Damn, this is exactly what I wanted to hear. Let’s just get into it.
There’s a certain kind of stoner doom sound that destroys my eardrums with nuclear certainty: a sonorous concoction of brutally patient riffs, audible and scene-stealing bass playing, standout vocal performances, and a weird-ass concept with an engagingly surreal foundation. A few albums spring to mind as exemplars of this crushing sound, produced by bands that I’ll surely namedrop in the forthcoming predicates, and I’m happy to hear those elements of stoner doom superiority throughout A Throne in Haze, a World Ablaze. It’s been a minute since a doom metal LP sat with me longer than a lunch break; lately, I feel drained by the desert rockers, the Candlemass clones are beating their niche to death, and I’ve got less patience for atmospheric sad boys than I used to. Goblinsmoker is a breath of foul air, and I’m here for it.
Let’s set the stage first. It wouldn’t be a true epic stoner doom album without a bizarre story to tell, and Goblinsmoker spin a yarn that rivals the head-scratching concepts of 70s prog. Picking up where their debut album left the “Toad King Trilogy,” ATiH,aWA heralds a cruel and needless war spurred on by covetous greed and surreptitious motives. At the center of the conflict, a froggy monarch, eternally baked, conspires against his own kin, who are sacrificed as smoldering dank to His Majesty’s bong. The Toad King raises an army of goblins to exterminate all that croaks in his dominion, as a shamanic Svengali plots subterfuge behind the scenes. It’s a narrative tailor-made for stoner doom, and with three tracks wrapping up in less than thirty minutes, the tongue-in-cheek goofiness of the premise feels resinous and unpretentious.
“Haste makes waste,” an old finger-wagging adage of wisdom for careful surgeons, Navy SEALs, and stoner doom trios. Slower than a waltz, but quicker than the SUNN, this UK three-piece plods along to the aphoristic force of drummer C’s durable kit. The concussive accompaniment suits the dearly downtuned guitar and bass, likely engineered by Weedian roadies, that lurch like sand-blown marijuanauts ambling towards a Bufonidae promised land. Goblinsmoker carry on their toad-themed triptych with “Smoked in Darkness,” a bastion of overwhelming doom with fuzzy 4-string riffs and skull-pounding distortion. The opener on ATiH,aWA culminates with a bluesy romp through Kyuss-infested waters, rocking the lily pad with wild abandon before sinking back into the murky swamp. Closing track “The Forest Mourns” saunters with a shifty riff that rearranges common doom chords like Feng shui, maintaining the metronomic integrity of downhill molasses. Whether you’re rapt with attention or absently nodding along, the music Goblinsmoker produces breezes by like a three-day weekend. These songs feel utterly complete, never indulgent, and to the credit of the songwriting, immensely listenable.
Amidst the pulverizing beats and bloodshot basslines comes the shrieking rasp of bandleader A’s vocals, who delivers a killer, if polarizing, performance. Mr. A earns his corpse paint with raw black metal screams that inject an earnest sense of nastiness into the irreverent story, contributing the albums most emotive moments with strained wails and berzerk laments. On the immersive “Let Them Rot,” Mr. A wrings out his diaphragm to bellow the titular command, as the song morphs into a blackened up-tempo barnburner. I have a feeling that traditional doom fans will take issue with Mr. A’s vocal stylings, as they’re indistinguishable from black metal, but they fit the plodding gait of this album perfectly, and they’re just really damn good.
Man, I’ve been getting lucky lately with reviewing new metal. I try not to gush so much and be more critical, but February has yielded a bounty of great metal so far. A Throne in Haze, a World Ablaze is an excellent stoner doom record that succeeds in carving its own pumpkin in a patch full of imitators and clones. While similar 2000s-era groups like Weedeater and Bongzilla nudged towards sludge with their extreme vocals, Goblinsmoker play true blue doom with strident OSBM-style yawps and squawks. It took me no time at all to get used to the vocals, and my tens of repeat playthroughs speak to the high quality of the album’s pacing and songwriting. Ultimately, I’m a simple doom fan that knows what I like: I like Dopesmoker, I like Dopethrone, I like Bongripper, which means I like Goblinsmoker. If you’re like me, you’ll like this, too. Smoke it to the filter.
A Throne in Haze, a World Ablaze was released on February 7th, 2020, on Sludgelord Records.
You can worship the Toad King by picking up this album here.