Green Druid – Ashen Blood (2018) REVIEW

This four piece psychedelic doom metal band from Denver offer their first set of songs in the form of a blood-rite that sacrifices the droning psychedelic lurch of Electric Wizard‘s self-titled debut atop the altar at the peak of the over-sized mountain climb of Sleep‘s ultimate alternate take, ‘Dopesmoker’. They’ve stitched together their monumental sound with fluttering, unreserved neo-psych touches that range from retro psych-doomed Uncle Acid freakouts to smooth-droning guitar feedback whiffing. ‘Ashen Blood’ is der perkete traum of natural philosophy, retro-kissed modern doom metal, and introspective occult madness.

From it’s onset ‘Ashen Blood’ has the voice of a possessed faun with it’s mix-faded backseat vocals a la Ice Dragon’s occasional 70’s doom personality, though it is without passion so much as flattened possession. The vocals run a wide range from there, with stretches towards a Magic Circle level of uniquely garage doom wailing as well as burning deathly howls to compliment lilts of aggression in thier distorted riff framework. The writing often resembles a band like Teeth of the Lions Rule the Divine and their cacophonous cauldron of distant tortured doom darkness, but with neo-psych /stoner vocal moans warming up the experience into a radiant glow. The atmospheric guitar tones of ‘Ashen Blood’ reach Glenn Branca heights of radiance as slow-mourning neo-psych ripple above it’s timid curses beneath a darkly lit cowl. And holy shit that’s just the first two tracks. “Agoraphobia” is a standout monster, a sort of proof-of-concept song that is soon outdone by the colossal duo of “Dead Tree” and 18+ minute opus “Cursed Blood”.

In fact, Green Druid’s most beguiling quality is their shifting presence throughout the experience. The way that “Dead Tree” pokes its head from behind the candlelit seance of “Agoraphobia” and rips out several huge mutated werewolf riffs before giving way to the growled incantations and spellbinding centerpiece that is “Cursed Blood”. The pace is just semi-static enough that the motion of ‘Ashen Blood’ alternates between blustering rock-smashing guitars and humbly plucked slo-mo Pagan Altar doomed fantasy-soaked rock. The doldrums of long-winded doom don’t cast their shadow here, perhaps entirely because of the incorporated stoner doom influences.

At an hour and fifteen minutes Green Druid are stretching themselves from ear to ear of the average doom maniacs attention span and I love them for it. The challenge is so worthy because the ranting blood-magick infused vocals and cave dwelling guitar crawls slither towards skull-scraped psychedelic-induced head nodding emptiness like nothing else. The pace isn’t going to thrill the uninitiated but this genre absolutely needs this much room to breathe in tracks that run as long as 17 minutes and generally structure themselves to flow into one another. Without the first 9 minutes of build on “Cursed Blood” the “Into the Void”-esque transition towards the last 9 minutes wouldn’t have half the impact. Few greenhorn groups are capable of pulling that sort of thing off and I’d argue at the very least that song is worth several listens. The rest of the album should unfurl from there.

I was fully sold into this whole Green Druid thing once the first half of “Rebirth” kicked in with it’s ‘Dopethrone’-ing burlap thick riffs, loudspeaker vocals, and crystalline wah-pedal flourishes. From there an Acid King inspired stomp riff with inspired soloing ensues, invoking a touch of NOLA-sludge groove on it’s way out. For an album that seemed so unremarkable when I first heard it ‘Ashen Blood’ has it’s own occult allure about it that kept me coming back for a listen. The grooves are so easy to fall into and the extended compositions offer many points of focus across repeated listens. As a result I’ve found this to be one of the most redeeming records of the year so far. It’s appeal goes one step beyond the harrowing and sometimes pre-mature work of it’s generational doom masters and outdoes them with a blurry-yet-inspirational cohesion. Recommended if you like old Electric Wizard, the first Magic Circle, Ice Dragon, and such.

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Artist Green Druid
Type Album
Released March 16, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp! Follow Green Druid on Facebook
Genres

Tell the children goodnight. 4.25/5.0

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