Our dear mums were right: We’re all special snowflakes. We are unique, we have varied opinions and values, and perhaps most importantly, we have exceptionally uncommon taste in art, particularly music. Remember when Janice over in Purchasing asked if you like Godsmack and you made damn sure she heard you blaring that Warpvomit album as you left the parking lot later that day? Amen. SINGULARITY.
But be vigilant in your freak-flag waving, soldiers, for even we can fall into a rut. Heaven forbid your vital year-end list be stacked to the rafters with atmospheric, crusty, anti-cosmic, blackened, speed skating war metal and nothing but. Challenging one’s wheelhouse on a regular basis ensures heavy metal durability, and you’ll be all the richer for it. In terms of doom, which is the matter at hand right’chere, it’s about periodically defying the overtly gloomy, funereally slow and forever sludgy in favor of something, well…different. Not entirely new, mind you, just different, particularly when compared to what’s been gobbling up most of the spotlight in 2016.
Judging the book by its cover, The Righteous Bloom looks like a slab of stoner jams that might have gotten a hard push in the Hellride and All That Is Heavy forums a handful of years ago, and that’s a pretty fair assessment on the surface –– the record is fuzzy, bottom-heavy and sure to coexist comfortably on the couch next to any floating hesher. Plus, thar be plumes of smoke and nekkid faery-folk flitting about the album artwork, and the band’s name is Beelzefuzz, for God’s sake. (Incidentally, if you’re thinking about playing the old “well, I just can’t get past the name” card, that’s obviously your prerogative, but you better not have anything from Made Out of Babies or Strapping Young Lad on your nightstand.)
This is much more than a typical stoner doom offering, however. For one, the songs are refreshingly precise. Six of the eleven are under four minutes, with the longest stretch being reserved for the seven minute title track. Brevity such as this means there’s not much room for ancillary cosmic decoration, so there’s not much standing in the way of the listener getting hit by riffs, strut and melody on each song, and very directly. This lack of gimmickery also puts added weight on good ol’ fashioned songwriting, which is navigated rather handily by the fact that the players are all veterans of music who were likely dissecting Sabbath and Uriah Heep records while a number of our readers were still covered in mashed carrots and firing boom-booms into Huggies. Obviously age doesn’t necessarily equate to quality, but Beelzefuzz features old salts from Pale Divine (drummer Darin McCloskey and guitarist Greg Diener) and Revelation/Against Nature (bassist Bert Hall) on the clock, and that doomed pedigree shines through on The Righteous Bloom.
The record is also a little bit weird. Good weird. Pleasant weird. The strut is heavy – at times, surprisingly so (“Soulless” and “Nebulous”) – but it has a very different sort of playful sway to the overall gait and mood. Woolly mammoth heavy, but not necessarily crushing in that Conan/Monolord sort of way. More of a “Woolly mammoths banging out on the plains without a care in the world” kind of heavy. Feel-good, but watch out for that trunk, jack. Additionally, a very curious “polyphonic octave” pedal on the guitars throws an engaging keyboard/organ element on top of the riffs, which intensifies the record’s blanketing swagger.
Also adding to the album’s uniqueness is the fact that guitarist Dana Ortt has an absolutely fantastic voice with huge range, defying the typical biker yowl that often accompanies this style. His tone is clear and bright, not unlike Tommy Shaw or even Mark Farner during the early Grand Funk years, and when paired alongside the album’s piles of bluesy/Iommi-inspired leads (split evenly with Diener), it gives The Righteous Bloom a strong hard rockin’ blues slant that would sound perfect pealing from a cluttered garage like a 70s Wishbone Ash record. Just listen to the swampy, smoky stomper “Hardluck Melody” and let that velvet hammer pound your gloom into submission.
Righteous Bloom by Beelzefuzz&lt;/a&gt;
Ultimately, two words are likely best suited to help gauge whether or not this record is worthy of your money: Hellhound Records. Hopefully that label already means something to you, but if it doesn’t, know that it was once responsible for putting Maryland doom bands such as The Obsessed, Unorthodox, Wretched, Revelation, Iron Man and Internal Void on the map back in the late 80s and early 90s. That tradition of doom – bold, bluesy and burly – is what Beelzefuzz continues to cultivate with The Righteous Bloom. If that sounds interesting, and you’ve got an adventurous spirit that enjoys metal that makes you feel damn good, I suggest you climb aboard.