Review Summary: How to smoke weed and worship the devil in a sophisticated manner
The Sludge/Doom/Stoner genres aren't exactly ripe with originality and Chicago's instrumental outfit Bongripper are no exception: Effects-laden and downtuned guitars, occasionally layered for atmospheric effect, heavily distorted bass and mounting walls of feedback coupled with thundering drums. Imagery largely derivative of bands like Electric Wizard and Eyehategod, featuring an agreeable range of themes spanning from encouraging drug use and murder to devil worship and the occult, plus an (un)healthy dose of depression and suicide. Gone are Sleep's spiritual overtones. The enjoy- and enlightenment of psychedelics are replaced with the everyday horrors of addiction and substance abuse. What's left of the desert has turned into the fiery pits of hell. However, with the band's name being Bongripper, the album titled Satan Worshipping Doom
and the four song-tracklist - when combined - simply reading Hail Satan Worship Doom
, it seems reasonable to assume the author's tongue planted to some degree in their cheek.
Despite Bongripper's limited sonic palette - they mostly play loud - and even with the individual elements presented in and around this recording being pretty standard or potentially comical, the music still warrants being taken seriously and remains consistently exciting during its lengthy first three tracks: The band expertly avoid common pitfalls of the genre, such as overuse of repetition or uniform tempi, and effortlessly make the listener forget about the absence of a vocalist. There are multiple sections on here that are so deliciously heavy and catchy, lesser bands would have milked them for minutes more. But Bongripper show an impressive amount of restraint and it does wonders in terms of the structural integrity of their songwriting. In fact, the album is not very repetitive at all, with individual riffs often built around multiple alternate endings and each song offering up a large amount of progressions when compared to similar acts of the genre. Satan
mixes things up with an uptempo (Post) Black Metal-style riff, some galloping Death Metal and a brief passage of plodding bass and harmonized guitar work that is rather reminiscent of Kyuss. On Worship
the band even turn moody during a darkly melodic section that recalls the epic gloom of mid-era The Ruins of Beverast. The distortion and oppressive feel are stripped even further back and give way to a slightly psychedelic soundscape, delightfully developing its motif and culminating in a quasi guitar solo that is surprisingly emotional.
Unfortunately the album is marred by a disappointing finale: With Doom
, in what appears to be a laudable conscious effort to further spice up proceedings, the sound devolves into a droning crescendo of simplistic sameness that might please fans of Sunn O))), but not these ears. When the song finally erupts, it's too little, too late and the crushing ending riff becomes a bittersweet sendoff.
Overall this is still an excellent album that narrowly misses out on classic status on a larger scale. Within the confines of its own (sub)genre(s) it represents the absolute cream of the crop and you will be hard pressed finding albums that can rival it. It's heavy but not samey, it's epic but doesn't feel long, it's a bit silly but not stupid. It's rightfully the band's most revered work.