Once upon a time, doom metal made up a fairly large portion of my musical playlist. Classic bands like Trouble, Saint Vitus, and The Obsessed were on heavy rotation in the Golota household. Sadly, my interest never progressed far beyond those founding bands. Doom metal predictably splintered into a billion subgenres, with each band competing to see who can play slower and/or smoke more pot (ooh, how rebellious!), which is how we ended up with boring, pretentious shit like Sunn O))) and Earth. To say I have not enjoyed any recent doom metal would be a massive understatement. Enter Demon Lung, and their new record The Hundredth Name.
Based in Las Vegas, Demon Lung checks all the right boxes as far as I am concerned. Their music is unquestionably doom, but constructed upon a foundation of legitimately well-written songs and riffs. If you can picture a sludgier Candlemass, with a more occult vibe, you’re getting close. The drums sound like they were recorded inside a giant cave (I mean this in the best possible way). The guitar parts are actually interesting — a rarity in the genre these days. And if the song titles are any indication, the band shows the appropriate love to our lord Satan (no, not these guys).
But the real secret weapon here is vocalist Shanda Fredrick. Yes, female-fronted metal bands are fairly common and often gimmicky, but that’s not the case here. Fredrick’s voice is massive-sounding (I honestly thought the singer was a dude until I read the band bio) and conveys a very real sense of dread. Her performance here reminds me slightly of Christian Lindersson from Count Raven, with some vintage Ozzy vocal melodies thrown in for good measure. Most present-day doom bands are either too chickenshit to incorporate melodic vocals, or waste them on rehashed southern rock melodies, so Fredrick’s approach is a welcome change.
The Hundredth Name is fairly solid throughout, although there are a few extra-memorable moments. The Sabbath-y “Devil’s Wind” comes to mind, as does Fredrick’s haunting bellow on “Eyes of Zamiel.” The relatively uptempo “Hex Mark” is a well-placed break from the oppressively sludgy material surrounding it. It’s also worth noting that the keyboard and organ work in the background is very tastefully done, and while not super-noticable, adds greatly to the vibe of this record. The occasional bits of acoustic guitar are real nice too. The production, by legendary sludge-guy Billy Anderson, is appropriately gigantic and dirty-sounding.
There are flaws, but they are few. The album’s pacing does drag just a bit during the second half, and there’s a bit of fat that could have been trimmed. Oh, and the 9-minute-long opener “Binding of the Witch” opens with 4 minutes of droning feedback, a.k.a. 4 minutes of my life that I am never getting back. But overall, this is a very well-written doom record, one that is influenced by all the right stuff, but brings something original to the table as well. The Hundredth Name is the first doom record I’ve actually liked in years, and what with female-fronted, Satan-worshipping bands being all the rage these days, Demon Lung may be on their way to bigger and better things.