On the surface, Oakland, CA’s Cardinal Wyrm is a doom band cut from a similar cloth as ye Finnish acts of olde (and not-so-olde): Songs that primarily embrace loooong, marbled Rev Biz and Spiritus Mortis brushstrokes that paint lethargic, rumbling and epic depictions of heavy, holy-Mother-of-God-heavy doom & gloom. Drop directly into cut #5 “Leaves of this Hanging Tree,” for example, and you’ll quickly be felled by the sort of cold, grief-stricken punch you might expect to hear from a band like Fall of the Idols. In this regard, Black Hole Gods will go down as smooth as a gin & benzo martini for those who’d prefer to stifle the assertive sparkle of Summer as we barrel into the furnace that is August.
But plunge your head beneath that Finndoom surface and you’ll quickly discover that Cardinal Wyrm largely adheres to a fundamental tenet shared with a significant portion of other Bay Area heavy metal bands: Do what thou wilt. It’s a concept that has produced all manner of alluring boundary bending in this neck of the woods, particularly when it comes to fusions of noisier, punk-fueled dispositions, and it clearly comes into play with Cardinal Wyrm’s steady reliance on pealing sludgedoom and noise rock.
Finndoom meets Sleep meets Amphetamine Reptile Records: That’d be the quick and dirty method to deciphering the formula wielded by this booming trio. You’ll get cozy & comfortable with that slowly rumbling tank tread that coolly grinds your dome into the dirt during the opening minutes of “Dreams of Teeth,” but that pretty little bit of jangly guitars delivered via Natan Vee somewhere around the midpoint defies what many are used to swallerin’ from stretched doom of this nature. And that rowdy bit of crackling fretwork that eventually opens to a spirited, blistering lead at the heart of “Born in a Barren Land” could just as easily have fallen off an old, forgotten Killdozer album.
Pressing further, “I am the Doorway” blows breezily from the gate with a bit of a modern Earth flavor, and it eventually throws down a ballsy rocker-of-a-riff (3:50) that would flip Gene Simmons’ brilloed wig if he ever listened to a band outside of his bloody own. And Jaysus Almighty, I don’t even know where to begin with “Cult of the Coiled Spine.” Is this a goddamn swing tune put to organ and sludgy doom? Click them heels and swing them elbows as your brain plows through the positively mental lyrics:
“Huddled at the base we shiver
Milk-sop sodden infants
Held in formless suspension
Sexless globules shudder
Palm sweat and quickened breaths
Under the boot and ecstatic
They say their prayers
Hogtied in a shriveled
State of umbilical bondage
Of lifelong toil and endless wandering
Cradled in the caul fat
Crisp and a stinking net of lace
Sugar coated skeletons of mesentery”
Yes, ma’am. Cardinal Wyrm is not the sort of band to treat the written word as a secondary element, so consider the lyrics attached to Black Hole Gods as an essential part to the full puzzle — refreshing in a world where many have grown comfortable accepting offenses such as “Can’t stop us/They don’t know why/They try/Can’t hurt us/We’ll never die” ~ Rob “My Goatee Needs an Intervention” Halford.
Top off all that muddy doom and noise and filthily bubbling bass (Rachel Roomian) with the delightfully deranged clean-croon of drummer/vocalist Pranjal Tiwari and you’ve got just the sort of sophomore record that could make an old Bay Area banger mourn the lost Lysol days of The Melvins, or when Laudanum used to cave skulls on the regular from the bowels of shadowy dive bars. Luckily, there’s a new host for all your lunatic noisy doom needs. And with a little bit of luck and much-deserved attention, Cardinal Wyrm will be kicking through heads and genre boundaries for a good long while.
Black Hole Gods will be available Tuesday, August 5th via the Cardinal Wyrm bandcamp page. I suggest you jump on it.