PICK OF THE WEEK: Foehammer’s lurching funeral doom has hints of swagger on debut EP

FoehammerHow about ending the week with a good, savage beating? We’re talking one where the blows are measured out, delivered with intensity and weight, and that, oddly, might have you begging for more punishment? That always seems to be a good way to end a week full of that kind of thing.

If you’re intrigued, let us introduce you to DC-based doom monsters Foehammer and their gargantuan debut EP that carries the weight of the world on its shoulders. Here, you’ll find three helpings of overflowing funeral doom that is delivered in a calculating manner and seeks to maim and scrape at any mental wounds you might be tucking away. The release accompanying the music cites bands including Grief, Buried at Sea, and Ahab as comparisons, but I also hear a lot of Noothgrush and Thou intertwined, as well as some Eyehategod when the group decided to add groove to their otherwise painful, lurching sound. It’s a damn satisfying introduction to this band, and it’s proof that the funeral doom category is … OK, alive and well. That shouldn’t make any sense, but it does.

Foehammer coverThe fellows responsible for this unforgiving darkness go by simple first names (at least according to their Facebook joint), so the people you have to blame for your downturned mood and propensity to lash out at your scars are Jay (bass, vocals), Joe (guitar), and Vang (drums). Their approach to what is intended to be the most torturous of the doom subdivisions is to adhere to the primary traits of the style but also to not paint by numbers. As noted, the band can get on a bluesy kick at times, channeling their inner Sabbath, but also can settle into mind-altering regions that make you wonder if their funeral isn’t taking place in the stars.

“Final Grail” gets things started with doom fury hanging in the air, a threatening, ominous vibe being set, and that’s when the muck arrives. The band starts pounding away hard, with harsh, painful vocals being emitted, some killer Tony Iommi-style guitar melodies splashing colors, and that aforementioned groove being achieved, letting you bang your head amid your tears. The back end gets cleaner and a little foggy, as they disorient you with their approach before reigniting the fire and burning your eyes down the home stretch. “Stormcrow” runs 10:18, and it starts into a spacey, bizarre haze from which meaty riffs emerge. The assault takes its time, with the vocals sounding hellish and feral and the band switching back and forth between earthly woe and cosmic terror. There is some swaggering again, an element they mix into their sound so well, but also slurring, drunken guitars, growls that incinerate you, and a vibe that conjures the sense of utter hopelessness and despair.

Mammoth closer “Jotnar” runs a massive 14:29 and makes the violent best out of its running time. Drone rings out and stings the nerve endings, leading to the drums erupting and looking to pulverize bones. The band launches into a slow-paced, oppressively heavy section, with the bass taking some of the lead and pulling you through the mire and the music sounding miserable and relentless. As the song goes on and collects mud, the assault gets nastier, with gruesome drubbing and fiery soloing cutting through all and waging total war. Toward the last quarter, the melody changes up just a bit, giving a slightly darker shadow to it all, and the band spends its final moments smashing your wounds, chewing on your open cuts, and making sure not one ounce of you isn’t in total, complete agony.

If you have a thirst for doom, especially the slow, calculated style, you need to make friends with Foehammer. In this one debut EP, they prove a penchant for darkness as well as a creativity that will prevent them from being painted into any corners. They are brutal, brainy, and colossal, and they will fit the bill just fine if you’re looking to fill a half hour with some of the darkest, most foreboding sounds the doom genre can offer. Hails to that.

For more on the band, go here: https://www.facebook.com/foehammerva

To buy the album (digital/CD/cassette), go here: http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/foehammer

To buy the album (vinyl), go here: http://www.australopithecusrecords.com/products/546357-foehammer-foehammer-12

For more on the label, go here: https://www.facebook.com/GrimoireRecords

And here: http://www.australopithecusrecords.com/

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