EARLY MOODS – Early Moods (2022)REVIEW

Entäußerung as tradition. — We can consider the first major output from Los Angeles, California-based quartet Early Moods fundamentally in approach of the very root merger of late-stage heavy psychedelic rock and emergent heavy metal tradition as a point of personality, a band who’d foundered their collective raison d’être in application of classic songwriting standards and practices unto an approachable, rocking form of heavy/doom metal. Their path thus far takes its first step onto the soil proper with ‘Early Moods‘ as they take on an ambitious, expert mélange of idyllic traits and slight nods to the heavy/doom metal continuum — all of which ultimately amount to the lovechild of various post-Sabbath grooves from the last fifty years. Consider it ‘genre music’ if you will, I will certainly emphasize the minutiae of rock and metal sub-genre herein, but I’d encourage listeners to take this one in as an example of traditional forms taken for their stylized details and not for generalized skeletal traits, allowing enough room for divulgence of existential dread which bears its own substantial, entertaining traits alongside a taste level which shines throughout. Do you like ‘Sabotage‘ as much as ‘Killers‘? If yeah, hey you’ll like the heavier, always tuneful jabs these guys take on their first album.

Guitarist Eddie Andrade (Rude, ex-Morfin) and vocalist/keyboardist Alberto Alcaraz formed Early Moods in 2015 after having spent some years exploring the possibilities of nostalgic death (and thrash) metal alongside the quasi-emotional thrill-seeking of melodic black/death metal in Miscreancy. I only emphasize this up front because I generally understand this step as more-or-less logical, the expressive limitations of traditional extreme metal are readily apparent in practice and folks with those specific tastes tend towards authenticity and emotional resonance first when it comes time to seek out purpose beyond, or, in this case that which is representative of their locus. They’d not fully kicked into gear as an all-in quartet right away, it seems as they’d developed their sound to a certain standard. Their debut EP (‘Spellbound‘, 2020) eventually surfaced fives years beyond and certainly resonated with me well enough back in September of that year when it was picked up by Dying Victims, remarking: “Their performances are solid for stoney garage doom of the early ’84-’92 ilk but I’ve the sense that this is Early Moods early in their formative stages working out their path forward and figuring the appropriate amount of personality they’re going to push out therein.” and this is exactly what they’d been up to beyond that release if we can consider ‘Early Moods‘ as plain enough evidentiary findings. The only caveat is that well, I guess I didn’t realize they’d not only pull influence from the timbre and inventive spirit of 70’s rock/metal but also some of its anthemic and stadium-sized panache from the 80’s, specifically the Candlemass and early Iron Maiden love wasn’t necessarily hot in mind as the major combo to start.

Taken at face value ‘Early Moods‘ first and foremost sports a mid-80’s doom metal sound, the flower child in spiritual/existential crises of early Trouble is a good starting point and the wizarding, epic panoramas presented by Candlemass (“Broken”, “Funeral Rites”) lend a bit of theater to their ebbing-easy paced narration. We can cut to the chase in a slightly reductive sense in suggesting that both of those artists fused the dramatic edge of classic heavy rock with the confrontational character of 70’s Black Sabbath, we do find a bit of glorious worship herein such as the bluesy guitar work on the ‘Sabotage‘-esque bounding roll of “Live to Suffer” but it isn’t at all the full picture here. If my hand were forced or an elevator pitch necessary I’d consider moderate analogue in certain Pentagram records, the debut from Witchfinder General and I suppose various revivalist groups of the last twenty years such as Magic Circle and Demon Eye for their treatment of both stoner metal timbre and a certain stomping character more indicative of post-‘Killing Machine‘ heavy metal.

