Lust. Greed. Pride. Jealousy. Gluttony. Vengeance. Six emotions that I experience on my daily commute to and from work. What’s better than having a heavy-blues inspired stoner album, shaped by these sordid vices, to accompany me on my soulless journey into this sick and weary world? Hailing from my beloved Blighty, Morass of Molasses thrust sexy, groove-laden shock-waves that send old-biddies reeling, cups of tea a-spilling, rich-tea biccies mushing, and tea doilies dampening1. However, Morass of Molasses owe more to the blues-laden southern-rock tradition, sharing moments of balladry with swampy sludge. Let us tread their path.
The sound of a haunted house next to an eerie lake marks the opening of These Paths We Tread. With haste, this dissipates as “My Leviathan” opens up to ricocheting stoner riffs that shoot from the hip. There’s a distinct lack of fuzz and haze to the guitar tone; silky lead melodies and clear riff-patterns create a sterile heavy-blues tone that lacks any real sense of “feel.” A vocal duel takes place during the main parts of the song as sweet cleans clash with gruff shouts and screams, book-ended by bluesy licks and basic stoner riff patterns. Little else really happens in the song as it ebbs back to the solemnity of the eerie lake. Follow-up track “So They Walk” is even more sterile and bland. Guitars attempt to groove but lose balance quickly. In a similar vein to recent Black Stone Cherry, it lacks the dirty catchiness and genuine dam-busting heaviness that BSC and Morass of Molasses — on their E.P. — once had. The southern twang shines like porcelain, but I get the feeling it’s meant to sound like churning mud and alligators battling.
The album succeeds when the impetus is taken away from heaviness and is placed into the realm of the crimson sting. “Serpentine” opens with a moodier steadiness before breaking into mid-paced grooves that stab through the mix like steaming needles. Reminiscent of a dessert sunset, the song simmers at a cool temperature and succeeds because of this rather laid-back casualness. The dreamy vocals during the verses flutter like a mirage as the heavier riffs and terse bass-line act as the muscle car surging into the night. At the five-minute mark, the song transitions to starry mellowness: windy background noise whistles and guitar lines flutter with a foreboding airiness before building to a satisfying, if measured, crescendo.
“Maenads, like “Serpentine,” also succeeds due to its sullen steadiness, holding back and letting its subtle grooves, creeping bassline, and fragile melodies weave organically. At the 3:30 point the song begins to naturally build in pace and intensity, ending with drum rolls, spiraling guitars, and bluesy panache. “Wrath of Aphrodite,” too, is a genuinely fun song. So fun, in fact, that I accidentally found myself tapping my foot to its simple groove. I remedied this by playing a SunnO))) track in one ear and a Jute Gyte track in the other. “Aphrodite” is sexy and slick; like a cheap lady of the night it gets the job done with few frills and enough energy to satisfy, but I don’t think I’ll be re-visiting.
As a whole, These Paths We Tread is forgettable. A few moments provide a smidgen of eye-opening excitement but in the grand scheme of things, there’s much more you could be listening to. This bluesy-stoner musical landscape Morass of Molasses’ explore has a million other bands battling Mad Max style to reach the holy mountain. The hard-rocking spirit of Deep Purple et al. is the engine and the modern blues-stoner scene is the decoration, though the engine should have been replaced decades ago. I expected a lot more and the score reflects my disappointment. Although not awful by any means, I can’t see myself consciously revisiting These Paths We Tread. As a live band, however, Morass of Molasses usually pack their sound with punchy fuzz aplenty, and I expect some of the songs here will sound multiple times better in a live setting. Power to the amp, I suppose.