Nine Circles ov…Stoner and Psych Metal in 2022

Recently I created a new playlist featuring what has fast become my go-to genre when I need to bear down and get some serious groove on: the luscious low-end of stoner rock and metal (Spotify users are welcome to it here; Apple Music users can find it here). Throw some psych elements in and I’m an even happier camper. We don’t feature nearly enough of it her at Nine Circles; all too often the staff are mired in extreme noise and suffocatingly depressive odes to inner turmoil – and that’s perfectly fine…if that’s your thing. Lately it’s not mine; I’d rather get a nasty fuzzed to the heavens riff in my brain accompanied by sweet-ass vocal melodies and anthemic choruses I can shout along to as I air-guitar until my arthritic wrists cry out for reprieve.

So for this edition of Nine Circles ov… let’s highlight some of the boogie down rifftastic stoner and psychedelic rock and metal that’s all the rage in my frontal lobe, shall we?

I first got turned on to Stockholm’s Besvärjelsen via their contribution to Blues Funeral Recording’s first Postwax series. The guitars are nasty fuzz rockets, and the doom groove is heavy on their new album Atlas. The secret in the sauce, however, is how the band also takes liberal dashes of punk and good old fashion rock and roll and roll it into something at once laid back and full throttle, something I think has a lot to do with the fantastic vocal delivery of Lea Amling Alazam. She’s got a power in her voice that really captures the vibe the band is going for, one of passion and vibe that isn’t afraid to eschew extremity for a righteous hook.

big scenic nowhere - the long morrow

Another alumni of the Postwax series, Big Scenic Nowhere hew close to the desert scene born from their California roots. Since 2019 they’ve put out two great EPs and and a killer debut LP. Now with second full length The Long Morrow they’ve expanded their sonic ambitions to incorporate more of the dreamy psychedelia and almost prog aspects to their sun-drenched arid attack. Take a listen to “Lavender Bleu” and see how they can meld different sounds together to send you to another plane, and check out their other EP from 2022 confusingly called Lavender Bleus which has a 14-minute track called “Lavender Bleus” which is most assuredly not the same song I’ve just been talking about. Look…now I’m getting confused: just take my word for it and check out everything these guys have done – it’ll be worth it.

“But Chris?!” you ask. “Where is the HEAVY?!” Look no further my friends than the sonic slab that is Ascend/Descend, the new split from stoner doom merchants Domkraft and Slomatics. Proof that the US doesn’t have the patent on fuzzy, heavy stoner metal, Domkraft hail from Stockholm and Slomatics call Ireland home, and let it tell you THIS STUFF IS HEAVY. Each band contributes three tracks, and it kicks off with Domkraft, a band I (again) discovered through the Postwar series but soon devoured everything they put out. “The Core Will Put You Home” is chock full of sludge-like Sabbath riffs and enough solos to lay waste to a thousand star systems, while Slomatics manage in under four minutes to plumb the depths of Hell with “Buried Axes on Regulus Minor”. This is seriously heavy, seriously doom stuff that will work you over and then leave you wondering where you left your shoes when you come to.

earthless - night parade of 100 demons

Earthless made the top of my list in 2018 with Black Heaven, an experiment in shorter songs with *gasp* vocals. Well, for anyone who thought they jumped the shark there, the band is back with Night Parade of One Hundred Demons, a massive jam of three tracks totaling over an hour, with nary a vocal hook in sight (or sound…I’m mixing metaphors here). The sonic waste this trio can lay was always a plus, but the guitar work of Isaiah Mitchell has always been the stuff of myth, and he doesn’t disappoint here. The two part title track (totaling over 40 minutes) is filled with ridiculous ideas and explorations stretched to the max, but it would never work if Mitchell didn’t have the one of the best rhythm section in the world challenging him, and in Mike Eginton and Mario Rubalcaba he has just that. I’ll admit Night Parade of One Hundred Demons was a bit of a grower, but I’ve completely fallen for the incredible way the band weaves ideas in and out of the universe. Essential.

humanotone - a flourishing fall in a grain of sand

The killer melodic rock of Humanotone was completely new to me; so new I only just discovered them a few weeks ago as I was looking for bands to flesh out my playlist. Not only did I become a convert after hearing the monster sound infecting new album A Flourishing Fall In A Grain Of Sand, I quickly went and scooped up their entire discography for a song on Bandcamp. Essentially a one-man-project out of Cocquimbo, Chile, the level of sophistication on tracks like opener “Light Anthologies” and the wicked twist of “Ephemeral” should have Humanotone standing shoulder to shoulder with bands like Lo-Pan and Torche. Have I mentioned the solos? Oh man, the solos! Hopefully it’s only a matter of time before we hear of Humanotone in more elevated discussions…

Another new discovery, Jagannatha come out of France and have a very deep, very doom-influenced take on stoner metal. Their new record Trimurti may only have three tracks, but that’s still 41 minutes of powerful fuss doom that reaches into the territory of bands like Sleep and Electric Wizard while still incorporating elements of psychedelia to not have it just drown completely in the marshes. If you’re not on board after the fire and fury of opening track “Agni” I honestly don’t know what to do with you. Similar to Humanotone, if you like what hear here, I highly recommend grabbing their entire discography for a bargain over at their Bandcamp site.

natraxas - IV

Are you ready to set sail with me into the land of fantasy, adventure, and classic psychedelia this side of prog stoner heaven? if so let me welcome you to the world of Naxatras. The Greek band sits more firmly in the psychedelia camp than perhaps any other band on this list, but they pepper it with a healthy dose of prog and the kind of classic rock song arranging that feels right at home circa 1976-1979. Great guitar work pepper the entirety of their fourth full length, simply titled IV, and tracks like “Omega Madness” and “The Battle of Crystal Fields” early show how much rock these folks can levy, but where I really find my place is in the fuller songs like “Journey to Narahmon”. Don’t let the overt fantasy cover push you away from some really great rock music. be brave…take the plunge.

sergeant thunderhoof - this sceptered veil

You may recall that my second favorite album of 2020 was a split between Howling Giant and Sargent Thunderhoof. Well expect to see This Sceptered Veil, the latest from the lads in Sargent Thunderhoof on this year’s list, very high up. Everything that I loved within I discovered them on the split is here in spades, from the heavy groove rock of “You’ve Stolen the Words” to the blistering attack of “Foreigner” to explode my brain two part epic “Avon & Avalon”. Sargent Thunderhoof know how to craft insanely addicting riffs and melodies and put them all together in stunning songs that never flag. There is nothing about this album I don’t love; if you’re looking for heavy and melodic and epic and anthemic, you”ve come to the right place.

What more can I say about Wo Fat that our own Dan hasn’t already expounded upon – at length – in his review of their latest The Singularity? Few bands can pull off what Wo Fat can. Each note sounds like its coming from a unversed where the sky is purple and horse do indeed attack with steampunk aggression and piston pushing strength. From the opening epic and lead single “Orphans of the Singe” the closing epic “The Oracle” there is nothing Wo Fat cannot achieve with enough herb and the empty sky as their inspiration. Another classic in the making that’s sure to see not only mine both other end of year lists.

All this and I haven’t even talked about the new album from Josiah, since that’s not coming out until July. Truly, my cup runneth over with enough stoner and psychedelic doom stomp to keep me smiling like a dog in shit for years to come. Don’t be afraid of these waters, come on in where the hooks are many and the fuzz frequencies will attune your mind to the powers of the One.

-Chris


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