Where their perspective shines most is in the taste level submitted by referential techniques used and how these are expanded with insight aimed at the art of the song. In fact Early Moods absolutely let their songcraft drive this van beyond implications of style, specific sound design and sub-genre niche, even if it’ll be a fuzzy picture to parse up front; The closer one might listen the more three basic paradigms factor into Early Moods‘ sound, even if we could just call them a “traditional doom metal band” and slap that book shut. The sentimental yet performative reach of heavy psychedelic rock beyond the late 60’s, the occasionally ambitious NWOBHM-era pub anthems influenced by ’em and the doom metal roused beyond it all begin to add up to what these guys are all about. The temptation to take a tour through the ages is not fully indulged herein, though earlier pieces “Return to Salem’s Gate” and “Early Moods” do run the gamut of style immediately recognizable to anyone worth their salt in the doom-enjoyer realm, the latter of which offers a characterizing wilted-yet-thundering example of the band’s merger of heavy/doom metal as it eases into the realm of ‘Nightfall‘ and ‘Ancient Dreams‘-era Candlemass for narrative steep to start before the song itself quickly leans into its early Maiden trotting pace (see also: “Damnation”). This moment of transition is a simple gesture extrapolated throughout ‘Early Moods‘ in various proportions (see: “Curse of the Light” b/w Damnation” as the peak of this). It is a starting point, though, as the composition of this titular song is a bit plain and it isn’t such an effective song beyond the specific set of lightbulbs in the skull, which crucially serves the major modus of the band: Traditional doom metal + heavy metal.

It’s all just rock n’ roll, man. — Though such specific compartmentalization of era specific sub-genre nodes might read as revisionism away from the natural continuum of heavy metal lineage, in this case Early Moods are basically selling their idea right there on the tin (as in, their band name) wherein they’ve made it clear as day that you’re getting classic heavy/doom feeling from their gig. The right feeling counts for something here when paired with chilled yet loftily dramatist enough performative values, which result in moderately memorable points of interest throughout. You’ve got to admire any band that’d task themselves with injecting melody and light use of harmony into traditional forms that’ve been strip-mined over such a long span of time and these guys do an alright job to start. I’m more impressed that they’ve managed some manner of catchy, repeatable kicking about on ‘Early Moods‘ without losing the riff-oriented nature of classic doom metal in the process.

“Funeral Rites” is the right hinge for the full listen in the sense that I’ve sent you looking for riffs that shake ass with Sabbath grooves on Side A and… now Side B intends to kick it hard. Though its verse riffs do reprise the ‘Nightfall‘-esque gloom which rides through much of this record with its big n’ growling guitar tone and deliberately rolled-out arrangement we hit a sort of ‘Day of Reckoning‘ change-up around ~2:04 minutes into the song which compounds this idea that these folks aren’t approximating doom metal but nailing ye olde gloomy yet undefeated tradition. The only issue I’d had with this song portends a larger nitpick spanning several pieces on the album, a question of fading out after a pair of bright ideas present themselves without capitalizing on the hook. A few of the better songs on ‘Early Moods‘ decide to fade out, sometimes literally, leaving the piece feeling unresolved when the rest of the song had felt like it was going somewhere punctuative. “Curse of the Light” ends up being its salvation in pair, or, the piece to goad on the heavier riffing lean of Side B. It was admittedly somewhat disappointing to not get any sort of reprise for the ear-catching energy of “Return to Salem’s Gate” before the album ends but this heavier side of the band satisfies well enough.

Early Moods‘ does everything a debut full-length should do as an introduction to a band, clearly communicating the modus, tastes and motivations of the artist alongside some ambitious and aspirational pieces which indicate a future worth elaborating upon. They’ve gotten it “right” enough this first time around that future interest will almost solely be dictated by songcraft and how they are able to develop this already excellent marriage of guts-heavy doom metal riffing with occasionally hummable, weary existentialist heavy rock. I was already on board after hearing their EP a couple of years ago but I’m definitely beyond keen on sticking around to see where else they’ll take it as (ideally) their sound develops into an increasingly distinct voice. A high recommendation.

High recommendation. (80/100)

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Early Moods
LABEL(S):RidingEasy Records
RELEASE DATE:August 5th, 2022

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