Confusion Master – Awaken (2018) REVIEW

The generations of stoner metal and doom bands influenced by Sleep‘s ‘Volume 1’ and Electric Wizard‘s ‘Dopethrone’ are stacking up and showing out in the best way this last decade as the students begin to outshine the aged and increasingly crispy masters. Confusion Master represented a more orthodox mass of ‘Come Thy Fanatics’-like riff-building and psychedelic blow outs right out of the box on their ‘Witch Pollution’ demo from 2016. Heady, distant, and in service to the slow-dragging riffs of their lineage very little needed to change for their debut full-length ‘Awaken’ to impress me. A darker, heavier sound with clearer mids and two years of small improvements make a world of difference here, though I’ll admit you might have to be a fanatic of their influences to warm up to ‘Awaken’.

From the endless waves of impossibly sustained distortion and psycho-actively soaked vocal effects you’ll understand exactly what trip you’re on the moment Confusion Master wah-wahs in your ear and cuts a deep, rippling rug underneath you. Hot on the heels of major releases from Sleep and Green Druid, ‘Awaken’ might seem a little bit tame at first riff but I doubt you’ll turn it off before it ends. I suppose what separates it’s sound and approach from Electric Wizard outside of it’s general sonic resemblance is a sort of warmth, a cathartic blanket for the distressed that Confusion Master tosses over the listener. The horror and kitsch of their forbears doesn’t translate fully and instead jiggles the mind without harshing the senses with any sort of impending doom; It can’t be denied that the riffs and samples that make up the bulk of ‘Awaken’ demand direct comparison to ‘Dopethrone’ era Electric Wizard inescapably, but without the harsh vocal experimentation of that band’s surrounding releases.

Beyond the natural resemblance, which is a sub-genre unto itself anyhow, Confusion Master write long and atmospheric tracks that often reach for the ten minute mark. Speaking to ‘confusion’ actually, the album proper is only the first four tracks which total  about 42 minutes and the CD that comes with the LP includes three extra tracks that bring it up to a full hour. So, even though those extra three tracks really add a lot to the album they’re essentially B-sides from recording sessions as far as I can tell. Listening to the full thing all at once I felt like it worked excellent as a complete, but slightly exhausting, hour long listen. So, if I was just going by the four songs meant to contain ‘Awaken’ my score would actually be slightly lower, because I love the extra tracks from the CD version and to leave them out would lose the spaced-out feeling of those last 20 minutes after the main four songs are more lively and aggressive.

There is a seductive feeling of orthodoxy, as absurd as calling early 00’s stoner doom/sludge orthodox might seem, surrounding the confidently buzzing tonality of Confusion Master. Whether it is nostalgia or an accepted set of norms for stoner/doom ‘Awaken’ is an immediately familiar and easy to fall into pillow of doom that is lite on the dread and heavy on the fuzzy doom riffs. It doesn’t top the best doom of the year but rather sits confidently in the middle-to-high range beneath the greats and the more clearly differentiated upstarts. “Witch Pollution” has some of the strongest moments on the album proper, but “Reaper’s Fist” is hands down the most dogged punch of guitar work and ingenuity on ‘Awaken’. As much as I like the pun, I don’t actually like “Goner Colony” and I personally would have replaced it with the duo of “False Dawn” and “Awaken” to round out the end of the record.

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Artist Confusion Master
Type Album
Released April 27, 2018
BUY from Exile on Mainstream Records!

Live Version of “Reaper’s Fist”

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Genres
Doom Metal, Stoner Metal

Acknowledged and inverted. 3.75/5.0

 

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