Doom metal — at its most basic — uses slower tempos, downtuned guitars and mountains of feedback to produce a heavy yet thick sound. When properly combined and depending on each individual artist, these things evoke a sense of dread, despair and helplessness. Southern California’s Sixes not only successfully achieve this on their debut Methistopheles but they add aggressive sludge, abrasive vocals and even flurries of black metal to the mix. To say that Sixes are offering a litmus test in mental fortitude would be an understatement. And even though it can get long in the tooth, it showcases the capability of this genre to get under your skin and worm its way into your psyche.
When the single “A Cross to Burn” came out last year I was completely taken aback by how intense and dark it was. Still am for that matter. Couple that with the jarring artwork and I found myself wanting more. But most of all I wanted to know if the band could keep that mindset going and keep it at least as dark for an entire album. It made such an impression that I included it in my end of year list and I don’t regret it in the least.
After hearing Methistopheles in its entirety and over multiple sessions, I can say the band, for the most part, delivered on what I had hoped for. “Fogbreather” is a classic example of what doom metal means; tons of low end, slow grooves, heavy and thicker than molasses. But at a measly 5 minutes and change it’s also the shortest track on the album. No complaints though, this thing makes its point before the mind starts to wander (more on this later). The title track begins in the same lurching fashion but with a more definite nod to funereal melodies, then proceeds to rip a hole in the sky with fiery black metal. Blast beats and wicked fast vocals — I’m talking grindcore levels here — attack the senses like a hammer to the face. And just when you’ve cozied up to this new found violence the song morphs again to neanderthal doom. This back and forth lasts nearly 13 minutes and out of all the choices here, including my early favorite “A Cross to Burn,” this one is my new diamond. It feels like a cleansing or an exorcism of sorts from Sixes and consequently felt like I was releasing some bad mojo in the process. The band mentioned ‘exorcism’ in regards to the making of this album but I didn’t actually feel it until this track and it hits like a freight train.
I do have a sticking point though. Earlier, I mentioned this thing getting a little long in the tooth and in the mountainous scope of this album it’s a small sticking point but one nonetheless. While “Acid God” and “Motherless” sound like the unholy incarnation of the band’s own mantra — Worship Amps, Not Gods — set to music, they both inevitably suffer from the curse of repetition. Riffs piled on top of riffs and a low-rumbling groove piled on top of same groove, rinse and repeat. Is it heavy? Yes. Thick? Yes. However, they do manage to pull off some tasty guitar licks and some crafty songwriting but by the time I got there I had wandered off not even remotely thinking about what I was hearing. Not wanting this to be the case, I shut myself out from the world and strapped into some headphones. The results were better and that sense of dread in the pit of my stomach rung truer but still, I wandered. Not what I expected or wanted but as the saying goes: “it is what it is.”
Sixes have delivered a scathing debut with Methistopheles. Not only that but it has enough teeth that any fan of extreme metal will find a ton to love here. My small issues with repetition are my own and you may find your experience completely different but outside of that, this album effortlessly ticks all the doom metal boxes. But the real ace in the hole, and what makes this debut a success for me, is in just how angry and visceral Sixes come across. And for that they’ve won, repetition be damned.