2017 has been a banner year for doom metal of all forms. From the sky-soaring prog-leanings of Pallbearer, the subterranean insanity of Hell, on through to the gut-wrenching sadness of Bell Witch, the year contained more than a helping share of all things slow, heavy, and morose, and I’m personally thankful to have experienced plenty of this year’s excursions into that realm. That said, due to either time constraints, tight deadlines, or this wonderful thing we all call life, I do miss an album or two to review in time. South Africa’s Mad God make a worthy addition to the year’s crop of doom with their self-released debut, Tales of a Sightless City.
Have you ever wished that Sleep would just slow down a bit, chew the scenery a little, and just take even more of their sweet-ass time to get to where they’re going? That pretty much encapsulates Tales in a nutshell, but they add a little bit of Lovecraftian insanity to their lyrics and an even more drugged-out air to their melodies and solos. Opener “Limerence” could sit atop the Holy Mountain with ease, with thick and dirgy riffs by guitarist/vocalist Tim Harbour and slow, methodical drumming by Patrick Stephansen. The deliberate pacing and lingering feeling of dread make a barely-five-minute song seem longer, but in this case it works, as the ride is enjoyable throughout, helped out by Harbour’s almost-Geddy Lee vocal approach.
That pacing punctuates most of Tales, never deviating from a slow crawl, which is both the album’s strength and weakness. Centerpiece “The Cursed One and the First Flame” never gets boring throughout the song’s 13 minutes, with whacked out Reverend Jim Jones samples, groovy bass lines by Jarred Beaton, chaotic soloing by Harbour, and the slow, calculating lurch that Stephansen retains throughout the song’s entirety. “Green Guardian,” like all good doom, borrows liberally from the Book of Sabbath in terms of riffs and build-ups. Admittedly, Tales does start to feel like one long song after a while, though, as the band never picks up the tempo much, but there aren’t any stinkers on here either.
In terms of sound, the production feels full and warm. Beaton’s bass retains this sludgy, viscous presence throughout, and Harbour’s guitar cuts through the mire during his leads, but otherwise also keeps to the realm of the sludgy. Stephansen’s drums take a bit of a hit, with his cymbals bearing the brunt of the damage, but overall it’s an enjoyable package. Like I said above, other than fatigue due to lack of tempos, it’s a very solid slab of stoner doom that could sit comfortably along with Sleep or Fu Manchu.
If (like me) you have a soft spot for all things doom, 2017 has been incredible for us this year. Mad God add to that impressive list with their quality debut. Hopefully, they garner the attention of a label, and soon. In the meantime, you can grab Tales of a Sightless City here, and keep an ear out for more, like I will.
Tracks to check out: “Green Guardian,” “Limerence,” and “The Curse One and the First Flame”