Its easy for people to dismiss a band like Bongripper. Instrumental doom metal isnt the most glamorous business out there, and the bands name just screams "gimmick." Every time I mention Bongripper to someone, I get scoffed at. "PFFFFFFFFFFFFFT oh real cool kid BONG you think thats funny? Grow up."
I dont know if the band was trying to be funny or simply thought the name was an accurate summary of their sonic nature, but theres definitely nothing gimmicky about their music. In fact, Ill go ahead and say they are the best active doom metal band besides Electric Wizard (for the record, Im not including High on Fire or Boris in my definition of doom metal). The bands 2006 debut, The Great Barrier Reefer, was the best doom release since Dopethrone, and before that, Dopesmoker. I guess weed consumption really is a pre-requisite for doom greatness.
Despite having much in common with the titans of traditional doom, Bongripper puts a new twist in the genre. By utilizing drone and ambient tricks with whirly psychedelics en route to spaced-out jams amid or in between the ultra-heavy sound defining the genre the band roots in, Bongripper has pretty much gone post-heavy. Their latest full-length (and fourth since 2006), Hate Ashbury, is their most varied release yet.
Oh, and as far as I know, Bongripper is not against countercultural behavior (their influences are listed as Black Sabbath and Satan). They just hate hippies.
Anyway, Hate Ashbury is a truly impressive brew of just about all experimental heavy sounds you can imagine. There are a couple straight up post-doom tracks, which generally feature separate parts of either extreme heaviness or spacey rock sessions similar to 35007. That type of song has been Bongrippers forte to this point, but with other Hate Ashbury tracks either being straight up noise or drone, or making a mixture of all of these types of music, it seems that Bongripper may have outgrown their original style.
The first track on Hate Ashbury (all the songs of which are nameless) gives the listener fair warning of this. For the first couple minutes the only detectable noise is a couple resonating twangs and vague whirs and scrapes. After about three minutes, a textureless low-end noise sets in, giving the brooding sound preceding it a backbone that lifts it to an ominous stature. Over the course of the next seven minutes, the song consistently builds in loudness and adds a bundle of feedback, distortion and noise wrinkles that seem to announce the albums full awakening. At this peak in the song, it seamlessly gives way to the next.
An initial blast of feedback crashes into a series of sludgy drones, and much like the first track, additional noise exercises are added as the track progresses. After a few minutes, the heaviness devolves into one of the previously mentioned spacey post-rock interludes.
Like how the first track moved into the second, the second track moves into the third as if these were all one long song. Given that, it isnt surprising that the third track mostly just sounds like a variation of the second. Again, this track latches onto the fourth for a transition as smooth as the previous three. This fourth chapter of Hate Ashbury might be the bands heaviest moment yet. The intro riffs are mountainous and pave the way for another four minutes of totally solid traditional doom riffing.
My favorite track on Hate Ashbury is song number eight. A buzzing drone and a menacing guitar hiss open the track, quickly followed by a winding bass line and eerie, unusually restrained guitar arrangement, giving the track an apprehensive atmosphere. This all builds up to one of the bands more epic moments, creating a sort of post-doom sonic vortex which births a six minute stretch that summarizes the bands potential with their most cohesive blend of noise, psychedelic post-rocking and doom heaviness of the album.
The one thing Bongripper can stand to improve is the general variety of their guitars, especially the pace. The riffs change, but the speed doesnt. Throwing a little juke here and there and going crazy once in a while wont compromise your doom-legitimacy, dudes. Besides, Iommi would do it.
On the whole, though, these guys are onto something awesome. Their ambition (four full-lengths all nearly clocking in at 80 minutes) and general impressiveness to this point gives me a reason to think theyll only get better. The willingness to utilize techniques normally seen strictly in noise and drone genres along with their post-doom formula could yield great, innovative results for them (if it hasnt already).
Oh, and one more thing. Bongripper is currently an unsigned band, which is totally ridiculous. You underground/metal labels out there screwed up. Relapse, Southern Lord, Hydra Head, and all of you other respectable labels (and there are many, you ought to know who you are). Get to work.
8.6 / 10
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