Wednesday, 20 March 2013

#261 Bongripper - Satan Worshipping Doom

And now for some more stoner doom, this time from the instrumental riff-machine that is Bongripper. 

Bongripper are a fairly well known force in the world of stoner-doom - the sort of band which, until a few months ago, were in the extensive "I've heard of them, but not any of their stuff" box within my brain. When I eventually got around to discovering more, it came as a surprise to me how recently they formed - I had in my minds eye the sort of institution which has been around since the early nineties. In fact, Bongripper formed in 2005, something I wasn't expecting at all. If anything can be taken from this, however, I'd imagine it's this; pleasing reassurance that the metal scene still has the capacity to spawn good stoner-doom.

Another thing I didn't know, was that Bongripper are, and have always been, an instrumental outfit, sacrificing vocals in lieu of the riff taking centre stage. There are, in my experience, two kinds of instrumental bands - those who carry it out well, and those who don't. Bongripper are, fortunately, one of the former. While listening to "Satan Worshipping Doom" the lack of vocals didn't grate me at all - and it certainly didn't render the music unexciting. If one of the songs came on, and I had no idea what it was, I get the feeling that I probably wouldn't be surprised that it lacked vocals, as opposed to the way that some instrumental bands feel - every instrumental second made tense, with a feeling of waiting for vocals which will never come. I think it's something of a triumph for the band, in this sense - creating an album which feels like it belongs to the instrumental sphere, and which can be listened to and enjoyed on that basis. Perhaps the aspect of the music which makes this so utterly possible is the sheer quality of the riffs - huge, behemoths of fuzzy, distorted and chunky guitar thunder through the album like a very stoned panzer-division. The buzzing melodies feel extremely warm, hazy and giddy, with incredible amounts of sustain, and a tone which, along with bands like Electric Wizard and Yob, do an exceptional job of capturing the way mind altering substances feel, through the medium of sound. Some of the colossal, reeling note-bends really manage to convey a giggling, slightly silly, but nonetheless profound and ruthlessly heavy air. The riffs are, as I mentioned, the panzer division, but they are a panzer division driving brightly coloured tanks.

Like the Cathedral album I reviewed on Monday, Satan Worshipping Doom is an album which is happy not to let the constraints of tempo weigh to heavily on it. There are lumbering songs, but also speedy, sludgy sections which really get some energy pulsing through the record - there's even a bit with blast-beats, which I certainly didn't see coming the first time I listened to the record. The variety and solidity of the material certainly more than makes up for anything which vocals could have brought to the table, and perhaps, beyond that,  the uninterrupted flow of guitar work adds something to the record - there's definitely a hypnotic edge to the album, and it's without a doubt the kind of album which the listener would be advised to listen to all the way through, as opposed to trying out one of the four goliath tracks at random, for a first listen at least. The production values of Satan Worshipping Doom are also conducive to an enjoyable experience, especially the drum sound, which is absurdly juicy - the snare carries an incredibly punchy sound which really gives the percussion it's namesake property - really visceral and overt percussiveness, capturing it very nicely without delving into the strange and distasteful land of over-production. The snappy percussion really helps to stratify the layers of sound in the album, adding to the enjoyment. Production wise in general, for that matter, this is the kind of album where you can't imagine any ways in which it would be better off being otherwise than how it is, which, I'd like to think, is a hallmark of good quality.

Ultimately, Satan Worshipping Doom can probably be considered to be Bongrippers magnum opus, so far. At the very least, it has a mature, complete feel, which certainly adds to it's weight as a highly enjoyable work. When it's running time is over, it's the sort of album which you can look at and thing "My musical enjoyment has been enriched by this", and that, after all, is what we listen to music for.

This is a 9/10 riff monster.

Bongripper Official Site
Bongripper on Metal Archives

Eleven more days of doom to come... some of which will have reviews in them.