Crypt Of The Wizard – 3rd November 2017
2015’s Of Ruin was a sludgy, doomy epic of monumental proportions, and its successor, PYR (2016), which saw them expand to a three-piece heralded the arrival of a more expansive sound. Stoic signifies a further evolution, and feels like their most focussed work to date. This means that there’s nothing quite as vast as the 21-minute ‘Desperate Thrang’ on Stoic. Nevertheless, it’s an album of immense scope and equally immense weight.
Opening with the nine-minute ‘Nothing Dreamt’, Ghold intensify both the droning doom and the heavy psychedelia of their previous outings. The vocals, low in the mix and drenched in effects, swirl amidst a backdrop of guitars as thick as slow-crawling lava. The thunderous riffology is balanced with extended passages of nuanced atmosphere which are delicate, even beautiful, as elongated drones drift into ambience.
‘Ruptured Earth (Head in Sand)’ brings both pace and volume, showing that Ghold haven’t lost sight of their thrashy roots, but have instead honed their sound into a glorious hybrid that’s uniquely theirs.
‘SKHUL V’ brings the heavy trudge, its ultra slow, ultra low sludgefest reminiscent of early Melvins. The percussion is immense, with light years passing between beats. It bleeds into the raging tempest that opens ‘SKHUL VI’, a frenzied and sustained sonic attack. It shudders and burns, and by the four-minute mark has achieved an optimal throb before gradually disintegrating, collapsing in on itself. It’s twelve-minute duration is a succession of cycles, a slow, grinding riff emerging from the howl of feedback only to become buried, lost in a vortex of its own slowing tempo, re-emerging at last as a crawling slice of glacial, minimal jazz.
If the whole deal sounds a shade incongruous, it’s to the band’s credit that they make it work, and so seamlessly. Stoic isn’t just a solid album, it’s an incredible album that pushes further toward the reaches of categorisation.