There are a couple conclusions that I’ve come to in my years of exploring doom metal and its numerous variants. The first is that doom is a very difficult genre to parody. When even the most serious bands seem aware of their chosen style’s inherent absurdities, pastiche is nigh indistinguishable from the real thing. Second and more subjectively, doom is a lot harder to screw up than most other genres. I’ve heard plenty of awful thrash, power, and black metal bands among others, but the inherent enjoyability of doom just makes even the worst of it merely mediocre. I’m not one to assume a band’s intentions, but BongBongBeerWizards seems poised to shatter these preconceptions with Bong Hit Wonders.
As BongBongBeerWizards’ horrific taste in band names suggests (seriously, guys, one bong wasn’t enough?), they sure do love themselves some Sleep’s Dopesmoker. The Germans’ particular take on doom clearly apes the Marianas Trench pacing seen on that monolith and such acolytes as Conan, and is seemingly out to dumb down these elements as much as possible. It isn’t dragging or atmospheric enough to lurch into drone territory, but makes for an incredibly trying exercise of patience.
The first two songs on Bong Hit Wonders don’t exactly set the stage too well. “Hansa” and “Satanic Beer Sluts” attempt to set themselves apart by the former’s attempts at chanting incantations and the latter’s more drawn out feedback and filthier vocals, but they are ultimately interchangeable. Dynamics are nonexistent aside from brief pauses and obligatory volume swells and structures drag on aimlessly. The focus is obviously on building up the riffs but even those require an understanding of Morse code to properly decipher.
But then it gets weird as the following tracks seem designed to preemptively counter these criticisms. “Toner Empty” and “Absynth” are still ungodly sluggish, but there are proper attempts at distinction and dynamics; the former is the album’s most driving track thanks to a pummeling swing rhythm and weird call-and-response bellows while the latter includes spacey textures with drawn out vocals to match. The near seven-minute runtime on “Asnah” feels like a reprieve compared to the ten-minute behemoths behind it, but the ‘leave the camera on’-style jam doesn’t exactly make for the smoothest closer.
It must also be said that the band dynamic stays pretty consistent throughout. The guitar fuzz is overwhelming though rather muffled by the production job, but the bass can often be seen propping it up. The drums may be the band’s strongest asset, showcasing a loose yet hard hitting style. The varied vocal approach could also be highlighted, but the underdeveloped lines and distant placement in the mix makes it feel like an afterthought.
Questioning the motivations behind BongBongBeerWizards can lead to Lovecraftian madness. Bong Hit Wonders would’ve been a much easier pill to swallow as a two-song sampler instead of this overstuffed five-song feature, but even then, it’d still be pretty generic with more potential hinted at than actually delivered. Doom naysayers will find the perfect whipping boy to air out their grievances, and fans have plenty of better options to choose from. In the world of dank metal, this is skunk weed.