If you know anything about the modern stoner doom scene, then you already have a good idea of what Black Road sounds like. The Chicago group’s fuzzy blues sound shares the same 70s sensibilities as contemporaries such as Demon Eye and Ruby the Hatchet, while boasting the occult seduction that makes Psychedelic Witchcraft and any band fronted by Johanna Sadonis so alluring. But rather than feeling like a tired ripoff, the band uses this familiar style as a springboard to make their debut studio offering an energetic listen.
While Black Road’s witchy aesthetic may make it easy to dismiss them as being yet another female-fronted vanity project, this is a band that is all about the guitar. The vocals have a pleasant, subtle aura and there are some walking bass lines, but the guitar has the most dominant presence in the songwriting. Songs like the opening “From Hell” and “Red” are defined by their hypnotic riffs and tempo changes, while songs like the ten minute “Black Rose” feature smoothly extended instrumental segments.
It also helps that the songwriting is full of variety for only six songs, two of which are separate halves of an overarching instrumental. Lead single “Bloody Mary” is easily the heaviest and most straightforward track, offering a chunky groove in the vein of mid-90s Cathedral. The “Morte” instrumentals also manage to be highlights, particularly the more overtly macabre “Morte (Coda);” I do wonder why they were split up, but they blend well together and provide a smooth halfway point.
Overall, Black Road’s self-titled EP isn’t out to change the musical climate but it’s definitely a fun effort made unique by its memorable songwriting and outstanding musicianship. The presentation may be a little too basic “retro rock 101” for some but there’s sincerity and lack of smugness that is rare for any group in this day and age. Considering all the other songs previously released that didn’t show up on here, it should be quite interesting to see where the band goes from here.