vinyl when I was in Toronto, at the fantastic punk record store Hits And Misses. This album was much faster, the band had it's origins in hardcore. This track was the first one to stand out to me, it was extremely short, yet extremely powerful. Featuring some of the best songwriting the band has ever managed, this song is absolutely lethal. The lyrics are just as good as the songwriting, detailing the false hope that Hollywood provides for wannabe stars. Yes, a highly cliché subject, but Cursed provide a fresh spin on it:

you bought their lines and you staked their trail, followed their moves to the last detail.
and all that they sold you was death, on the five year plan,
and left you to rot in their promised land.
and what made you think that the life on the screen could be you?
no returns for your broken dreams when you get it home and it's not what it seems.
this is not the promised land.

Review: A Million Dead Birds Laughing - Xen

An Intriguing Swampy Sound

At first I wrote this album off as a step down from it's predecessor. I suppose this is because Force Fed Enlightenment is more immediately gratifying - it's more in your face and has more happening on the surface. Xen is a more subtle and congruent album. While the other album was all over the place (not in a bad way, mind you), Xen sticks to one overall vibe. A creepy swamp-like feel is maintained throughout the album. There are lots of atmospheric parts, and the doomy sections are expanded on for this release. This still has it's roots in grindcore and death metal, and it's still weird. It's just weird in a different way. 

While this album holds a much more consistent sound than it's precursor, it is hardly lacking in variation. There are lots of tempo changes, lots of atmospherics, a fair bit of technical guitar work as well as a good deal of straight forward riffs. A few well thought-out solos work their way into the mix, as well. While there are lots of different sections, including quieter parts, songwriting stands strongly at the forefront. Without strong song writing for the death and grind sections, all the subtle nuances would be for nothing, making this album come off like a dish with lots of nice spices covering up bad meat. However, the core of this album is solid. The slow doomy sections (doomy refers to the atmosphere, these parts are by no means doom metal) are integral to this album. Without them, the album would still be passable, but it would be missing intrigue. It is the contrast of the more aggressive sections with these abysmal dirges that make Xen so worthwhile. These sections where somewhat apparent on Force Fed Enlightenment but are much more prominent and developed on this sophomore.

Like their last album, this is available for free on Bandcamp, although you have an option of paying (which they totally deserve). On the page for this album, they once again have a quote: “(Insanity) is not hubris, not pride; it is inflation of the ego to its ultimate - confusion between him who worships and that which is worshipped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.” Once again insanity, as well as other subjects related to psychology are apparent in the lyrics. They still go for some occasional metal trappings, but they go much beyond that. This contributes to this album's bizarre aura. While many parts are aggressive, the album as a whole feels more creepy and suspenseful than in your face. Xen begins and ends with creepy whistling. Starting the album this way lets listeners know that they are in for an unsettling journey.

Xen is the type of album that may take some time to grow on you, but it's well worth it in the end. While not the most orthodox affair, it is by far the weirdest (their first album was much more bizarre, for example). This perfectly displays a mix of conventional and unusual elements. The alien, swampy feel of this recording is quite engrossing. All of the different parts converge in harmony to create one coherent, intriguing sound. 


Friday, 10 August 2012

Review: A Million Dead Birds Laughing - Force Fed Enlightenment

Really Weird Grindcore

This album's sound is a hard one to pin down. A lot of grindcore and death metal (although this doesn't fit the standard deathgrind sound), some tech stuff, a few breakdowns and a whole lot of experimentation are a major part of this record's sound. On their debut, A Million Dead Birds Laughing are often unconventional. Despite their unorthodox tendencies, the songwriting never gets lost amidst the experimentation. 

While largely rooted in grindcore, just calling it that would be an absurdly false statement. For something with it's base in grindcore, this is very accessible. While the songs may not be very long, they are certainly lengthy for the grindcore genre. A very surprising addition to their music is the slower sections. While the drums often don't waver in their speed, the rest of the instrumentation does. These slower sections are doomy and feature very low clean vocals that almost sound like chanting in parts. Another interesting element to this album is the keyboard passages that appear to be orchestrally inspired. While this might sound a bit on the cheesy side, they are done well and are a constructive addition to the overall sound. 

A Million Dead Birds Laughing might be compared to the dreaded -core genres due to the stylings of some of their riffs and their inclusions of breakdowns. It would seem a bit silly to fault them for that, because they are a combination of many different metal sub-genres and the -core(ish) elements are well done. The simple breakdown near the end of "Void" is likely one of the catchiest breakdowns you will ever hear. While a minority of the riffs may sound vaguely metalcore-ish, who cares? They're done well, and in the end that's all that matters. 

Another way that this band deviates from the expected is in their lyrics. While one might expect a band of their nature to sing about evil and whatnot in a generic manner, they go beyond that. Sure, by the lyrics one could probably guess they're a metal band, but its hard to deny their lyrics have depth (well, maybe the section of "Forcefed" where "wakawakawakawakawakawaka" makes an appearance four times is an exception). On their facebook page, the only thing they list under influences is "human interaction". Much of the band's lyrics are abstract, deeply employing the use of metaphors. On their bandcamp page for the album (which they have available for free download) they list the quote "It is sometimes an appropriate response to reality to go insane". Insanity is indeed a prominent part of their exploration of the human condition, being a recurring lyrical theme.

