It’s taken Weird Tales a fairly long time to actually make a record deserving of their talents. Their early works often sounded like a swampy, low budget mess; their EP of blues covers was a woefully misjudged experiment, and although their live EP from 2021 was very cool in its own way, it often sounded like there was a much better band desperate to be heard underneath the mass of distortion.
Their 2023 release ‘Second Coming, Second Crucifixion’ finally makes good on any earlier glimmers of promise. It also affords the material the kind of production job where the massive guitar sounds and vocals are allowed equal space within a huge sounding final mix. As a result, on a couple of the album’s strongest tracks, the Polish doom trio don’t just wade angrily through their self-made sludge, but positively swagger, allowing their still heavy riffs plenty of room to impress.
This is most notable on the album’s standout ‘Krokodil Blues’ which opens with a massive riff that combines the heaviness and distortion of peak Electric Wizard with the retro buzz of Orange Goblin. After an impressive intro, the riffs never subside, but instead take a sidestep into a world that sounds like a distorted stoner metal band attacking an absolutely stomping riff infused with the confidence of 70s glam. A strange yelping vocal ensures that there’s a strong connection with Weird Tales’ confrontational past, and a middle eight descending into a few more aggressive riffs bravely tries to keep some of their more extreme fans onside, but there’s a far more melodic core here that’s incredibly welcome. Obviously, you won’t find an obvious chorus here, but between the repeated shout of “listen!” – employed as brilliant vocal punctuation – and a great sounding bass grind, there are still a couple of very strong hooks. In the Weird Tales universe, this represents a near-perfect three minutes.
That isn’t just a flash in the pan, either. The partially slower ‘Undertaker’ tempers some bog standard doom with various guitar effects on the moodier passages, but really comes into its own during a couple of instrumental breaks where the doomier aspects give way to a distorted stoner groove. Here, the riffs are an easy match for Orange Goblin and their many acolytes, sharing a warm-ish guitar tone that sounds as if it’s driven through a retro amp, whilst a fuzzy bass sound brings out the best in Kriss’s playing. It often feels like two or three moods stitched together rather than an obvious song, but that certainly won’t be an issue for genre fans, and by the time a heavily distorted lead guitar break is reached – played over a crushing doom riff – this has all the makings of one of Weird Tales’ very best tunes.
‘Disgusting & Mean’ adds more of a mechanical feel to the Weird Tales sound by opening with a repetitive guitar chug and heavy beats, but soon slides effortlessly into a huge metallic groove where doom riffs are augmented by an abrasive hardcore tone. As you might expect, the trio take this in their stride, throwing out riff after riff of heaviness, but – as with the best bits of this album – the arrangement is a cut above previous recordings. Adding extra interest here are some hefty bass fills, a really angry lead guitar adding a devastating bluesy tone, and a confronting vocal that occasionally sounds like the metal version of John Lydon’s pure anger on those early PIL recordings. Everything here is great, which makes ‘Dead People’s Shit’ much less palatable by contrast, but even this much sludgier offering shares a few things of musical interest, genre wise. Firstly, there’s the heftily downtuned riff put through a wah-wah pedal; then there’s some really tight drumming with a heavily applied double bass pedal, and another howling vocal, which absolutely drives the Weird Tales anger home with a lack of subtlety. In lots of ways, this is the album’s weakest cut, but that says so much more about how good the rest of the record actually is.
The second half of the album – taken up by two nine minute epics – ventures back into the Weird Tales swamp of low budget indulgence, but for the more patient doom and sludge fiends, even these less accessible tracks aren’t without their moments. ‘Damned Lovers of The Swampire’ opens with a solid blues riff and rumble of drums, slowly sharing a sound that showcases more actual blues influences than Weird Tales’ supposed “blues EP”. By the time the heavy vibes hit just before two minutes in, it’s immense. One of the first times the band’s earlier, sludge oriented sounds dominates this album, it’s great to hear they’re still capable of something brutal, but even this has more of a sophisticated feel once the riff grows from pure sludge into a massive stoner-doom swagger, and by using some of their heaviest sounds to underscore another heavily affected lead guitar break, the band treats listeners to another strong example of their best stoner-inflected noise. For purists, there’s a late treat, too, when the final bars unveil an onslaught of absolutely devastating doom-sludge, with funereal riffs grinding slowly over a clattering drum part. In terms of wedging all of Weird Tales’ skills and influences into one track, this does a fine job, and then ‘Acid Lobotomy’ increases the sheer heaviness by filling a huge intro with more pure doom, before falling away to reveal an equally oppressive Sabbath meets Electric Wizard mood where intense bass and wavering vocals dominate an ominous sound. The first six minutes of this final number casts aside most of the band’s more melodic twists, and instead goes straight for the skull; pounding, grinding…crushing the listener into oblivion, but always in the best possible way. Then, by way of a reward, the band switch gears for a fast Sabbath infused boogie, taking influence tracks like ‘Sabbra Cadabra’ and twisting the busier riffs to their own ends, with superb results. ‘Acid Lobotomy’ is easily this album’s most challenging number, but this energetic blast lends the track a brilliant closing section, ending the album very much on a high note.
‘Second Coming, Second Crucifixion’ marks a huge step forward for the band. The best material shares far more melody – relatively speaking – than any of their prior works, and the vocal performances are also a massive improvement on those from the Weird Tales past. The fact that they’ve managed to improve and streamline their sound without losing too much of their core heaviness – as evidenced during “side two” – is the most important thing, of course, and on this 2023 release, they now sound ready to stand with a few of the underground’s stronger talents. Genre wise, you won’t find much here that feels genuinely new, but accepting what listeners are given, this is an album that doesn’t skimp on those riff-heavy treats. In doom terms, ‘Second Coming’ is very impressive, and certainly an album that fans of the style should make an effort to seek out.