What's nice about instrumental bands is that there's no buffer between the listener and the riffs: when vocals are present in a mix, everything else has to make room for them or suffer a muddy, indecipherable morass. Take those out, and the guitar can close the remaining distance to the listener, leaping forward and pressing its advantage. Doom metal is well suited for this— giant riffs can seem planet-sized without any distractions in the way—but the difficult part is making the music interesting sans lyrical content. Empty Black, a new instrumental doom trio out of Atlanta, Georgia, solves this problem handily: their rough-hewn doom metal is explosive, but it detonates with an impeccable sense of groove that keeps heads nodding as savage, stomping riffs litter their surroundings with smoldering debris. Listen to their debut self-titled EP now ahead of its Friday release:



While the EP demonstrates at multiple points that Empty Black is more than able to deliver on the slow side of things, it's tracks like "Raspberry," kicking off with a rapid-paced riff and frantic drums to match and concluding with a laconic, sneering outro, that highlight the volatility of the record's stoner/doom compound and are what draw my attention the most as I listen. There isn't a weak riff in sight, though, and fast or slow they all pull the audience along. Heavy, though tasteful, use of the ride bell (the extremely loud "ding") helps drive the syncopated feel of the record, notably on the busy opener track "Bong Fire" but also in closer "Ripper," which is probably the meanest track. It boasts an introductory riff that seems to snarl and snap at the listener—again, with no vocals to dilute it. Then, the second half of the song devolves into slower (but still obviously pissed-off) chords that eventually resolve into howling noise to cap things off.

The notably raw production on the record meshes with the band's instrumental trio approach, letting those unfiltered riffs hit eardrums with as much gnarly distortion artifacts as possible—but it's obvious this roughness was intentionally crafted, as the drums clatter and crash behind the guitars with reverberating intensity that keeps the rhythm up front along with the riffs. This kind of music was made for small dive bar shows, where the gap between the listener and the musicians is as small as possible. I imagine that were I standing five feet from the kick drum at a live show, PA speaker in my ear, Empty Black's tightly-coordinated nastiness would feel a lot like this record... only louder.

The band comments:

We just wanted to create something exciting for the listener that takes them on a journey. The songs play out as emotional stages of being left behind in deep space, which ties in the album art and the noise tracks, which include cosmonaut transmissions. The EP starts with "Bong Fire", a heavy and doomed track that highlights realizing you've been left behind on a distant planet. Then the EP progresses toward hopeful and determined to get the listener excited and pumped up like they've got a plan to get home with the "Hog Tied" and "Raspberry" tracks. However, those plans don't come to fruition and ultimately that hope comes crashing down at the end with "Ripper" and leaves the listener exhausted. Hopefully it's a cool enough journey that listeners will want to take over and over!


The Empty Black EP releases October 27th via The Dregs Records (vinyl will be available later this week at The Dregs' Bigcartel).

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