Social media has a major impact on our lives. From reading racist diatribes on Facebook to constructing shelves from things that were never meant to be shelves on Pinterest, few are completely outside the bubble. One positive change is the short distance between artists and fans. Take Cities of Mars, for instance. Earlier this year, my girlfriend was randomly added by these unknowns from Sweden. Fast forward a few months and we were chatting them up after a show in Antwerp, two in a crowd of a dozen including the opening band, the earthshaking riffs that’d emanated from the cafe’s ten square foot stage still ringing in our ears. You may now be thinking: “GardensTale, you’re abusing your power as an AMG writer just to plug a band we’d never hear otherwise, just because you met them!” And you’d be right, but I wouldn’t do that if Temporal Rifts wasn’t a sweet, solid and succinct slab of spacey stoner doom.
“Doors of Dark Matter, Pt 1: Barriers” kicks off with a hefty riff on buzzing downtuned guitars. The hook is deployed in various forms throughout the song without feeling overused, a trick Cities do quite well on all 5 tracks. Rather than just going for overpowering heaviness, Temporal Rifts regularly establishes a relaxing spacey groove that lets you lean back and nod along appreciatively, before attacking with stomping riffage and a dual vocal attack from the land between Neurosis and Mastodon. “Children of the Red Sea” is a good example of this interplay, setting off with dreamily wavering guitars before slamming down a knockout groove and a sweltering roar. Halfway through, the track rolls out a galloping avalanche that pummels like a rockslide, a high point on the 35-minute record.
The vocals do provide the only weaker piece of the puzzle, though. While they make good use of the two alternating vocalists, combining them at key moments, they don’t differ a whole lot, and both sing consistently with their registers fully open. This takes away some of the impact, as the variety in dynamics decreases. Thankfully, the mixture of crushing grooves, zoned-out space and warped, screeching solos undercuts such problems, and the production further mitigates the damage. The choice not to overblow the guitars and beef up the bass is a good one, avoiding the tiring wall of sound of which stoner-doom bands are so often guilty.
Cities of Mars is a diamond in the rough, glimpses of glimmering facets showing beneath the coarse exterior. There is an honesty to the rough polish of the writing, a love for the craft in the heft of the riffs. Temporal Rifts is not a world-changing record, it doesn’t break new ground or challenge the norms of stoner doom. What it is is a fun, solid and thoroughly headbangable morsel with plenty of cosmic groove, a testament to a young band finding their feet, with 5 tracks that are catchy and easily digestible without diminishing in heaviness. If you ever want to get in on the ground floor with a highly promising new stoner-doom outfit, now is the time.
Tracks to check out: “Envoy of Murder” and “Children of the Red Sea.”