Moon Coven – Slumber Wood Review

There’s a reason metal fans will never want for bands that play fuzzy stoner doom. Sure, it’s the oldest genre in all of metaldom and has somehow seen less evolution in recent decades than you’d find at Boone County, Kentucky’s Creation Museum. But unlike the dinosaurs that perished in Noah’s flood, stoner doom will never go extinct. That’s because ever since The Lord revealed his commandments to Tony Iommi on Mount Sinai, purveyors of the style have remembered the Sabbath and kept their riffs holy. When a stoner band drops a bluesy-psych groove, it connects on a primal level the way few other metal styles can. The genre may be stagnant, but when it’s played well, that hardly matters. Sweden’s Moon Coven attempt to keep the altar fire burning in doom’s Holy of Holies with their third album Slumber Wood. Will its proportions be biblical?

Moon Coven play their stoner doom straight down the middle, with fuzzed out riffs, echoey clean vocals and occasional psych elements, like the spacey guitar line in “My Melting Mind” or the entirety of seven-plus minute trip “Bahgsu Nag.” If you’re looking to place them amongst contemporaries, Monolord and early Pallbearer come to mind, but less heavy than the former and less epic than the latter. The Pallbearer-isms come in the form of vocal delivery and an aching, almost hopeful guitar tone that crops up now and then on Slumber Wood, notably on “Ceremony” and “Seagull.” These comparisons aside, Moon Coven lean more into 70s grooves that give them both a throwback and timeless feel.

Slumber Wood lands above the genre median thanks to delivering the only two things you could ask of such an album: well wrought riffs and consistently strong, slightly varied songwriting. There’s enough aesthetic space between the sturdy, standard riffs of opener “Further,” the almost funk-like groove of “Eye of the Night” and the psychedelic swirl of “Bahgsu Nag” while still feeling of a piece. All the band’s moving parts come together most impressively in standout track “Potbelly Hill,” which would make a punchy addition to any playlist with “fuzz” or “groove” or “bong” in the title. If you sample even the first fifteen seconds of almost any song on Slumber Wood, you’re going to hear a strong riff that never fails to distinguish itself from the others.

And now the critique you knew was coming. Like most stoner doom slingers, Moon Coven is swallowed whole in its own tropes. The guitar tone, the song structures, the spacey solos, we’ve heard them all a thousand times if we’ve heard them once. Thankfully, these Swedes play them better than most, but it puts a ceiling on what this music can achieve. Perhaps most predictable in its adherence to a template is David Leban’s echo affected, half sung/half shout-chanted clean vocals. They’re mostly fine, even effective on songs like “Potbelly Hill,” but more than any other element, they signal to the listener exactly what this is, who it draws inspiration from and what it will and will not give you. 

So no wheels have been re-invented on Slumber Wood. In fact, the tropes are old enough to possibly pre-date the wheel altogether. What matters on an album like this is that Moon Coven play the style well and with conviction. There’s no bad song here and a handful that are quite good, so if you lit up earlier when I dropped words like “fuzz” and “groove” and “bong,” then this album will have plenty for you to enjoy.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Ripple Music
Releases Worldwide: May 7th, 2021

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