Molasses Barge – Molasses Barge + Covered in Molasses (Blackseed Records, 28 July 2017)
So I’ve been writing about Molasses Barge basically as long as I’ve been writing about music in general. It all started way back in late 2011 when they had a few shows scheduled, and I threw together a little synopsis of my first experience seeing them perform live (earlier that year when they opened for Pentagram). This was followed by an interview with drummer Wayne Massey in 2012 (as they were about to open for Tombs and 16), and then guitarist Justin Gizzi also answered a few questions as part of our coverage leading up to the Winter’s Wake festival in 2013.
In all, these Pittsburgh-based doom-metal workhorses have appeared (at least mentioned in passing) on this website a few dozen times. And yet, as active as they are (and despite having been in existence for close to a decade now!), the band’s official recorded output thus far has consisted of one EP six years ago, plus a three-song demo a few months later. (Both of them are available to stream or download FREE at Bandcamp.) But that all changes now: this Friday they will be unleashing their stunning debut self-titled LP, and as a special added bonus (perhaps as a thank-you to all the fans who’ve been patiently waiting so long), it’ll come bundled with a second disc filled with cover songs.
The Barge‘s brand of classic doom, just like that of contemporaries such as Pilgrim, predecessors dating back to Candlemass, and even further back to its progenitors like early Sabbath, has always been about the killer guitar riffs. And although somewhere in the past several years one of the band’s six-string players has been replaced (Mr. Gizzi has now been joined by Dave Fresch, this unquestionably remains the case on the Molasses Barge album: duelling leads (sometimes alternating, sometimes in unison, and sometimes in harmony) snake their way through each track, making their commanding presence felt at all times, and coating the listeners’ ear canals with thick, dark, syrupy goodness (see what I did there?) to instantly feel familiar the first time and every time after that. Longtime fans will certainly recognize many of these songs, as they’ve resided in the group’s live repetoire for years (for example, see the vidoes below where “Crux Influx” and “Bone Chills” were captured at Winter’s Wake in early 2013; and then “Crosshairs” later that same year), but these melodies are so infectious that even someone who’d never heard them before will quickly move from nodding their head to singing along like they’ve known these songs all their life.
In addition to those three, the LP features five other songs, for a total running length near forty minutes altogether. Opening track “Emerging Void” sets the sinister tone for the album, showcasing the whole band in gloomy fashion before sneaking in vocalist Butch Balich about a minute in, here sounding closer to the work he did on the Arduini/Balich album than his more well-known Argus material (read more about both of those groups here!), although that insanely long sustained wail almost exactly halfway through the song — wow. From there, we go on a journey that displays equal influence from classic hard rock and old-school doom (and proto-metal) as well as plenty of heavier, chunkier moments where the rhythm section (Mr. Massey plus bassist Amy Bianco) really stand out.
And speaking of influences, while these folks do tend to wear many on their sleeves, the supplemental Covered in Molasses really emphasizes several of them. These range from the somewhat obscure (“Shylock” by 70s Australian rockers Buffalo ) to the more well-known (BTO‘s “Not Fragile,” the Deep Purple classic “Love Child,” and Motörhead‘s quintessential “Built for Speed“). Some of the selections come from groups that seem like obvious choices (The Obsessed and Mob Rules-era Black Sabbath), but some of the real highlights here are some of the more surprising gems that have been unearthed (“Evil Hearted You” by The Yardbirds and “Sinister Purpose” from CCR‘s fantastic Green River) and given the heavy doom treatment.
You can be one of the first to get your hands on this massive new release by checking out the band’s release show TOMORROW NIGHT (28 July) at Brillobox in Pittsburgh. If you can’t make it, though, you can order directly from the band here or the label here!
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