September 2023 Top 10 Stoner/Doom releases
As some of you may know, I was recently nominated to contribute to the Doom Charts. If you’re not familiar with that, the Doom Charts are essentially a group of underground music nerds: bloggers, journalists, musicians, and hardcore fans who, at the end of each month, select up to twenty-five of their favorite new releases from that month.
Each time an album is selected by a contributor, it receives a certain number of points, and the albums with the most points are ranked on the Doom Charts. Simple, right? Kinda, sorta, not really. See, there are a metric TON of new releases each month, and September in particular was an utter behemoth of new releases. What a month to be a newbie Doom Charter!
Seriously, though, it’s a lot of fun. You just have to be moderately obsessed with listening to music in order to get through all those new releases and give everything a fair shake, but I certainly fit that requirement. I really didn’t have too much trouble choosing which albums to nominate, the tricky part was deciding in which order to rank them.
The best analogy I can conjure up will resonate with my fellow millennials: Think of it like ranking your top ten MySpace friends circa 2006. You have albums you like for different reasons, that fit different moods, etc. Even though I wanted everyone to be number one, I finally narrowed it down, and I present to you: Stephanie’s Top 10 New Releases for September.
10. KAL-EL – MOON PEOPLE
While Kal-El never fails to deliver on the super fuzzed out stoner rock, this little two-track EP might just be even fuzzier than usual. I love that Kal-El gives us super heavy basslines and fuzzy guitars, but brightens it up with those bright and soaring vocals. I only regret that there weren’t more songs on this album!
Favorite Track: Moon People
9. DEAD FEATHERS – Full Circle
Hey, I wrote a whole review of this one! I knew Dead Feathers would be on my list because not only is vocalist Melissa Welu amazingly talented, I felt the band really grew up with this album and found their signature sound. I appreciated the improvement in variety on Full Circle compared to the band’s older work, and felt a palpable sense of renewed energy on this album.
Favorite Track: Full Circle
8. HUMULUS – FLOWERS OF DEATH
Humulus is a band that I hadn’t heard of before their newest release, Flowers of Death. After listening to a bit of their old stuff, I found it to be very solid stoner metal, certainly quite burly in sound across the board. Flowers of Death, recorded promptly after a lineup change in the band, offers what I perceived to be a bit of a softer, more well-rounded sound, with much more depth. This album is a bit more stoner/desert rock in nature than the band’s older releases, which I found to be a refreshing change of pace. And of course, when you have none other than Stefan Koglek (guitarist and vocalist for Colour Haze) helping you out with the composition phase of your album (as well as lending his guitar talents on the song Seventh Sun), what could go wrong?
Favorite Track: Flowers of Death
7. OMEGA SUN – ROADKILL
Omega Sun’s Roadkill is another very well-rounded release from this month, and is a solid representation of stoner rock that is never boring. It also has a lot of desert rock elements, giving strong Kyuss vibes. The instrumentals are stellar and the vocals are gorgeous (and may have made this lady melt just a little). I have absolutely nothing bad to say about this one!
Favorite Track: Early Morning
6. DAMAGE THERAPY – PANACEA
Damage Therapy is another band that definitely isn’t lacking in the fuzz department. Panacea is simple yet complex, with songs that are on the longer side and frequently change in pace and style, but with a tangible garage rock feel. This is undeniably something unique and I’m here for it!
Favorite Track: Heathen Fire
5. STONE OF DUNA – MOONSPLITTER
After hearing how heavy the instrumentals on this album are when I first put it on, I was not expecting the beautiful vocals that followed. When I say beautiful, I don’t just mean pleasant on the ears, I mean this sounds like a classically trained vocalist. There are also some lovely vocal harmonies on this album. I was very happy to note that this is a progressive stoner album done incredibly well. The progressive element is apparent in the fantastical lyrics and themes, complex song structures, and highly skilled musicianship. The stoner metal element is present in the heaviness of the music; heavy bass and rollicking drums, with a nice layer of fuzz throughout. What’s not to love here? You get a little bit of everything, and it’s all done so well. This is not an album that was put together haphazardly.
