Borracho – Atacama (Kozmik Artifactz, 02 December 2016 CD/digital, 10 March 2017 vinyl)
Beastmaker – Inside the Skull (Rise Above Records, 19 May 2017)
Hey folks, let’s take a look at some recent (and semi-recent) releases from another two bands who
are appearing were scheduled to appear at this weekend’s Maryland Doom Fest, one of whom will still be performing* — specifically, they’re both kicking off the festivities Thursday night at the Pre Fest Party. Representing the east coast, D.C.-area heavy-fuzz dealers Borracho, clearly no strangers to this website, dropped their third full-length at the tail end of 2016, while left coast doomsters Beastmaker saw the release of their second LP just last month. Listening to either of these would absolutely be time well-spent, so please feel free to continue reading …
Beastmaker has announced that they will be unable to make it to this year’s Doom Fest. Borracho is still slated to be there Thursday night!
Atacama is named for the driest desert on earth, situated from southern Peru through the northern portion of Chile where it is almost entirely shielded from precipitation by the surrounding Andes and Chilean Coast mountain ranges. Describing this vast wasteland, the band says “to pass through it inevitably affects the traveler in profound ways. As the body crosses miles of barren landscape, the mind looks inward, examining itself, unsure of what is there and unprepared for what it will find. With time and distance, the harsh conditions conspire with the traveler’s distracted subconscious to present a reality very different than it is. How this new reality is interpreted can be a dangerous and powerful journey. This is the soundtrack to that journey.”
Viewed through that lens, the record definitely does sound deserty: a fuzzy, crackly, arid vibe pervades tracks like “Gold from Sand” and “Lost in Time” — and especially in the latter song, the heavy and nasty riffs are surrounded by shimmery cymbal crashes that hover above the arrangement like a hazy mirage. Slower, bassy and doomy, “Descent” could easily represent trekking deeper into the heart of an endless void, whereas “Flower” bookends a lengthy section of heavily distorted power chords with a pretty, string-laden intro and outro — a rare spot of beauty that also has a reference point in the real-world desert.
One thing Borracho has become known for doing well is creating lengthy songs that take the listener on extended exploratory voyages out in random directions with various instrumental passages, but always eventually returning to the vocal sections that usually feature bellowed utterances of a few repeated short phrases — that burrow deep into your brain like an earwig. “Overload” is a great example from this album, at over ten minutes in length; the eight-minute “Drifted Away from the Sun” similarly heads in varying territory, going from a slow, chill drumbeat with a mildly funky, mellow bassline and psychedelic-tinged guitars (with underwatery vocals to match) to someplace far more heavy and distorty and yelly.
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According to their press release, “the glittering technological future we were all promised has turned into a dystopian nightmare. If music must reflect the times, the hour has plainly come to reject the mainstream status quo and get down to the roots and rhythms of life’s elemental heaviness. And that’s where Beastmaker comes in.” This trio from central California have stated that one of their main inspirations is horror movie posters (much like fellow doom laureates Brigantia), and accordingly, they’ve managed to concoct a rather dark and disturbing vibe in their music.
The album’s title track, for instance, is based on the Twilight Zone-like notion of making a deal with the devil for eternal life, but like all such transactions there ends up being a price to pay, which in this case is perpetually being stuck living within one’s own mind. And the sound of the song nicely demonstrates that sort of claustrophobic, isolated feeling.
Much in the same way, all ten of these tracks follow the basic formula of starting with a “Behind the Wall of Sleep” era Sabbath, cranking the sinister doom aesthetic way up à la Pilgrim, but then turning the whole thing much denser, much darker, and much heavier — particularly in a few cases that seem especially dark and downtuned, like “Of God’s Creation” and the harshly distorted “Night Bird.” And on top of it all, semi-psychedelic, semi-melodic, yet semi-lifeless, unison vocals in a style similar to Stangala. Adding it all together, you get old-school doom metal with a modern heaviness, and permeated with a general sense of unease and creepiness.
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You can grab a copy of Atacama here; Inside the Skull over here. And don’t forget that
both bands Borracho will be at The Maryland Doom Fest in Frederick, MD, Thursday night (22 June) — check out the details here.