The Astral Noize 4/20 Roundup

Staying true to their marijuana-driven manifesto, stoner legends Sleep dropped their surprise new album, today of all days: 4/20. but even without The Sciences, today would be a fantastic day for new music. From newcomers to scene stalwarts, there’s hours of listening for you to delve into today, so to help you get started, we’ve compiled a roundup of the best releases out today for your listening pleasure.

Sleep – The Sciences

Sleep have always been one for secrecy. The story goes that London Records were stunned when the Californian trio emerged from the studio with 63-minute monstrosity Dopesmoker, so much so that they initially refused to release it. As the title of that now legendary instalment in the stoner metal genre suggests, the band has always worn their fondness for marijuana on their sleeve, but surprise releasing an album on 4/20 is a new level of devotion to the devil’s lettuce, even for a band who created the Weedian religion for a concept album.

Following in the vein of 2014 single ‘The Clarity’, their first album since reforming in 2009 adopts the hazy, riff-fuelled template of 1992’s Sleep’s Holy Mountain and combines it with the expansive songwriting of Dopesmoker. Indeed, The Sciences is first and foremost an album that could only be Sleep, but minor changes are also welcome. Al Cisneros’ vocals are less encumbered by hazy production here, and whilst that could be seen as a move that begins to drag the band’s historically grimy sound of out the murky depths, his naturally monochromatic-but-beguiling voice suits the band’s slow-moving style. Elsewhere, Neurosis sticksman Jason Roeder is more expressive than original drummer Chris Hakius, suitably refraining himself where necessary but also finding moments to indulge in complexity unhampered by a need to simply accentuate the riffs.

As you’d expect from a band who once stretched a single riff into an hour-long track, The Sciences’ longer numbers are its most interesting, with the band consistently finding unique ways of spinning their tunes. In an interview with NPR back in 2014, the band claimed that there is “no preconceived idea of what the new material should be. It would be an amalgamated effort of decades of riff immersion.” They weren’t lying. The six tracks on offer here most certainly revel in riff immersion as the guitars reverberate out of the abyss, finding a balance between bong-shaking grooves and that characteristic droning quality. Whilst the former type is instantly loveable, the latter is perhaps more impressive – textures that initially seem disorientating and monotonous grow richer with increased exposure.

When whispers of a surprise album began to spread through social media and internet forums yesterday, Sleep’s legion of admirers couldn’t help but struggle to picture what a new entry into the canon might look like, given that’s it has been so long since their last. On reflection, though, The Sciences is the only thing it could have been, a flawlessly-executed masterclass in riff worship that combines the best elements of their past endeavours. In the years since their magnum dopus Dopesmoker, there’s been no shortage of bands imitating the stoner titans, but with their fourth LP, Sleep prove that the only band who can play like Sleep, is Sleep.

The Sciences is out now via Third Man Records. Stream it below.

Words: George Parr

Astral Noize

Melvins – Pinkus Abortion Technician

It’s here! It’s weird! It sounds like a regular rock album played by homeless druids who drink petrol! Yes, another Melvins album is upon us, and this time it comes with extra rectum, as Jeff Pinkus from Butthole Surfers joins the Washington sludge pioneers for eight tracks of silly, straight-ahead rock and homage. Bandleader Buzz Osborne has already said they’re going to take Pinkus with them on the road to support the record’s release and seeing Melvins with two bassists will certainly be a novelty, if we ignore Basses Loaded and Three Men And A Baby, where everyone was playing bass. There are guitars on this one too.

Opener ‘Stop Moving To Florida’, an amalgamation of James Gang’s ‘Stop’ and Butthole Surfers’ ‘Moving To Florida’, takes two songs and unceremoniously slams them together, which is nothing new for a band that could occasionally be equivocated with a monkey bashing rocks into one another. In the nicest way possible. A glorious beginning to be sure, and it quickly descends from there into Melvins’ signature style of chugging, groaning guitars, dragging drums and growling, dirty bass; the original sludgelords haven’t lost any of the grit and howling vocals that set them apart from their grunge contemporaries. Pinkus’ second bass adds surprising depth to Melvins’ stock formula, with groovy fills and counterpoint abounding throughout the album.

This is definitely the band in one of their lighter moods, reflecting a trend over the last few years of writing more cohesive albums over the drone and noise tracks that characterised the band’s earlier period. Further in we’re rewarded with the positively filthy ‘Don’t Forget to Breathe’, a bluesy number with layers of vocals pushing the haunting titular refrain before leaning into greasy guitar solos, swirling feedback and pizzicato synths. ‘Flamboyant Duck’ is perhaps the closest the record gets to ‘90s-era Melvins, laying straight into a dirty groove for all of its six minutes. We’re also treated to a cover of The Beatles’ ‘I Wanna Hold your Hand’, which gets faster and slower mid-verse because a comfortable, normal rendition just doesn’t cut it.

