BlackLab are a sludge, doom and fuzz metal duo from Japan. Their album ‘Under The Strawberry Moon’ was released in 2017 in a very limited pressing. Recognising their potential to appeal to an overseas audience, UK indie label New Heavy Sounds remixed the album, beefing up the overall sound and subsequently gave it a broader distribution. The resulting ‘Under The Strawberry Moon 2.0’ isn’t just heavy. It isn’t just doomy. It’s positively devastating.
‘Advorsus’, the 2016 debut from UK sludge fiends Kurokuma, was easily one of the heaviest things to be released that year. Since then, the band have played various live shows, one of which was released digitally for posterity; they’ve contributed to a split release with sludge pioneers Conan and even found time to record a Kraftwerk cover. Nobody expected that. With one thing and another, even though it has only been two years, a proper studio follow up from Kurokuma seemed to be a long time coming.
At the very beginning of 2016, a doom-blues/stoner trio crawled from the wilds of Cheshire and into the ears of an unsuspecting audience. Amping the blues much further than most had dared, their debut EP presented a cornucopia of heavy riffs; their music a fuzzy love letter to metal’s founding fathers. Almost twelve months later, that EP remained almost unsurpassed, marking a place among the year’s finest metal achievements. A year on, the band signed with Black Bow Records – home to Bast and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard – for a well received follow up.
2018’s ‘Ballads of The Godless’ – released through HeviSike Records is, well, heavy. Sometimes drainingly so. However, if you’ve already been acquainted with the 1968 sound, the album brings forth plenty of superb riffs; riffs which, when dressed in the band’s signature sludgy sound, have a timeless appeal. Timeless, of course, if you like Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard, Sloburn and Slomatics. As before, if you’re able to see through the heaviness, it also includes some fine, blues tinged sounds that – thanks to a very old-fashioned production style – are a welcome nod to a world of fuzzy analogue grooves in an all too digital age.
In 2016, Allfather unleashed ‘Bless The Earth With Fire’, a hulking brute of an album that valued riffs over chorus hooks, resulting in a record that presented the very best in sludge metal recorded on a DIY budget. Extensive gigging followed, including bills shared with the mighty Morag Tong. Over the next eighteen months, the Kentish band drove big riffs into peoples’ skulls from small stages whilst simultaneously teasing about working on new studio material.
For the purposes of this studio recording, Montreal’s Pink Cocoon isn’t a band, but the work of multi-instrumentalist Zolla Marc. He’s a man who cites a fairly diverse selection of rock and blues acts among his influences, ranging from the predictable Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard, to the more unexpected – quite often, metal based performers won’t take time out to praise Robin Trower, especially when praise for Hendrix seems likely to get more attention. He also name-checks The Distillers and The Pretty Reckless among bands who’ve helped shape his playing and sound. For most stoner practitioners, the musical sphere starts with the first four Sabbath albums, moves into Hawkwind and then goes back to Sabbath’s ‘Never Say Die’…y’know, for variety, so while you’d be hard pushed to hear the influence from Brodie Dall or Taylor Momsen on this debut release, it’s still thrilling to know Zolla isn’t stuck in a musical rut.