Originally written by Chris Chellis.
From Internal Void to Spirit Caravan and The Obsessed, Maryland is a breeding ground for quality doom metal. The same could be said about Southern Lord Records, home for many a lost soul in search of heavy music saturated with the mysticism that can only come from one too many hits from the bong. Some will eat this shit up without criticism, as I would like to do, feeling the extended solos like the one found in Vampire Circus’s second track, “Understand,” traveling through their veins like an injected sugar rush. Others will simply find this stuff derivative. Regardless, if you’re in any way attracted to the dirge of doom metal, you can’t go wrong with Earthride’s second full-length.
I can’t imagine anyone hating this album. Opening track “Fighting the Devils Inside You” is like the musical version of grandma’s welcome home hug. Not only that, but you find that when you move past that first track, it’s like when you get past that first hug only to find that grandma’s also baked an assortment of your favorite cookies, all collected within one big bowl waiting for you next to that comfortable chair that you fall asleep in listening to stories of her childhood.
Now, arguably, I haven’t listened to an insane amount of doom metal albums this year, but this is certainly one of the best I have listened to thus far, and I can’t say I’d feel guilty recommending this to anyone who has shown a consistent interest in doom. What astounds me most is that I don’t get bored at any point on this album. Nothing is particularly samey or uninspired on Vampire Circus. In fact, most songs are played with this almost indescribable energy, such as the album’s last track, “Swamp Witch,” which weaves its merry way through a mid-paced rockerish vibe straight to sugary sweet doom metal goodness, all within three and a half minutes. The riff in the chorus is in my top 5 of ’05, and the developed wankery found on the latter half of the song is fun as hell. “Loss” is another song worthy of mention, as it distinguishes itself from the nine other tracks with a slower, softer sound that nonetheless conveys Earthride’s grasp on the balance necessary between hook and complexity, and the solo beginning at the 3:30 mark is mind-numbingly rad in the same ice-cream induced brain freeze way.
Those looking for a particular vibe or sound are honestly fucked. No one is going to do this album any service by describing it in words, but I suppose that’s my job as a writer, so I’ll do the best I can. Think typical Southern Lord, but, and I find myself stretching a little here, more accessible. Inevitably, readers will see that term accessible and think of Sunday morning jaunts to the local bakery, but rest assured folks, this album is by no means a jaunt or a walk through the park. Accessible here means tracks that have been kept at a reasonable length and pace. That doesn’t mean that Earthride isn’t pushing the doom metal norm or isn’t as impressive as the rest of its Southern Lord brethren. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if this album finishes somewhere in my end-of-year top 10 list.
Laced with awesome solos, tight instrumentation, enough variation to satisfy even the staunchest of doom metal aficionados, and an amazing singing voice courtesy of Dave Sherman, Vampire Circus is a riff-driven masterpiece of doom realized to its near full potential. Mike Dean’s production highlights the warm fuzz.