Do you love FAT riffs? How about blasphemous stoner comedy song titles? Well look no further, Asthma Castle has got you covered. We’re done with that softie, high-pitched wailing music that some call “stoner metal.” Out with the old, and in with the brew. Here’s a look at Asthma Castle’s newest angsty LP.
Stoner/doom has always been kind of a hit/miss subgenre for me. Of course we all remember the first time we heard the opening riff to Sleep’s “Dragonaut,” of which operates akin to Medusa’s longing gaze, but my travels further into the hazy genre haven’t yielded that many albums of which I can say that I love. Or perhaps, put otherwise, I seem to either fall in love with a particular album, or dismiss it entirely for reasons beyond the comprehension of my mere mortal self. This is in comparison to a genre like death metal, where solid riffs and decent vocals are all that’s needed to win me over.
We can conclude that perhaps stoner/doom is a subgenre requiring dedication, a proper mindset, and a higher skill level to craft. Rather than the simple concoction of distortion and screaming, our foggy friends gather in the name of smoke wizards alike, brewing bluesy riffs and long, intricate song structures out of smoking cauldrons, ultimately forming something someone out there would call stoner/doom. Then again, others can be cited saying that stoner metal is a nonsense genre catered to the misguided and the lazy. Well I beg to differ, and Asthma Castle’s Mount Crushmore is here to prove my point.
Possibly alluding to Deep Purple’s 1970 Deep Purple in Rock, an album undoubtedly serving as an early precursor to what we now call metal music, both album covers share a band’s egotistical venture of putting their faces onto America’s beloved Mount Rushmore. Blasphemy! There aren’t really any sonic similarities to be found, but the album art parallels are pretty neat.
Asthma Castle’s Mount Crushmore seems to be rooted within the bellows of history, at least judging by the song titles presented. With my favourites being “Methlehem” and the exquisite “The Book of Duderonomy,” you can tell these guys would be fun to hang around. Speaking of which, the album opens with a brief sample of unintelligible bar talk, which oddly gives the album a lighthearted party vibe, despite its heavy anthems.
The Baltimore-based group plays in the vein of similar stoner/doom/sludge groups to the likes of High on Fire, Bison, Dopethrone, and Telekinetic Yeti. What differentiates Asthma Castle is their inclination towards that sweet Southern sound, almost creating something within the vein of a faster Eyehategod, albeit less trashy. Regardless, the blues are a major theme on Mount Crushmore, and they’re here to stay. Tastefully implemented and delightfully earwormy, we’ve got some unique tracks here.
The vocal styles presented mostly lean towards those of the angsty scream variety, but some doomier chanting can be heard earlier on in the record. Mount Crushmore really picks up the pace the deeper you venture within its winding caverns, which really makes the listening experience akin to some sort of spiritual journey, as corny and cliché as that sounds. Come on, its stoner metal, and we’re dealing with tracks called “Methlehem” here, so I’m allowed to get a little cliché. Anyways, this album makes me feel like I’m sitting on some beach somewhere sipping whatever your mom’s favourite drink is.
Again with the damn talk about variety, but its one of the album’s pillars blah blah blah. Aforementioned in the previous section prior, the “listening experience,” written as I raise the proverbial steaming teacup in honour of fat riffs and marijuana, really is a journey. We start off with sounds of a room filled with conversation, followed by a fun jam. The opening track, “The Incline of Western Civilization,” introduces Asthma Castle’s double-pronged vocal attack, constituting of doomier, more Sleep-esque vocals, and offset by singing of the angstier sort. These interjections weave and cross over each other in unison, ultimately creating a great intro vibe for our first number.
Without doing a track-by-track, the songs slowly twist and turn towards an angrier conclusion, manifesting in the form of “The Book of Duderonomy,” the epic closing number. Between these polar ends are a fairly linear progression, albeit with the inclusion of a few differentiating qualities, such as the faster-paced, almost breakdown-infused “Methlehem.” I just realized I keep quoting the same two song titles, I guess I favour the biblically-comical side of Asthma Castle.
What we have on our hands here is another great contribution to the stoner/doom/sludge flavour of metal music. We’ve got fast riffs, doomy riffs, screaming, fun breakdowns; what more could you ask for?
I don’t have anything bad to say about this album; Asthma Castle are just lucky I’m not a devout Catholic, because this party-hard blues-infused drug-coma attitude would absolutely not stand. Anyone up for a book-burning?
FFO: Fat riffs, unintelligible screaming, meth addictions that are “under control”