Into Darkness

Southern Lord

Hard to believe, at a time when Boris’ new album is streamed on NPR and the Sword is opening for Metallica, but once upon a time, doom was THE MOST unfashionable and unpopular form of metal to play. It was painful, teethgrinding and antisocial, music only fit for insomniacs, pothead paranoiacs, and true sonic masochists. The bands who played it were the ultimate true believers and iconoclasts, relegated to the absolute fringes of metal fandom, playing to (a) hostile crowds or (b) small but truly scary gatherings of the faithful. The tenor and sound of the music was darker, dirtier, and much more unpleasant to listen to than the more accessible stoner/doom outfits. Thinking back, there were three bands who really defined doom in the mid-90s: Eyehategod, Grief, and the mysterious Winter. Winter are THE prototypical doom outfit in that they toiled away in obscurity, released a handful of songs that were all but ignored in its time, and then years later became like a code word to be bandied about, separating the clued-in from the clueless. The connoisseurs of slow at Southern Lord are solving this dilemma by finally reissuing the long out-of-print Winter album, Into Darkness. Listening to it is like watching a strand of DNA revolve around… no, no, it’s actually like waking up in an abandoned parking lot covered in frost with a large bruise on your head. And yet, Winter is much different than what you’d expect. Drummer Joe Gonclaves is very inventive within the strictures of the genre, adding cool fills and double bass grooves where you wouldn’t expect, bassist/vocalist John Alman grinds away like a wayward drill, and his vocals have a death metal, Chuck Schuldiner thing going, and guitarist Stephen Flam sticks to simple gutpunch riffs, largely eschewing feedback and almost going for a thrashier drier sound. And those cold, horror movie keyboards! Buy the fucking album, acknowledge your fucking forebears.

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