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Green Druid
Ashen Blood
Earache Records

Denver’s metal scene is, as the kids say, shit-hot. Axeslasher, Blood Incantation, Khemmis, Cloud Catcher, Of Feather And Bone, and now a most promising debut from stoner doom disciples Green Druid. With a name like that, you know what they sound like; the real question is, what can they offer in an oversaturated genre? The answer is substance. This is thoughtfully crafted doom of the kind Electric Wizard used to excel at, replete with tension building and layers upon layers of warm and fuzzed-out doomscapes. “Pale Blood Sky” gives Sleep a run for their money, and 18+ minute album centerpiece “Cursed Blood” is a gift to high-quality headphones and speakers everywhere. Their secret weapon? Guitarist/singer Chris McLaughlin’s hypnotic, epicene vocals.

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JIRM
Surge Ex Monumentis
Small Stone Records

Their first release after shortening the band’s name down from Jeremy Irons And The Ratgang Malibus (smart move!), the four Swedes in JIRM have concocted a truly singular sound. Melding classic rock, prog, psychedelic flourishes, stoner doom and even some sojourns into the post-punk realm, Surge Ex Monumentis is unlike much else you’ll find in the hard rock underground. It challenges the listener with the space it explores, whether it’s the Alaric/Pink Floyd-esque dirges of “Dig” or the sparse atmosphere that imbues “Isle Of Solitude” with a forlorn beauty. More than anything, Surge is a big album with big ideas, and it’s exciting to think of where JIRM will take those ideas next.

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Owl Maker
Paths Of The Slain
Independent

I try to keep music criticism strictly third person, but when it comes to (good) heavy music from Connecticut, well, consider that fourth wall broken. Quality hard rock and metal from the Nutmeg State is rare, so I tend to go out of my way to ride for bands making superior noise. Power trio Owl Maker meet that criteria in spades, doling out a unique brand of riff rock that draws from several subgenre wells. “Ride With Aileen” is a windows-down highway rocker, while “Witches” dabbles in first-wave black metal and Dio-era Sabbath. Singer/guitarist Simon Tuozzoli (Vestal Claret) commands both high and low vocal registers deftly, while bassist Jessie May and drummer Chris Anderson lay down thick grooves that leave no room for posers. Hopefully Paths Of The Slain is the tip of the iceberg.

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