Review Summary: An album that pushes the boundaries of metal as of the late 80s, from one of thrash's most avant-garde yet overlooked bands.
Doom (the Japanese one) were one of 80s metal's biggest oddballs, specializing in the kind of surreal, dissonant avant-thrash that Voivod and late Coroner are best known for. They are an extraordinarily overlooked band considering their creativity, but of all their works, Complicated Mind
seems to be the one which gets the most attention from tech-thrashers. This is a well-deserved reputation, as this LP absolutely rips, and is their most consistently good album length release. Coming less than a year after their groundbreaking Killing Field
EP, it shows further evolution from their technically proficient but unmemorable debut No More Pain and solidifies them as a force to be reckoned with.
With clear yet raw production, incredible musicianship on the part of everyone involved (especially godly bassist Koh Morota, who gets a whole 54-second interlude just to show off on two different bass guitars), creative songwriting combining surrealism with brutality, and charmingly broken English lyrics sung in a thick Japanese accent, everything comes together to make an album truly unlike almost anything in metal at that point. Indeed, as of 1988, very few other metal bands were creating music that could be this bizarre.
The two tracks which exemplify this best are The Boy's Dog and Poor Boy Condition. The former is awash in Voivodian riffs, strangely filtered Engrish spoken word vocals, a bevy of mindbending time signatures, and almost hypnotic ringing percussion. The latter shares most of these traits, but takes the weirdness even further with muffled anxious yelling and more reliance on trippy clean guitars.
These guys were innovators, but they could be pretty unpredictable without going full-on wacko. In contrast with that pair of songs, which feel like deranged nightmares, are Bright Light and Slave of Heaven. Bright Light starts like relatively "normal" thrash with a slightly jerky chorus, but then abruptly drops this dreamlike interlude with a soothing lead and Koh's crazy good basswork supporting beneath, transitioning to a groovy variation on the song's opening thrashing which I can't not nod my head to, before finally returning to the song's original foundation. Slave of Heaven also begins fairly conventionally, maintaining its core mood even as the time signatures start shifting, but slowly dips into a dreamy interlude of its own, with a solo that sounds truly heavenly, as if soaring through the clouds.
So yeah, they definitely bring the weirdness. But they bring the heaviness too, in spades. The opening title track begins with this ***ing heavy
thrash riff, really just kicking your ass right out of the gate. Even as the "chorus" (if you can call it that) takes things into trippy territory, the song settles into a headnodding groove, something this band was really good at doing. This groovy section gets more staccato before superbly switching back into the song's foundational beat. I find this song slightly repetitive overall, but the way these sections flow into one another really shows a rock solid grasp on metal songwriting, a key feature which many "technical" metal bands often leave behind in their quest for virtuosity. Much of the songwriting on here is often structurally reminiscent of Chuck Schuldiner's works in the 90s, as latter-day Death's songs often followed a pattern of "verse and chorus, adventurous section which takes the song in a completely new direction, return to original tempo for final verse and chorus."
Also ***ing heavy are Can't Break My Without You, which sports riffs and rhythms that just pound their way into your ear, and Painted Face, the second most relentlessly thrashy song on the album which still manages to work in a jazzy freakout. And I haven't even gotten to my favorite song yet, Fall, Rise And...oh, what a track. The opening riff is more akin to hard rock or "classic" metal than anything, but this only lulls you into a false sense of security until the dissonant verses and trippy choruses kick in. After the second chorus comes a mind***
of a section that can only be heard to be believed. I'm not even gonna bother trying to put the brilliance of this part into words, but seasoned prog-thrashers listening to this, just keep in mind this was released mere months after Voivod's Dimension Hatross
, and years before Coroner's Mental Vortex
It's fitting that such a bonkers album would close on the highly manic and aptly titled Nervous Breakdown. If ever a song could encompass its title, this would be it, with anxious lyrics ("Out! Out! Out of time!"), screeching guitars, and screams which grow in intensity and desperation. The bursts of raw energy and sheer ***ing noise on display here seem to show some influence from no-wave and noise rock. It sounds like the whole band is just ***ing losing it, like the lyrical narrator's complicated mind is finally snapping for good. Its insane outro is well-suited to cap off the cerebral atom bomb that is Doom's awesome sophomore LP Complicated Mind
. It's slightly more tame and slightly less brilliant than their perfect Killing Field
EP, but is really just as much worth your time. It's a challenging work that demands repeated listening, but in its brazen dissonance and scary surrealism is an unforgettable album.