At the beginning of 2021, members of Pennsylvanian noise-makers Backwoods Payback formed a new side project, Boozewa, whose main aim would be to provide an even sludgier extension to their world of riffs. Their first release, the four track cassette ‘First Contact’, presented the ultimate in lo-fi metal. With three of its four recordings being so demo-like and raw it made the Melvins’ ‘10 Songs’ sound like the expensive and expansive recordings from Todd Rundgren’s ‘A Wizard/A True Star’, the cassette wouldn’t necessarily be to everyone’s tastes. However, for those who like things to sound as spontaneous as possible, it brought riff after riff in a way that made the band’s talents more than clear, even if the recording sometimes sounded as if were coming from a water damaged source played back through an old sock. The combination of Rylan Caspar’s Buzz Osborne-esque hollering, Jessica Baker’s bottom end grooves, and occasional Sabbath-isms (most obvious during an instrumental piece named after the notorious “No Name Maddox”) had already been effective via Backwood’s Payback’s own brand of stoner – a Fu Manchu meets Melvins meets TAD juggernaut – but this was something else. It was also enough for the legendary Thomas Andrew Doyle to get on board and master their follow up recording.

The two songs on ‘Deb’ are a huge step up from the debut cassette. Although its core sounds retain a very natural and lo-fi charm, the recording itself is often much clearer. This allows more of the vocal to cut through than before, and although still rough, the title track carries something of a dark and ugly interest, when allowing the two singers to yell simultaneously. If anything, the number is about the riff in hand, of course, and a slow, buzzing groove is quickly set in place. Armed with something that falls between classic Conan and underground doom troop Night Goat, there’s more than enough distortion in the Boozewa sound to fill the four minutes, yet not too much that it swamps the semi-bluesy doom groove – again, more melodic than before, but still as subtle as a truck. The riff is the hook and the demo quality recording more than makes its rough and ready appeal ever more appealing. Ugly, swampy noise rarely sounded so good…

…At least until the second track kicks in. ‘Now. Stop.’ is the culmination of almost everything Boozewa have worked towards during the previous six months. Drummer Mike Cummings counts everyone in with a crash of a cymbal and the trio throw themselves head first into a Sabbath/Black Label Society/Green Lung hybrid that recycles a classic doom riff. Caspar compliments the near perfect music with a timeless stoner metal vocal throughout, but despite the vocal and guitar latching onto tried and tested sounds latching onto something that all fans of the style will adore, it’s actually Cummings who rises above the weighty musical tome to become the number’s key player. After a couple of verses filled with great stoner fare, he dominates a couple of bars with crashing drums, and his toms have so much reverb he makes enough noise for two players. What’s more, he uses his simple and heavy technique to steer everything into an even heavier climax. The final riffs are such a perfect snapshot of Boozewa’s lo-fi stoner metal sound, it’s hugely disappointing when this track just comes to an abrupt end. Talk about leaving your listeners hanging!

You might not hear anything especially new here, but these recordings come with such force and conviction that it’s impossible not to be impressed, and by playing these tracks back to back with the previous cassette release, you’ll really get a sense of rapid growth. Even though the debut cassette presented with recordings that barely sounded ready for the world at large, Boozewa had more than enough gusto to make everything work. With this release, they make good on some early promise and in just two riff-heavy numbers, ‘Deb’ leaves an indelible impression. Original or not, Boozewa are definitely among the best lo-fi sludgers at the time of this recording.

August 2021