Druglord? Methinks our illustrious overlord, Angry Metal Guy, has given me a stoner-sludge album to review. This is great for me because I really like what similar stoner-sludge bands—namely Dopethrone, Thirst Planet and Forming the Void—have released lately. Hailing from Richmond, Virginia, Druglord take to the streets with an extra-crunchy blend of stoner-doom and sludge. Current band members consist of Tommy on lead vocalist and guitar, Bobby onthe kit and Julian Cook wielding bass (last names are for chumps and bassists, apparently). Since their inception in 2010, this three-piece released a relatively sparse discography: one twenty-three minute EP, one twenty-seven minute “full-length,” one fifteen minute EP, and this forty-two-minute album. Considering this is only the second full-length for Druglord, I want New Day Dying to follow the same sludgy blueprint as its predecessors but on a grander scale.
This album does just that. Druglord deliver slow, sleazy grooves and gobs of fuzz across New Day Dying, with a swagger that reminds me of Dopethrone. Every song contains stomping riffs, caustic atmosphere, and at least one righteous solo. Bringing this concoction up to a boil is a seething underbelly of charred doom that does much heavy lifting to pull Druglord out of a sea of similar stoner-sludge selections. They amalgamate many different elements to create their overall sound, nevertheless, the two attributes that really grip my auditory processing centers are the vocals and the fretwork.
Vocalist and main axeman Tommy is responsible for some of the most sneering and snarling vox I have heard in this genre. His range may not be mind-blowing but his conviction is clear. His voice gives a grungy life to affairs on New Day Dying, bridging the gap between Brann Dailor’s more recent vocal contributions with Mastodon and the slithering, nasal stylings of Ozzy Osborne. While the vocals could be criticized for lack of discipline or strain in the higher registers, they integrate perfectly and bring an extra dimension to the record. Technical proficiency takes a back seat to gusto and attitude, injecting a raw, angry feel to the delivery that a trained vocalist might lack.
The guitars make up the other top selling point for New Day Dying. Tommy strikes with some of the more memorable guitar solos and leads to be had in stoner metal (“Buried Demons,” “Rot of This Earth,” and “New Day Dying”). Each time his guitar takes the spotlight, I’m enraptured by his tasteful implementation of melody, contrasting quite satisfactorily with the oppressive environs. He shows remarkable restraint, even on longer runs, never going too crazy or showing off for the sake of showing off (“Rot of This Earth”). The man has good instincts, talent and has practiced his craft with dedication.
Stoner metal albums are unworthy of the tag without riffs that stick in your brain like gum in your hair. Like, gum stuck so badly even peanut butter cannot save you. Druglord threaten to lose me a little in this regard. Riffs on New Day Dying are varied and creative, but by album’s close, I sometimes struggle to effectively reminisce. The band exacerbate the issue by hanging on to good riffs for too long. In this case, “Rot of This Earth” and “The Flesh Is Weak” are the worst offenders. Both have one or two predominant riffs, but “Rot of This Earth,” for example, is nine minutes long. That track is saved from monotony by a great solo and a nifty, near-blackened sludge climax to break things up. “The Flesh Is Weak” doesn’t fare quite as well, recycling a good theme for just over half its runtime. Druglord stay loyal to their riffs, which works on almost every song here. It’s just that a couple of riffs would be stronger with a smidgen [Possibly a dollop? – AMG] of extra editing.
At the end of the day, I like New Day Dying. It’s solid overall, has a perfect length for my taste and, like a good host, keeps me entertained with each visit. It sounds great when played at any volume, with enough warm fuzz to stuff a Muppet or two. Trim away a couple minutes of repetition on one or two songs, and this album could have been a real contender. As it stands, Druglord are still developing as a band, so anybody looking for a new(ish) stoner-sludge outfit to maintain their fix should keep a close eye on them.1