Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Album Review: The Watchers - Black Abyss

For all of the genre spam we get, there are combinations of words that aren't used very often. Going all the way back to Black Sabbath, there is a long history of doom metal, but we seldom hear anyone described as 'doom rock'. What exactly would that be? As I think about it, I'm not entirely sure, but The Watchers are here to make an effort to answer that question. They call themselves a doom rock band, born of the dreary heaviness of the old days, but apparently not wanting to be thought of as a metal band. Even as a critic, I'll admit that trying to keep straight who is and who isn't, what is and what isn't, is a futile task.

Then again, there's a question to be asked about what exactly doom is when it comes to music. The first two names that ever pop up in those discussions are the aforementioned Sabbath, as well as Candlemass. Anyone who doesn't follow those blueprints likely has a harder time being taken seriously as doom. Look at Trouble. They started out down that path, but then they shifted sounds on their seminal self-titled album (one of the criminally forgotten gems). Were they still doom then? I don't know.

The Watchers are certainly not doom in the Candlemass mold. Their sound has the gritty fuzz to the guitars that stoner influences would bring in, and the pacing is never as slow as traditional doom would dictate. However, you can hear in certain riffs the unmistakable thrust of doom. That makes this hard to quantify as a record.

I'm spending so much time on the semantics and philosophies of the music, because there isn't really much to say about the record itself. The Watchers are giving us music that hits the right marks, but does so in a way that doesn't have much spark behind it. I do appreciate their attempt to take the foreboding of doom and give it a kick in the ass with some more energetic pacing, but the songs don't have the rock elements solidly enough in place to make it work.

My biggest complaint comes in the vocal department, where the approach is much more in the stoner/rock mold than traditional doom, but there isn't a melody here that either plays to the strengths of doom, or can cut across it and shine light on the darkness. The whole of the experience is fine, but it doesn't demand your attention. As doom, it's not bleak or crushing enough, and as rock it isn't melodic enough. This album lives in a weird mid-point where it can't reach far enough in any direction to grab the best elements.

That means that "Black Abyss" is an interesting album, if for nothing else than reminding me how few bands ever tried to build on Trouble's masterpiece. But, it's also an album I can't tell you is particularly worth your time to listen to. It's certainly not a waste, but it does need some extra seasoning to be desirable.

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