For such a random mixture of genres, A Million Dead Birds Laughing do it remarkably well. While just the grind and death sections by themselves would still be a decent listen, it is the experimental tendencies that really make this album. When you mix this many (sub)genres, especially when the music is at this fast a pace, you risk the chance of being accused of switching things up so much just for the point of being random (which is the pitfall of many avant-garde bands). None of this is being random just for the sake of it, everything fits together. While this album is not for everyone, people seeking really weird grindcore may have come to the right place. 


A Look At A 1969 Black Sabbath Demo

The Rebel

This piece should prove very intriguing for those interested in Sabbath's backstory. Recorded in the transitional period that went from Earth to Black Sabbath, this does not sound like the dark, heavy blues that would become the starting point of metal. This track sounds very unlike the Sabbath we have come to know. It feels upbeat, even happy. While the lead guitar work is foreshadowing for what would come, this song has little to do with the doom and gloom Sabbath became famous for. 

Regarding the band's 1969 demos, Iommi had this to say: "We didn't write those songs. They were written by a chap named Norman Haines. At the time we were managed by Jim Simpson, who was a local Birmingham guy. He insisted that we record these songs. We just wanted to play, so we recorded them. We wanted to write our own songs and make our own record, but this was just an initial effort. We had never been in a recording studio in our lives before that." 

The most surprising element of this recording is Ozzy's voice. The unearthly wails he is known for are nowhere to be seen. The vocals here are pretty much a standard British classic rock affair. They certainly don't sound gloomy; they are not a far cry away from sounding happy, something that the backing vocals only make more blatant. Musically, this also standard classic rock. The somewhat cheesy piano intro makes it know that this will not be a particularly dark song. Besides the bluesy solos, the instrumentation is quite minimal, with the main focus being on the catchy vocals. 

Norman Haines, who also played with a band called Locomotive, not only wrote the song, but also performed on it. On the song, he plays organ and piano. A very interesting fact about this track is that it was produced by Gus Dudgeon, who is best known for producing many David Bowie tracks. While this is an early demo, the production doesn't let you know that. While not overproduced, it sounds like a quite reasonably produced classic rock song. 

The only foreshadowing of what's to come is found in Iommi's soloing. Much darker than the rest of this song, his solos are not much different than the style he would use on the band's first wave of albums. They are bluesy, imaginative and undeniably catchy, easily becoming the best thing about the song. The rest of the song is catchy classic rock, but Tony's lead guitar mastery really steals the spotlight. 

Anyone interested in the history of metal's founding band should give this a listen. While this is certainly not one of the most important Sabbath recordings, it is fascinating to see where the band evolved from. While this is much more poppy than you would expect from them, it is catchy in a very good sort of way. An essential song this is not, but it is good for what it is. 

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Review: Dopelord - Magick Rites

The Embodiment Of Stoner Metal Stereotypes

Dopelord sound pretty much how you'd expect a band of that name to sound like. The band is kind of like a b-grade horror movie - it's a bit cheesy, you know what to expect, but it's still a bit entertaining (if only because you're into that aesthetic). All of Dopelord's music is taken from the norms of the stoner rock/metal scene. The fuzzy, often bouncy riffs, the drugged-out hazy vocals, the long repetitive song structures - Dopelord are by no means pushing any boundaries or exploring new territory. They embody the stereotypes of stoner metal. 

On the stoner rock/metal spectrum, the riffs, although heavier than usual, generally fall on the rock side. The songwriting and structure adheres more closely to the stoner metal aesthetic. Saying the riffs are entirely rock based is wrong, there are quite a few examples of slow, somewhat sludgy riffing. However, many riffs and licks fall under a more catchy rock banner. A good number of these riffs, although extremely typical, are very well done. This band certainly has a knack for churning out catchy guitar parts. 

While Dopelord are very talented with orthodox stoner guitar work, their songwriting chops seem to have been lost in the haze. While not overtly monotonous, the songwriting isn't paid much attention to. What makes stoner metal songs like Electric Wizard's "Dopethrone" so amazing is that while it's comatose, crushing atmosphere is a dominating force, they wrote the shit out of that song - if it was stripped down to a basic rock song it would still be killer. It contains both style and substance. While it wouldn't be accurate to say that substance is completely lacking from Dopelord, it is much lower in the mix in comparison to style. 

They have the stoner sound down and they stick to it. A vague blues element, a mild dose of psychedelia, a critical dose of fuzz and a whole lot of stonerisms ooze their way into Dopelord's sound. They know their style and they don't wander into unknown territories. The only part of this album that wanders down a different path, although in the same woods, is the hidden track. Not particularly heavy, the song is pure psychedelia. Backed by acoustic chords, the track perfectly captures a blissed-out melting in the sun vibe. The drugged, murky vocals are a very important part of the band's sound. While putting them in the background is an essential part of achieving that hazy sound they're going for, sometimes (especially on "Ghost Cargo From The Bong") they are a little too low in the mix for everything to sound right. As this album is very samey, perhaps it could have been shortened by a track. However, if your in the right mood for their music, this is not a big problem.

While this album may be completely derivative, it's hard not to like it - if only just a bit. Sure, it doesn't add anything new to the genre, but that isn't to say they don't do a good job playing it. If the stoner sound is your niche, there is nothing to dislike about it. True, the songwriting could use a bit of an improvement, but this is hardly a hindrance to enjoying these fuzzy, narcotic-laden soundscapes. These guys exemplify many stereotypes of the stoner sound, everything from Electric Wizard (who are probably Dopelord's biggest influence, which should be obvious given the name) to Nebula is apparent as an influence. If your in the mood for some orthodox (albeit well executed) stoner metal, a little Dopelord should get the job done.