Favorite Track: Dirge for Fallen Giants
Ok, here’s where it got really tricky; I had a VERY hard time ranking the following bands because I loved all these albums SO much. I must have switched them around a dozen times.
4. FORMATION RITUAL – DOORS TO THE DEAD
Formation Ritual is another one of those bands that give us a little bit of everything: doom, stoner, desert rock, etc. (You may have noticed that’s something I value). However, this band hits a little differently. There’s a definitive brightness to this band in spite of the heaviness of the music. The vocals remind me quite a bit of Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, especially on this album, as I found them to be a bit more gruff than on the band’s previous release (in a good way). I also noticed a bit of a shift from a psychedelic rock sound to more of a stoner/desert rock vibe, which fits incredibly well with the band’s style. This album was definitely what I would call a huge level up for the band. It’s one of those albums that I can happily listen to every song with no complaints.
Favorite Track: Cuneiform
3. BLESSED BLACK – SEASONS, VOL. 1
In many ways, I like Blessed Black for the same reasons I like Formation Ritual; it’s a brighter version of what we typically hear in doom/stoner music. Blessed Black brings a healthy dose of heavy blues along with doom metal, stoner rock, and traditional heavy metal influences. I also love Joshua Murphy’s vocals, which are so powerful yet so melodic. Oddly enough, sometimes it’s hard for me to find the words to describe exactly why I like something, especially with things I like a lot. Blessed Black, for lack of better words, really checks all the boxes for me. This is a band I’ll be watching and will have on heavy rotation.
Favorite Track: Obsidian
2. YEAST MACHINE – RISE OF THE YEAST
I’m about to sound like such a girl, but I absolutely swooned over Yeast Machine. This is a band that has set up shop squarely between stoner rock and grunge. With riffs fuzzy enough to secure their place in the stoner genre and smooth, velvety vocals that smack a bit of Jim Morrison at times, this band captures the essence and feel of the height of grunge. Yeast Machine does a great job of creating that bright and soaring, yet melancholy sound characteristic of the 90s. It was so refreshing to hear and made me so nostalgic. I actually felt a bit emotional while listening to their new EP, Rise of the Yeast. My little millennial heart is pleased.
Favorite Track: Sievings
1. LORD VELVET – ASTRAL LADY
This one was love at first listen for me. Everything is there: talented musicians giving us a lovely combination of doom, stoner, proto metal, psychedelic rock, heavy blues with the amazingly powerful vocals of Taylor Webb soaring above it all. The band members themselves come together with a variety of musical influences including 70s rock, heavy psych, punk, doom, and the likes of Arthur Brown and Pagan Altar to create something amazing. Every single song on the album is good, and is varied and well-rounded. Astral Lady is one of those albums you can tell when you listen to it that it has the makings of a great live show. Lord Velvet, in nutshell, is a group of not only super talented but super cool dudes. My only complaint is I’m not sure I can wait for their next album! Bravo!
Favorite Track: From the Deep
And there you have it! I already can’t wait to start working on October’s list, and it looks like it’s shaping up to be another month similar to September!
I want to take the opportunity to thank my fellow Doom Charters for being so warm and welcoming when I joined up. We all have very different tastes but that’s what makes the Doom Charts awesome; it’s truly made up of a wide variety of people.
I also want to thank Joop Konraad and of course the Chief himself, Scott Spiers of Clean and Sober Stoner for believing me and giving me a shot! Also a big thanks to my social media followers, some of which have been there since day one! You guys are beyond awesome.
It’s funny, I started my Instagram in May 2023 as a little outlet to express my love of underground music and come together with like-minded people. By July, I was blogging and now I’m Doom Charting, and that’s pretty cool.
I know I’ve said it before in various ways and in various places, but the doom/stoner metal community is one of the most accepting, welcoming, and genuine places you could find yourself, and I’m psyched to be a part of it!