It is the year
2099 2017, and doom is in the air. Also in our hearts, minds, and everywhere else. In fact, without preempting myself too much, I think it would be fair to portend this particular calendar cycle the year of doom. The first horseman of doom has begun his ride, and he bears with him a noxious smog of contempt and misery, one that mixes the heavy leads found deep in cavernous doom locales with the acrid mists of illicit narcotics, to spread a blight that could only have been born in one place on this godless planet.
Today, your doom erupts forth amid the throes of a painful childbirth from the land of bath salts, the human elephant burial grounds called retirement homes, and shark-infested waters. There are few principalities as brutal, as inhospitable, and as downright cruel as Florida, the Sunshine State, so it only makes sense that such a forbidding waste would birth such a stony and depressive act of doom. Today we succumb to the ravenous bog monster Weltesser.
Crestfallen, performed by I. Hronek (Rotting Palms) on bass, M. Amador on drums, and N. Peterson (Sky Burial) on vocals and guitars, is a flinty crag of windswept doom following the tradition of harder-edged acts like Sleep or Salome but boiling those trace admixtures in a seething cauldron of cosmic depression plucked from the black reaches of funeral doom. The final ingredient to the horrifying toxin is a pungent dose of swamp water from the hate-filled glades of sludge. Although the riffs do swirl and coil in a manner kindred to the many stoner acts clawing for attention across this doomed nation, it’s the thick layer of sludge-dust caking the riffs with menace and dread, coupled with Peterson’s throaty, mournful screams (far more tortured than is typical in this style) that really set this band apart. As with the great weedians in whose footsteps this trio trudges, there’s a terrific sense of progression towards inevitably that mutates the predictable tropes of modern doom into something both engaging and immersive.
Take the track “Guide” as an example. The song starts with a muddy bass line to hook listeners before transitioning into a pure Sabbathian riff. As bludgeoning as that smog-belching, bottom-heavy riff is, though, the band mercifully knows not to test our patience with it and drops the distorted floor of the track right out around the 2:00 mark. The band then creates a taut space of empty, jangling notes and reverberating percussion to give Peterson’s aggrieved throat a chance to really shred its own skin. When the main distorted riff rejoins the attack, it’s been granted a new emotive weight and tension missing in its previous use. Still, the band’s bag of tricks in this track alone is far from exhausted, and around the 4:00 mark, the main riff is joined by a blazing solo that acts counterintuitively to make the plodding rhythm all the more urgent. The solo is short but provides just enough edge to make the final thrust of the song all the more meaningful.
“Guide” is far from an anomaly on the album, either. “Living to Try” features a peculiar looping riff right around the midway mark that gives the odd sensation of slowly accelerating into a full-tilt (by doom standards) passage comparable to a running of the bulls. This effect is achieved by an increasingly juddering percussion offset against a cyclical, low register riff. That strange sense of vertigo returns as the rampage comes to an abrupt halt in a daze of choking reverberation that portends the return of the malevolent main riff. “Terminal” (an homage to Salome, perhaps?) also catches us by surprise with its violent, palm-muted chords battering us about the head and neck right from the get go, only for the chords themselves to be consumed in a gaping maw of ravenous percussion; when the band finally locks into a groove, you find yourself frightened and confused, exposed and vulnerable. There are a plethora of such insidious shifts in rhythm and style throughout the album, keeping listeners always on the defensive rather than numb and bored.
In truth, the album’s only weakness is that you’ve likely heard it all before. The riffs, though deployed in a perpetually timely manner to keep listeners hooked for the percussive death-rolls, are all fairly standard for doom metal. The solos are a nice touch, but they add little to the vast canyons carved by this band’s forebears that we’ve all stumbled through in smoked-out revelry before. The vocals too, though thankfully harder-edged than we typically hear from the stoner end of the genre, rarely go into full-blown cavernous hellspawn territory, something that could have really elevated the music and lent it a much more menacing feel.
As it stands, Crestfallen is a rickety, at times harrowing, bridge between the more frightening style of doom peddled by more funereal acts and the often monotonous stoner bands on the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Although you’ve heard the riffs before, they’re still certain to get your head bobbing as you find them deployed in novel ways. As a debut record, especially one that’s self-recorded, Crestfallen is a tremendous effort, one that bodes well for Weltesser’s future. Here’s to hoping they can forge their own gravelly path through the barren wastes of Florida to their own Holy Mountain on future releases.
4 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets ov hell