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Strange Alchemy - 81%

TheStormIRide, April 29th, 2014

“Your stained fingers attest to your diligence in mixing potions and learning their secrets.”

While Ice Dragon may not be the best music for climbing up to the Sigillum Sanguis in Oblivion or battling Alduin in Skyrim, this Bostonian band's style can be likened to the mixing of alchemical ingredients during either one of those sprawling RPG's. It goes far and beyond just mixing genres together, even though Ice Dragon does that, but their music holds this mystical, mysterious vibe. These strange auras are formed through combining things that we are comfortable with and tweaking them until they no longer resemble what we once knew.

The Burl, the Earl, the Aether is the sophomore album from this prolific psychedelic doom metal act, which was originally released in 2010 independently and is being reissued by PRC Music in May of 2014. Taking equal parts from the slow paced doom of Black Sabbath, the trippy psychedelia of The Doors and the fuzz-ridden heaviness of Electric Wizard, Ice Dragon blends a potent mix of dirty doom metal, but it's twisted in form. “Aquageddon” is a slow paced trudge, complete with heavy, Sabbathian riffing, wailing vocals and all of the feedback and noise you could ever want. “Winged Prophet” and “Meddoe” showcase some acoustic strumming, an ethereal atmosphere and a dazzling mix of vocals that sound like a blend of Jim Morrison and Bobby Leibling. “Squares Inside Squares” showcases a superb stoner groove, but slowed down and with some added vintage fuzz for good measure. “Alucard” focuses on Hendrix like rhythms before dropping into an ethereal bluesy jam, complete with vocals that sound like a young Glenn Danzig (“Attitude”, anyone?). While each track brings something a little different to the fold, you can be assured that it will be doomy, trippy or mind-bendingly psychedelic.

Ice Dragon's sophomore album is an ever changing beast, but it's blended with expert care. The Burl, the Earl, the Aether showcases eight tracks of music that will make you feel like you're under the influence of some type of illicit substance. Which one? Your guess is as good as mine, because each track is like stepping into a different trip. The mix sounds straight from the basement, with feedback and reverb throughout. I really can't imagine an album like this being as potent as it is with a clean production, but perhaps those stellar vocals could be brought forward. The guitars get lost a little bit too, like during the heavier riffing on “Spellpouch”, where the thick bass trumps all.

While a lot of today's “occult rock” and psychedelic doom acts play with some seventies throwback music, Ice Dragon lay everyone else to rest. The band doesn't toy with psychedelic trippiness, they embody it. The Burl, the Earl, the Aether is, at times, as heavy as a bulldozer, and powerful enough to knock down walls, but it is also full of bluesy leads and ethereal psychedelia, that's likely to cause more than a few listeners to have flashbacks. Going back to the strange alchemy, imagine a seasoned blend of Black Sabbath, The Doors and Electric Wizard: fuzz-ridden doom metal with more psychedelic empowerment than the Mystery Machine.

Written for The Metal Observer.