Overall, this is another cute release from the most celebrated nutjobs in slow metal, and this writer dares you to not smile while listening. It’s very clear to hear how much fun the band is having as they play, and the mood is infectious. The harmonised vocals spitting bizarre lyrics on ‘Embrace The Rub’ or ‘Break Bread’, the bass solos, the cowbells; all the elements are here for an album that’s simultaneously weighty and entertaining. Give it a celebratory spin when it totally non-coincidentally drops on April 20th.

Pinkus Abortion Technician is out now via Ipecac Recordings. Purchase here.

Words: David Burke

Astral Noize

King Goat – Debt Of Aeons

King Goat’s second opus, Debt of Aeons, is a grandiose fusion of classic Candlemass-esque epic doom and more progressive chops. Opener ‘Rapture’ leads us from a dusty intro through winding instrumental sections and towering verses, led by operatic howler Trim who guides us expertly through this newest effort. The sonic territory covered here is the most striking feature, with textures ranging through black, prog, psychedelia and good ol’ fashioned riffage. If you like most any kind of metal, there’ll be something for you to appreciate here, and that’s a unique selling point most doom bands simply can’t tout.

There’s plenty to like melodically too, and the constant shuffling of different styles means there are few dull moments on these seven cuts – if anything, the album suffers from too many good ideas. King Goat still have the production and tightness of a band new to the game, with drums sounding a little boxy at points, but the raw talent and imagination on display here should dissuade most critics. With beautiful artwork courtesy of Travis Smith, we’re looking at a rising star in the UK doom scene. Get on that bandwagon!

Debt Of Aeons is out via Aural Music. Purchase here.

Words: David Burke

Astral Noize

Cancer Bats – The Spark That Moves

Happy 4/20 everyone; on this special day of cosmic cannabinoidal intake, might we suggest a dose of quality Canadian boogiecore? Having been thrashing good and hard since 2004, this is their 6th full length, and righteous it is too. While their contemporaries have seen fit to plough a more serious, metallic furrow, Toronto’s Cancer Bats have kept a knowing smile on, refusing to be downtrodden even after a decade of extremely hard gigging.

The Spark That Moves appeared very suddenly, and the internet seems to be championing it as a right summer banger. This isn’t wide of the mark, as the quartet get right into it from the go. Opening salvo ‘Gatekeeper’ is as dramatic a statement of intent as one could wish for, and sets a confident, thrilling tone that never subsides. A heady mix of chomping hardcore, rot’n’roll à la Uprising/Inferno-era Entombed and a much less uptight Converge, tracks like ‘Headwound’, ‘Rattlesnake’ and the rollicking touchpaper of ‘Bed Of Nails’ show a band having a bloody good time while pushing out a fat-free album that speaks to both their history and future.

A bum-breaking rollercoaster from start to finish, this is the sort of album that shifts a lot of shirts. Excellent.

The Spark That Moves is out via Bat Skull Records. Purchase here.

Words: John Tron Davidson

Astral Noize

Awooga – Conduit

It’s been two years since Awooga’s first EP premiered the Sheffield trio’s experimental take on metal, and new full-length Conduit only builds on the accomplished musical chops their debut release showcased. 2016’s Alpha was perhaps most impressive for its ability to wield moments of restraint amongst the thunderous riffs of James Borrowdale, and in this regard Conduit feels like a natural progression, delivering on the promise that Alpha assured.

Though it’s not inaccurate to file Awooga under doom, the band most certainly carve out their own, progressive left-hand path here, swapping the genre’s usual distortion for clean-cut melodies that harness a dreamy quality. Juxtaposed with gargantuan guitars and insatiable hooks, it’s remarkably effective.

Colossal anthems like ‘Tabula Rosa’ and ‘Temporal’ are the order of the day, bridging the gap between doom’s grimy underground and arena-ready hard rock, but there exists here diversity beyond even this unique spin on the genre. On the final two tracks, the group begin to truly flaunt their prowess. ‘Witness’ is the band’s true statement of intent, an eleven-minute monster that points towards the grandiose possibilities of the band’s distinct style, whilst closer ‘Otherside’ flirts with balladry, distilling Awooga’s sound down to its most emotive elements.

With a similar proclivity for exploratory progression, future Awooga releases could prove groundbreaking.

Conduit is out now via Rockosmos. Purchase here.

Words: George Parr

Astral Noize

Dark Buddha Rising – II

If it seems like doom is dominating this roundup, it’s because it is. Dark Buddha Rising‘s 4/20 offering may only be an EP, but its two crushing tracks are as worthy a listen as any other release today. Operating in a crossroads between occult doom, crushing drone and atmospheric prog, II is yet another fine addition to the Finnish collective’s repertoire. Opener ‘Mahathgata I’ rises out from a riff-filled abyss, pairing impenetrable fuzz and murky, goosebump-inducing vocals with reverberating atmospherics. ‘Mahathgata II’, on the other hand, is the yin to I’s yang, slowly but surely getting under your skin with eerie tones that seem to converge from a surrounding darkness.

II is out now via Neurot Recordings. Purchase here.

Words: George Parr

Liked it? Take a second to support Astral Noize on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!