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Doom on! The subgenre is unstoppable with bands stomping off slowly en masse, but also en qualité! At some point we are all bound to get sick of much of a good thing. It’s happened before and inevitably, it will happen again. But while doom continues to provide us with the minimum of power, fans of the style and its sub-sub-styles, (psychedelic doom, chimichanga doom, etc, etc, etc) have nothing to worry about. Case in point, An Introduction to the Black Arts features two doom bands from different ends of the world. Their styles are similar. Their volume deafening. Neither is terribly original, but both can hold their own proudly, and united have created a nice addition to the pantheons of the slowest of metals.
First up is Richmond’s Cough. Their last full-length, Ritual Abuse, was recently reviewed in these virtual pages and like its predecessor (Sigillum Luciferi) had its high moments. The trouble was in specific recurring passages in almost each and every song. It seems like Cough adhere too much to the Electric Wizard template and when a lesser known vocalist like David Cisco start sounding exactly like a more well-known dimmed luminary like Jus Osborn, then you know you need to check yourself. Fortunately for all, the super extended song format may be a better way to showcase Cough's songwriting skills. “The Gates of Madness” drones, feedbacks ,and tolls (as in bell tolls), and only then kicks off into doom gear. Cisco is a master of the diabolic, gargantuan demonic gnarl. The dude dominates. Just don’t have him clean singing, which he does here. It is hard to make a case against someone using his natural voice, but what else can we say besides that he still sounds like a poor man’s Osborn.
But Cough’s song is almost twenty minutes long and they make the best of it, playing with otherworldly vocal and guitar effects and taking the one dimensional nature of doom into the bizarre fields of satanic psychedelia. Towards its faithful end, Cough come into a blackened doom sound. Tacit, dark, and deep, we shall stop claiming that this band has something to do with sludge. It sounds smoked to hell. Cough also benefit from a flawless recording of Sanford Parker. The sound is pitch perfect.
The Wounded Kings, on the other hand, come from the UK and have with their first two full-lengths built up quite the rep. They don’t benefit from such high quality production values, but make up by making songs with a wicked backbone. “Curse of Chains” initially sounds like a mix between Goblin and Black Sabbath. Part horror/ occult movie soundtrack, part faithful doom, this Dartmoor quartet builds up big sounds from small melodies. The central riff is minimal, even for doom standards, and they understand that that’s what this is about; making something grand out of limited resources.
Vocalist George Birch keeps his natural tone and knows his limits. He controls his pitch and does not exaggerate or strain his power. He exercises a minimal vibrato and never reaches the operatic, precisely because he can’t. His style is classic doom.
And so is the band’s. The Wounded Kings magnify their sound with tamed use of organ. The proceedings never acquire church-like proportions. There is no pomposity to their doom, but the addition is enough to place them in the well-regarded company of bands like Candlemass. “Curse of Chains” goes on for fifteen minutes and it ends in a more emotional tone. The band accentuates the melody, which is still minimal and controlled. All around, a great work of restrain.
Originally Written for www.deafsparrow.com
“An Introduction to the Black Arts” Well that is pretty much what you get with this split. Whilst both bands don’t sound totally alike they both manage to produce a very hellish atmosphere through slow plodding doom. This is why they are able to work so effectively together.
Cough opens up this split with some crushing drone the progresses into some sludge that verges on funeral doom. The sound is very morbid with the guitars mostly playing along with the bass line. There is just enough fuzz to layer the sound. The vocals are cavernous black metal screeches that will stand the hair up on the back of your neck. About halfway through the vocals change into eerie, clean singing. “Standing in the gates of madddddddness…” It then leads into a bluesy Black Sabbath solo before going back to the cavernous screeches for the duration of the song. The production is very morbid as said before with a very grimy atmosphere that sounds like this was recorded in a deep, dark cavern. This is really remarkable stuff that sends you to hell for 19minutes.
The Wounded Kings takes a different direction with their journey into the black arts. They are a mesh of traditional doom and psychedelic with a dash of extreme funeral doom. They really aren’t that far off fellow countrymen, Esoteric, one of the most respected bands in extreme doom. The main difference between the two being in the vocal delivery. While Esoteric uses echoing death growls, The Wounded Kings use clean singing, quite similar to Cough’s vocals partway through their song. It may be cliché with funeral doom but I have always enjoyed the addition of an organ. The Wounded Kings uses one to nice effect here without giving it so much authority that it transfers the attention on itself, and keeping it eerie enough from sounding too bright and corny. The song plods along till only after 6minutes do the vocals come in. The vocalist sounds like he is in a trance with his clean singing that verges on ritualistic chanting. They sound like they are being recorded in a cave due to the way they echo. This along with the eerie guitar leads gives the music a spacey psychedelic vibe.
This split is a worthy addition to any extreme doom fan’s collection. You get no less than some of the most morbid material coming out of extreme doom right now. Cough is slightly better as I am a bit more of a fan of the crushing and utterly morbid sound than the slightly softer and spacier approach of the Wounded Kings. Nevertheless both bands are excellent at what they do in sending the listener to hell.