Masterminded by Andrew Markuszewski of Lord Mantis, Sonoran Rebel Black Magick’s debut album, True Western Doom is a fascinating genre hodgepodge. While extreme metal tinges poke through in the occasional screams and heavy guitar intrusions, the songs are rooted in a folk/country style with a dark American southwest aesthetic. Add in some industrial synth takeovers and you’ve got an unnerving crossroads between late-era Swans, Cobalt, Zeal & Ardor, and Those Poor Bastards.
The guitars set a solid foundation as the minimalist acoustic playing avoids getting too basic and the heavier chords provide the right amount of tension. The vocals also help give the album character, largely opting for a Gira-style baritone but occasionally giving way to a robotic sneer or blackened rasps. The percussion and keyboards don’t offer much technical prowess, but they fill out the atmosphere quite nicely. These elements are overseen by a raw, lo-fi production that only reinforces the project’s hateful intent.
This heightened emphasis on atmosphere can make the songwriting feel somewhat sparse at times, but there are plenty of tracks that effectively execute the formula at hand. The second half is especially good at this as the title track and “Doomchief” use ominous buildups with harsh vocals reciting equally misanthropic lyrics and clashing power chords at each climax. The keyboard-driven “Tantra Bandits” makes for a creepy as hell closer, even if the instrumental “Dreamstate of the Trochiliformes” ends up feeling slightly redundant in its wake.
Overall, True Western Doom is a shuffled track listing away from reaching its true potential, but it sets up Sonoran Rebel Black Magick’s mission statement well enough. I can imagine some extra polish working in the album’s favor, but the project’s ready commitment to a unique vision ensures an intriguingly disorienting listen. Its incorporation of various influences is more niche territory than something for everyone, but this is a project that people of different tastes could all afford to keep an eye on.
“No Country for the Weak”
“True Western Doom”