It would be easy to overlook Deadsmoke’s debut album. The Italian group’s name and style suggest yet another chink in the chain of bottom heavy amplifier worship, and their first effort’s half-hour runtime suggests a lack of ambition compared to their monolithic peers. While Deadsmoke doesn’t dispel their cues from Electric Wizard and Conan among others, their debut does have more to it.
At first, it seems like this album will consist of typical stoner doom fare. The opening “Branches of Evil” sets up a series of minimalistic but heavy guitar plods, and “Eyes of the Blind Man” continues the mold with a more enticing vocal line. However, things change up slightly on “War Behind Me,” as the drums back the hits even harder and the bass takes over in certain spots.
Things shift even more as “Tornado” comes on with a more restrained guitar performance and atmospheric effects overwhelming sparse vocals. From there, “Nest of the Vipers” returns to a heavier stance, but retains a meditative outlook. More doom bands seem to be appropriating this sort of formula, but it’s hard to complain when it’s placed in the right hands.
The vocals also enhance the variety. While their place in the mix is more subtle in favor of the droning instrumentation, they switch between different styles and evolve over the course of the album. They even take the spotlight at times, such as the catchy lines on “Eyes of the Blind Man.”
Overall, Deadsmoke’s debut will please fans of Bongzilla and other sludgy bottom-feeders, but offers more variety than one would initially believe. The subtle vocal changes invoke Conan’s recent trajectory and their being ahead of the curve makes one wonder how they will develop. A successful debut will hopefully result in even more greater efforts on the way.