Review Summary: Behold...Tumuli Shroomaroom.
Acrimony- Tumuli Shroomaroom
Vocals- Dorian Walters
Guitar- Stuart O’Hara
Guitar- Lee Davies
Bass- Paul Bidmead
Drums- Darren Ivey
In a genre (stoner rock) that can be hit or miss these days, it is a real treat when you do find an album and band that simply delivers the goods. That is not too much of a surprise because this classic was delivered during the same era as other stoner rock highlights. Nonetheless, the standard formula for stoner rock should usually include three or four elements, with various groups within the genre focusing on a couple of them and mastering them in the best cases. Those elements usually include a heavy diet of crushing riffs/grooves, high levels of guitar/bass distortion, a penchant for heavy ambiance, and definite jam tendencies. Integrating all of this ambition into a cohesive presentation can be difficult. Stoner rock is all about immoderation and fleshing things out in bombastic fashion. When done well, it really works.
In the case of Acrimony and their masterpiece Tumuli Shroomaroom, you have a band that truly embraced the spirit of the genre and the characteristics that make its best practitioners so evocative. Not only that, they created an album that is incredibly consistent and engaging. This is no small feat for a genre that can seem meandering to some as the listener attempts to sift out meaning through the haze of marijuana smoke. While Acrimony wasn’t around too long, this album is right there with the best work from earlier stoner rock legends Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Sleep, and Fu Manchu.
Acrimony is a melting pot that embodies stoner rock’s finest virtues. They can navigate guitar driven star systems similar to Kyuss, slam a crushing riff into the ground a la Sleep or Electric Wizard, deliver snappily melodic lead guitar cuts like Fu Manchu, and revel in distorted glory much like Monster Magnet. It is the impressive integration of these elements that make Tumuli Shroomaroom such a great listen. Witness “Hymn to the Stone” as it begins in heavy doom fashion, transitions to a standard rock groove in the middle, gets a little thrashier in the final third, and ends with some lead guitar flare played over a Sabbath like riff. All of this is done in highly metallic fashion, with lead guitar player O’Hara/Davies inserting numerous licks above the feature riffs to keep things animated. The highlight of the song is a little over four and a half minutes in when a guitar crescendo/lighting of a bong come together to provide a transition point in between thumping riffs. You’re in for that kind of an album.
Next is “Million Year Summer,” which is a definite stoner rock hymn right up there with Monster Magnet’s “Spacelord.” A pounding riff guides the track as lead vocalist Dorian Walters gets a chance to let loose some powerful shouts during the verses. The chorus and transition periods are even more enjoyable as the guitars propel the song to distant galaxies on a mission of exploration and galactic interchange. The last third of the song sees the band proceed into a new coda with an ascending riff and more lead guitar interplay. Walters shouts “Glory to the day” in anthemic fashion as the song reaches its apex and eventually its heavily distorted conclusion.
After a fourteen minute bombardment of stoner rock theatrics, the acoustic based “Turn the Page” is quite an alarming listen. The guitars soar and interlace with one another much like the other songs on the album, but without the volume or distortion. It sounds like something Jimmy Page might have been working on back in the early 70’s. The effect is quite beautiful.
While “Turn the Page” is quite an interesting detour, the band returns to form with “Vy” and “Find the Path.” Down tuned sludgy riffs guide “Vy” as lead guitarist O’Hara/Davies adds dark melodic touches on top of them. Walters belts out the words in very eerie fashion. The band cranks up the speed and intensity a few minutes in with a great chugging riff before returning to the original tempo of the song and letting it slowly proceed to its conclusion. The recipe is similar on “Find the Path” but with more of an upbeat guitar attack and Walters getting more of a feature role. His voice is suited well for the music, definitely raspy but with power behind it. The rhythm section plays a nice role on this one (and throughout the album) as they provide the groundwork during riff oriented sections while adding their own personal flavor during the more open ended jams. Acrimony is definitely guitar driven (most stoner rock bands are), but there is no doubt a cohesion exists among all five members in their execution.
The pure rock power is not letting up at this point despite the watery intro to “The Bud Song.” The band alternates between spacey verses and heavy choruses before upping the tempo and launching into a full onslaught of a riff with a couple minutes to go. The riff has that perfect combination of crunch and tone while the accompanying wah wah solo wonderfully cuts over the top of it. Splendid.
The album concludes with the massive trio “Motherslug (Mother of All Slugs),” “Heavy Feather,” and “Firedance.” All of these songs are over ten minutes long. You can expect a heavy diet of what has been seen so far, but extrapolated to the nth degree. The jams are longer, the number of sections increased, and the platform for guitar interplay even more extensive (check out the solo a little over four minutes in on “Heavy Feather”). The songs are definitely not as concise as the tracks leading up, but they are certainly no less fresh or evocative. “Heavy Feather” has a Sleep like intro before a mammoth riff is unfurled on the listener. It transitions to a more straightforward rock groove to set the stage for the previously mentioned guitar solo. “Firedance” distinguishes itself with its intro beat and fire crackling sounds before a smashing riff comes out of left field to set the stage. The song does not let up as the riffs continue to stack and the lead guitar elements catapult the song into the great unknown. In true stoner rock fashion, the album ends in highly distorted webs of feedback before only a whisper of what you’ve just heard remains.
Acrimony would not release another full length after Tumuli Shroomaroom, but this album cemented their legacy as stalwarts of their genre. Of all the stoner rock giants listed earlier, Acrimony found a way to interweave the assets of them all into a highly coherent rock package. From a compositional standpoint, that is highly impressive. Acrimony proves with this album that stoner rock’s potentially outlandish tendencies can be harnessed and delivered with skilled intent without compromising any of the genre’s unique qualities. Tumuli Shroomaroom is a highly metallic, highly gallant record. It’s awesome. From a stoner rock fan’s perspective, this album is simply bongtastic.