This is some headbobbing chuggy riff-driven sonic psychedelia if I’ve ever heard it. And no, this has nothing to do with that one Angel Witch album you know, Damn Infernal just uses the same artwork. The artist is dead, anyways, so what do you care?
I’ll delve deeper into the album art later on, don’t worry. It is a carbon copy of a relatively well-known heavy metal album’s cover art from the early ‘80s, just with a different filter applied. I’m just as curious as you are.
Riffernaut is a project based in Singapore, mainly spearheaded by some dude who goes by the name Mizar. The completely instrumental stoner metal endeavour was launched earlier this year with The Empyrean, a work I’m not really all too familiar with, barring one or two songs.
I actually stumbled across Riffernaut when looking for Asian metal bands. What a weird activity; I can explain. I host a weekly radio show on my campus station, and my cohost and I were looking to do an episode on Asian metal music, for reasons I am still not sure of to this day. Regardless, this is how I stumbled across this particular project.
Riffernaut is everything that your preconceived notions of what a band called “Riffernaut” would sound like. We’ve got the traditional deadly trio here: a drumkit, a bass, and a guitar. The drums sound a little dry and lie in the shadows of massive guitar tones, but that’s mostly to be expected with a project of this flavour. The percussion does carry the form of something of a “hype” nature though, with the various energetic fills and rhythmic pounding to be heard throughout. Whereas a group like Sleep can operate via riding the cymbals a bit and more or less leaving the groove to a pair of twin guitarists, Mizar seems to be going for more of a rock n’ roll vibe with the project, focusing a bit more on the riff rather than the naut. I don’t know what that means but you can interpret that however you’d like. I wish the drums sounded punchier. I think Mizar should pursue this particular rock n’ roll flair in the project’s future.
The songs displayed tend to build up towards intense musical climaxes, albeit as a consequence of fairly cookie-cutter introductions, to the likes of the opening track, “Descent into Perdition.” Some of the riffs displayed are juicy enough to stand alone for a few repetitions, to the likes of the intro to “Crossing the Acheron,” but some fall flat as a result of lacking originality and overused repetition. As mentioned above, Mizar seems to puppeteer his instrumental trinity towards achieving something more complex and interlaced, but some of the sections found on Damn Infernal are just a little too simple for my tastes.
The lead guitar work is really nice. In particular, moments like the final of “Crossing the Acheron” shine bright on the EP, which is a substantial element to nail as rampant soloing tends to be a signature sound for music of the green variety.
What the heck is going on with the album artwork? Taken from a painting by the late John Martin, the artwork is pretty damn cool and looks great as an album cover. Angel Witch also seemed to think so and used it first for their debut self-titled record. So… did Mizar reuse the album cover as an homage to the long-gone heavy metal titans? Mizar cites various bands as influence in his Bandcamp page description, although none of which pertain to heavy metal territory, so I’m going to hazard a guess and say that this is merely a coincidence. However, this guy is also in a death/thrash band, so he’s clearly surrounded by fans of heavy music; you’d think someone would have told him that the artwork was already used. I don’t know. It’s just really weird looking at Martin’s painting while trying to associate it with stoner metal riffs.
The Riffernaut project will be one that I’ll keep my eye on. However, the apparent simplicity and lack of vocals does bring down the music’s replayability factor for me. This is also clearly just a side project, so if this guy just wants to riff around and release some cool digital music, I’ll let him be. This may or may not be worth your time.