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Born Too Late #4: Volume 4

Illustration by Emily McCafferty
Illustration by Emily McCafferty

Born Too Late is a recurring column which highlights the best in new doom metal and hard rock.

ASG
Survive Sunrise
Relapse Records

ASG makes albums that feel like the soundtrack to a bonfire on the beach. Bursting with melody and hooks without skimping on the heavy, Survive Sunrise is a quintessential ‘summer’ album. Produced to balanced perfection by Matt Hyde (Deftones, Monster Magnet, Slayer), its soaring vocals, thundering rhythm and impeccable musicality checks all boxes on the stoner/Southern rock list. Jason Shi’s warm, expressive voice is one of the best in the business, and it sits front and center on standout tracks like “The Heaven Moon” and “God Knows We”. He trades off effortlessly memorable riffs with second guitarist Jonah Citty at an incredible clip, packing more playing chops into a single album than most rock bands do in an entire career. Drummer Scott Key gets his moment to shine on “Lamb Song”, pounding out Bonham/Ward beats with abandon. While they’re not the most prolific band — Survive Sunrise is ASG’s second album in the last decade — they’ve been quietly releasing top-notch music since 2001, longer than almost any other band in their scene. The secret to their longevity is woven throughout this record.

Tons
Filthy Flowers Of Doom
Heavy Psych Sounds

Europe has stepped up its sludge game considerably over the last decade, and one of its better contributors is Rome’s Tons. Much like Dopethrone and Church Of Misery, the Italian quartet focuses on catchy hooks soaked in feedback and grime, with raspy black metal-tinged vocals layered atop to give the songs a sinister edge. A sense of history (and humor) is evident in song titles like “Abbath’s Psychedelic Breakfast” and “Sailin’ the Seas of Buddha Cheese” that serve the secondary purpose of being easy to remember. With five songs spread across 37 minutes, Filthy Flowers Of Doom has a few extended riff fests but doesn’t get bogged down with extraneous filler. It’s also a big step up from Tons’ previous album Volume 1 and holds it own against the aforementioned genre pillars. Sludge fans should find, um, tons to love here, and if the band can keep the quality level this high going forward, they’re unstoppable.

Thou
Inconsolable EP
Robotic Empire

One of the most prolific and acclaimed bands in all of sludge/doom/etc., Baton Rouge misery machine Thou have been conspicuously absent from the music release front for the last several years. They’re making up for it now, with a plethora of new output in the form of three EPs and a full-length (so far) scheduled for 2018. Much of what has been released so far sounds like archetypal Thou — screaming feedback, grunge influences filtered through a mudslide, Brian Funck’s tortured vocals — yet all of that is absent from the Inconsolable EP. Indeed, it is unrecognizable alongside almost all the band’s previous recordings. It’s a collection of mostly neofolk songs with guest vocalists (with Funck providing the lyrics) and melancholy strings, though it’s no less emotional or wrenching than what Thou is known for.

While the band’s talents can easily extend to other genres, Inconsolable is a giant leap into the unknown, and it works. The minimal guitars, drum brushes, and subtle string accompaniments provide the perfect backdrop to the mostly female vocals, provided by Emily McWilliams, Melissa Guion and others. A harrowing cover of CSNY’s “Find The Cost Of Freedom” is a high point in an EP that is full of them; for a band that wrote “Fucking Chained To The Bottom Of The Ocean”, the fact that they can create and excel just as well in a completely different style is a testament to their talents.

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