Once considered by many to be one of metal’s more unfashionable genres, doom has exploded to wider prominence within the broader metal scene in recent years. It’s easy to pinpoint bands like Pallbearer as leaders of the charge, however, beyond their indisputable significance, the current doom scene is chock full of quality bands converging to enlighten the unenlightened to the power of sloth. The wide diversity of the genre is another key component to its success on a larger scale, with the myriad of variations on the style’s traditional values drawing in listeners from across the metal spectrum. Indeed, it’s an exciting, burgeoning era for doom fans to enjoy. Californian doomers Beastmaker take a familiar approach worshiping at the altar of classic Sabbath and Pentagram, grinding these well worn influences through a hazy stoner rock filter, complete with loose garage-y vibe. Already the band has a couple of releases under their belts despite their relatively short existence, but do these drugged-out heathens have what it takes to compete with the big guns?
“Evil One” kicks the album into gear, unveiling a solid primer of what listeners should expect. It’s a lively beginning, all grinding garage doom with thick, gritty riffage and driving percussion, as vocalist/guitarist Trevor Church sings in an Ozzy-inflected stoner drawl, embellishing the song with some wailing solo action. Although solidly executed and quite catchy, “Evil One” also showcases the worrying production values that becomes a massive hindrance on the enjoyment of the album, a point that I’ll address in more detail a little later. Purely on a musical standpoint, Inside the Skull is a solid listen, with Beastmaker complimenting their heavily Sabbath indebted sound with a fun stoner vibe and raucous delivery, complete with dirty bass fuzz, aggressive stoner-doom riffs and busy drumming. And though his vocals are a tad derivative, Church works in some nice melodies and hooky refrains to go along with the hazy grooves.
The grinding riffs of “Now Howls the Beast” are offset by some tasty psych-drenched soloing, trippy softer passages and an inspired guest performance from Lucifer’s Johanna Sadonis; her bewitching singing adds another dimension and strong melodic counterpoint to the song’s rough aesthetics. “Nature of the Damned” rocks a swampy central groove, fat NOLA riffs and potent climax, demonstrating Beastmaker’s ability to gradually build tension and then unleash the goods without blowing their load too early. Beastmaker’s sound is firmly rooted in the time honored traditions of doom, however they mostly keep the tempos moving at a decent clip, lending the album some welcome rhythmic diversity and energy. They also nail down a solid atmosphere of druggy, shady psychedelia and vaguely sinister vibes, occasionally evoking elements of Alice In Chains and Danzig to go with their prime influences. Unfortunately momentum stutters on occasion with several weaker cuts, headlined by less remarkable offerings like “Give me a Sign” and “Psychic Visions,” neither of which stack up to the album’s stronger songwriting, lessening the overall impact.
Beastmaker play their instruments loud and proud, yet beyond the intentional looseness and rocking attitude, the trio equip themselves admirably well. Church is no one trick pony, combining bluesy doom riffs with scorching psych-tinged solos and some beautifully soulful moments and deft use of melody. Andres Alejandro Saldate (drums) and John Tucker (bass) are a formidable duo, keeping the energy gauge cranked through their lively and aggressive playing styles. Inside the Skull’s rough and unrefined production values actually works on the surface, if only the recording wasn’t absolutely bricked into oblivion. We often bitch about sub-par production here at Angry Metal Guy, not solely to be elitist pricks but to advocate for good sounding, high-fidelity metal. Inside the Skull fails to achieve a passing grade. It’s a rare thing for me to dislike a recording so much that it overshadows many of the positive aspects of the music itself. Unfortunately, Inside the Skull is a grating, ear fatiguing listen even at moderate volumes. Beastmaker’s musically dynamic movements and trippier forays into mellower waters are severely hampered by the blaring sonic deficiencies and lack of breathing space between the instruments.
Beneath the choked mix and obnoxious volume, Beastmaker crafted a decent album of rough and noisy stoner-doom, that while derivative and top heavy, features a handful of solid to very good tunes. But several unremarkable songs, coupled with a potentially deal-breaking production job, leaves the evident promise of greater things frustratingly unfulfilled.