Review: Waft – Chronolith

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All too often when I see the tags sludgestoner, doompsychedelic, crust and metal, I’m lured into a false sense of security, assuming that I will surely find something worth investing my time. With the sheer myriad of bands that fall into those categories comes an ever-declining probability of finding a keeper. Although I can usually find something that doesn’t allow me to return, there’s always the potential for that next band to be the one who’s going to satisfy. When a band has all of the aforementioned tags, I easily submit, bending and trailing like the last escaping wisp of smoke from a putrid pipe being drawn into the beckoning black-tarred chasms that are the lungs of a lifelong bong-rat. 

Let’s get the ceremony started, stab play below.

Waft are a quartet hailing from Greenville, South Carolina. Although they formed in 2011, their only previous release was a live album which came out in April last year titled Live At Ground Zero 04/18/2014. However, on August 14th this year, Waft independently released this six-track beast of an LP titled Chronolith. Clocking in at just over 33 minutes, this collection of fungal-infected sludgy doom metal doesn’t outstay its welcome. Showing a thorough understanding of the integral components which make each genre tick, Waft harness and fuse the strengths from the aforementioned styles, creating a palatable flavour of their own. A pungent yet highly comestible hybrid strain, worthy of ingestion.

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Indeed it would be remiss of me to not mention the subtle nods to progenitors Black Sabbath (Masters Of Reality-era) and to a lesser extent, Sleep, I feel it is a necessary comparison to make. However, rather than dwell in mimicry on Chronolith, Waft tactfully use the groundwork laid by the forefathers and build an interesting framework from which to explore the ether. By now, you’re most likely sitting amongst the somewhat foreboding ringing chords that draw-out between the end of the intro until the 2-minute mark of “Eternal Sigh”. Then it kicks in. Like all psychoactives, there is the slight restlessness of anxiety before the journey commences. Those ominous tritones up front were your portents. Now your ride begins.

After the initial driving rhythms of the first track slip away, the muddy dirge-like psych aspect reveals itself through the second track Pompous. Replete with a fuzz-drenched bending blues solo to cap it off, this track is a grower that will remind you that while your eyes may be searching upwards, your feet are firmly planted in the mire. The jaunts into doom territory continue into the third track (“G.C.C.G.”), with the hostile vocals never showing a hint of remorse or potential for solace to be found amidst the swamp. It’s up to you to embrace the filth rather than let it choke you out. Next up is “Warpaint”, one of the strongest and most sonically diverse tracks on the album. Churning up the dirt while bruising along at a hastened speed and burning the bridges as it passes, leaving you little choice but to clamour aboard and join the downhill run unto your end. The last two tracks, “Southern Sky” and “Alamut” are covered in the same palpable earthy ochre that is smeared over this release. When it’s all over, you’re left with the lingering taste and the urge to inhale again.

By now you should know whether or not you’re going to revisit this morass of your own accord. I know I will be; I’m rapt with it, and I am yet to indulge in its charms while wandering the green fields. There is a certain swagger to the sound as it meanders between styles. This rambling nature is emphasised by the bass, which throughout the album does enough to keep things interesting without ever becoming a distraction, while the guitar tone makes me keen to amp up and play along. For me, this album is a solid debut and is sure to become a keeper.

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Head over to Waft‘s facebook page and let them know where your trek began and pick up Chronolith on their bandcamp page (it’s name your price but undoubtedly worth at least a lazy $5).

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