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Compilation Review: Women of Doom

I’ve been quite intrigued by Women of Doom since it was first announced in 2019. Highlighting the creative achievements of women in the underground music scene is commendable in itself, but releasing a compilation of exclusive songs from some of the finest musicians and bands around makes for some truly exciting prospects. That feeling only intensified as the roster grew longer, and the Kickstarter behind it proved successful.

As expected, with an accumulation of such eclectic talents, there is a whole lot of variety at work. The songs may all be under the stoner/doom metal umbrella with a noticeably personal air to each, but no two projects are the same. There are plenty of unique approaches with supplementary influences ranging from trip-hop, folk, and classical, among others. It may not be the most cohesive listen when taken as a whole, but that’s to be expected with the format. It’s a true testament to the genre’s flexibilities as well as the abilities of those involved.

It’s especially great to see artists use this platform to express sides of themselves that they hadn’t previously. Amy Tung Barrysmith’s “Broken” is the most striking example with piano-driven introspection that’s a far cry from Year of the Cobra’s stoner abrasion. Elsewhere, the classic doom with violin on Doomstress Alexis’ “Façade” reminds me of Earthen Grave and Mlny Parsonz’ “A Skeleton is Born” and “Broke an Arrow” are stripped down variations of Royal Thunder’s heartbreak.

There’s even opportunity for completely new bands to make their debut, with The Otolith and The Keening offering their first impressions as spin-offs from the tragically disbanded Subrosa. I must admit that these projects’ more ambient natures can make them seem lost in the shuffle, but the former’s “Bone Dust” is right in line with Subrosa’s classical doom and the latter’s “A Shadow Covers Your Face” makes for a calming piano outro. I’ll be curious to see how their sounds fill out with expanded context.

On the flip side, several bands approach the compilation with a business-as-usual mindset that can be just as effective. Heavy Temple’s “Astral Hand” has a more epic doom flavor than usual, perhaps owing to the lineup revamp, but it still packs the same heavy fuzz seen on their EPs. Frayle and Deathbell offer up their conventional wares with “Marrow” and “Coldclaw.” The former track is a particular highlight; its haunting plod is more subdued than the other songs on the recently released 1692, but it would’ve been a highlight had it been included.

Determining the best tracks on Women of Doom will likely come down to which artists a given listener likes the most, but this compilation is worthy of applause for everything it stands for. The exclusive material is an excellent incentive to an already worthy cause, and I love seeing these musicians either step out of their comfort zones or play to the styles that already help them stand out. Considering the multitude of other great female-fronted bands and solo artists that underground doom has to offer, I sure wouldn’t complain if this was the first installment of an ongoing series.

Heavy Temple – “Astral Hand”
Amy Tung Barrysmith – “Broken”
Mlny Parsonz – “A Skeleton is Born” and “Broke an Arrow”
Frayle – “Marrow”

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