Stoner doom is something that sounds simple to create, but the good stuff rarely is. Surely you just mix together some pentatonic riffs in D minor, add some fuzz bass, smash the crap out of your cymbals like a caveman and add a gruff vocalist to the mix? For the average band, this is the formula they usually stick to. I’m happy to say that Aboleth offer way more than this. Benthos is refreshing, heavy, memorable and possibly the stoner album of the year.
GROWL LIKE A SHE-WOLF
After a super growly bass intro of “Wovenloaf”, the first thing I noticed was that the band wasn’t fronted by some seven-foot beer drinking bearded dude, but by the simply awesome and ass kicking Brigitte Roka. She brings some serious class that isn’t normally associated with traditional stoner acts. As the band kick out the jams on “Wovenloaf”, Roka growls like a wolf and soars like an eagle in equal measure. Not only is her voice melodic, but it also has a fantastic rough edge to it. This gives it a southern ‘twang’ as the catchy chorus testifies and the song is an opener that you’ll put on repeat.
The band then continue to deliver against this high quality benchmark. “Fork in the Road’s” main riff is so slow, deep and satisfying that you’re just compelled to nod your head along. The arrangement is also different from the norm, moving from light, precise cymbal work through to a high-speed ending. You’re left knowing that the band are pushing themselves with their writing. “No Good” features some slide guitar work for the first time, and gives a real taste of the southern charm that the band sprinkle across the rest of the album. Another catchy chorus here shows that they know how to write a great melody once again and the break down section features Roka giving it some real beans.
MORE THAN JUST YOUR AVERAGE DOOM
Just as you think you have the band filed away under the doom/stoner category, out comes “Black Box”. A gentle ballad that evokes 90’s era grunge. Starting with Alice in Chains style guitar and softer drumming it then evolves to showcase a bludgeoning riff and into heavier territory with multi-tracked harmonies. The vocal performance in particular is stunning, and this is a standout track that show another side of what this band can offer.
“Glass Cutter” follows and is back to the high-octane sound, making a great filler track that doesn’t outstay its welcome. “Sharktown Blues” however resets the assumptions yet again. A simple duet of slide guitar and vocals, recorded off the cuff in a basic style that exudes charm and southern vibes. The vocal once again is passionate, forceful and gritty, fitting the style perfectly.
The slide continues to get a workout for much of the remainder of the album, adding a great textural element and giving the whole band a unique southern feel. Other standout tracks like “Ode To Plastic” have a jaunty half time shuffle (perfectly executed by drummer Boll3t and that is no mean feat, I can tell you!). “Vinny Gets Arrested” really shows off more musical chops and interesting arrangements once again. Towards the end of the album, the band take it down again with another acoustic number, “The Devil”, before pumping out the closing track, “Wytches”. A perfect ending to the album, this is another great singalong which moves from southern acoustic sections to maximum fuzz.
SOUTHERN MOONSHINE WITH HEART
Overall, this is one of the most exciting albums I’ve heard in a long time from any rock band. The exuberance, passion and hard rockin’ drive pours forth from the speakers (cranked to ‘stun’ of course!). The arrangements of the heavier tracks are super interesting, giving unexpected twists and turns in-between the heavy-as-lead riffs. The album is perfectly paced, with “Sharktown Blues” and “The Devil” showing off the lighter side of the band and making the whole thing a great musical statement.
That’s not to mention the sheer talent! In particular the vocals from Roka remind me of Ann Wilson (Heart) with her great range and bite and sheer love of rock. I must also mention that the drumming from Boll3t is superb. Many a stoner band have gotten by with average drumming, but he really knows how to play. From the light cymbal work on “Black Box”, the rocking double pedal on “Vinny Gets Arrested” and awesome fills on “Wytches”, he keeps things interesting, musical and heavy all at the same time.
If, like me, you want to get hold of some music that feeds your insatiable addiction for heavy riffs, cool melodies, great musicianship and awesome vocals, Benthos is the fix that you need.
Notable Tracks: “Wovenloaf”; “Black Box”; “Sharktown Blues”; “Ode To Plastic”; “Wytches”
FFO: The Sword, Kyuss, Kylesa, Spiral Skies