My first thought upon hearing Essex-based quartet Sickfist—I guess technically the second thought, right after ‘oh thank fuck they aren’t a metalcore/nü metal band with a name like that’—was how very British they sound on their debut full-length Adrifft. And then quickly behind that came another thought: yeah, but what that even mean? I mean, England is basically the birthplace of the stoner/doom genre – doesn’t almost every band playing that style of music sound British in direct proportion to how much they’re influenced by Black Sabbath?
Except that I don’t hear any Sabbath in Sickfist’s sound. Frankly, I think I hear more of Steve Marriott in their music than I do Tony Iommi. So scratch that theory.
And it’s not just that lead vocalist/bassist Jed Baker and vocalist/drummer Rik Spanner both sing with accents. Hell, Billie Joe Armstrong has been faking one for close to three decades, and no one has ever mistaken Green Day for an English band.
More than anything, I think it’s because most of their songs lie in that comfortable middle ground between the heavy blues of a Creem and the boogie rock of a Humble Pie. In other words, there are grooves for days on this record, and groovy riffs and tasty leads from guitarists Aris Perperoglou and Max Mayes. The late 60s/early 70s-tinged end results might not make for the heaviest stoner rock album you’ll hear this year, but riff-for-riff it certainly ranks among the catchiest. The album opens with the rolling, mid-tempo “Oceans of Green” and just seems to get stronger from there. The heavy, stuttering main riff on “Breakdown” stands as an early album highlight, but it’s quickly surpassed by the bluesy shuffle of “Periphery” and the slippery “Thousand Ways to Die.”
Sickfist save the best for last, though, with the closing duo of “Let the Angels See Me” and “Reality Divorced.” The doubling of the guitars on the main lick and ringing open chords on in “Angels” make for one of the most memorable riffs on the record, and the guitar solo is also one of the album’s best. Closer “Reality Divorced” stands out for what sounds like a strong Hendrix influence. It particularly comes through in the guitar tones, which remind me more than a little bit of “Little Wing” (or the intro to Pearl Jam’s “Yellow Ledbetter,” which also has a remarkably similar vibe). Lots of really lyrical lead work on this one as well.
So if you’re a stoner/doom fan and you’re looking for something a little different than the usual Sabbathian fare, I’d recommend giving Sickfist a listen. Adrifft has all the riffy goodness you’re looking for, and it will definitely help clear some of that reheated Iommi residue from your palate.
Adrifft is now available via Sickfist’s Bandcamp page.