I think picking a single to release is a big decision for any band. For a brand-new band jumping into the crowded Stoner/Doom scene, it’s an especially big deal. Evil Leaf, from Gastonia, NC, just decided to drop one on Bandcamp this week, Tenebris.
As usual, I had no expectations when I stumbled on this on a North and South Carolina Facebook group. Just a simple drop asking us to listen and support local music.
Okay, why not?
I mean, there is a TON of really bad stuff out there. People recording in their bedroom/garage/basement and proudly putting out material that’s so bad, so cringey that I can’t believe they’re serious. I come across 20 to 30 every week that just plain sucks. Mostly in the Death Metal/Traditional Metal/Indie-type genres.
I don’t know why I’m surprised so much, but I am. This little “drop” from Evil Leaf is miles above the usual stuff that’s out there. The recording is solid, the mix sounds great and everything works. The guitars are a bit “chugga-chugga” for me at first, but once the vocals kick in, I’m sold.
There’s a lot going on in the track, and what they’ve done with the vocals is impressive as heck. First off, Sara can sing. Great clarity, and just the right amount of vibrato in her phrasing to keep one paying attention. Best of all, the mix highlights her voice rather than buries her under tons of fuzz. That’s when the guitars made sense for me: they are clean enough that they highlight the vocals. It strikes me as a smart move.
The rhythm section is tight and controlled. I’ll always want a bit more flash and groove, but it makes sense to keep things safe. The bass tracks the chords, adding heft to the mix, while the drums keep the slow tempo interesting. In short: very professional and keeps attention to the strength of this song. This is excellent production across the board.
Even the guitar solo is way above average. I dig the tone, effects, and mode/scale choices. It also matches the vocals. Which, yeah, I keep going back to. Which makes me wonder, why am I spending so much time listening and writing about a single release, for an upcoming EP, from a completely new band?
I think I have an answer. Bands like Evil Leaf are a glimpse into our future, a bellwether for the health of Stoner/Doom as a whole. After the stellar releases from the likes of Faetooth, Sisteria, Godless Sons and Desert Wave, I’d say we’re in prime shape. If the upcoming EP from this band is half as good as Tenebris, then 2023 is off to a great start. I also think music like this can bring more people to the heavier side of things, and this kind of stuff can easily crossover to other genres, like Traditional metal.
Please give Evil Leaf a listen. And check out their Facebook page. There’s a snippet of a song, Slow Burn, which could live up to the hype I’m feeling about this band. Oh, and their band pictures are priceless!