Taking their name from the third album of Electric Wizard, it is not that difficult to deduce what to expect from Dopethrone. These Canadian doom fiends have been keeping a DIY ethic with their recordings, and are now returning to the stage with their fourth album in six years, Hochelaga. Apart from the dirty NOLA-induced sludge and the trippy, stonerized doom, Dopethrone also have an underlying blackened aura that comes to the surface, making their music imposing and fucking addictive. And this time around, they also have a stronger production that helps transmit this revolting offering at a much higher level.
The main feature of this album is, of course, the riffs – and the weight that they have in Hochelaga is inconceivable. Everything seems to be collapsing when the first notes of “Sludgekicker” come in, with the band then traveling through different modes of operation. The combination of the different genres is interesting, and yields heavy results each time around. The stoner infusion on songs such as “Chameleon Witch,” alongside the doom base of the track, is then replaced with the dirtier sludge sound of songs such as “Scum Fuck Blues” and “Vagabong,” resulting in a dark and trippy effect. The heavy groove that the band incorporates into these songs is just killer, squeezing that extra juice; especially in “Vagabong,” it feels like you are being trampled by a mammoth or something, while the sudden stops in “Scum Fuck Blues” only add more impact to the track.
Label: Totem Cat Records
The aforementioned moments show the more pleasant face of Dopethrone, but when the two final songs of the album are thrown in you get a glimpse into the more intense and horrifying side of the band. “Bullets” and its staggering heavy riffs might be moving at a slower pace, but they are no less explosive than the rest of the tracks, while “Riff Dealer” combines perfectly the worlds of doom and sludge into one of the more fumey moments of the album. The inclusion of the lead part in “Bullets” compliments the main structure of the song, while the solo thrown in later is dripping acid all over the place. Dopethrone will throw their lead bits in every track to further enhance the groove of the song, something that is also present a bit lower in the mix on the closing track of the album.
That also shows how the band can move between the heavy edge of the extreme spectrum with ease. The stoner doom leads of the opening track and the stoner rock approach of the lead guitar in “Scum Fuck Blues” sees Dopethrone when they are at their most comfortable. But if you consider that this band can as easily throw in some more blackened parts as it can produce the stoner licks in “Dry Hitter,” then you have something quite daunting to deal with. The more eerie leads in “Chameleon Witch” reveal that side of the band, and lead to a great solo part that appears center stage. But that is not the only blackened approach of the band. The vocal performance is close to the cutthroat sludge vocals, which in turn is very close to a black metal approach. The great delivery of “Vagabong,” with the evil laughter thrown in there for good measure, steals the show, as does the stomach-turning quitter part of “Dry Hitter.”
If all that is not enough, Dopethrone also embrace another great tradition of the doom metal scene, and that is no other than the inclusion of samples. From the more dramatic samples, such as the one in “Scum Fuck Blues,” to the pseudoscientific ones, they always seem to work within the work of Dopethrone, giving that old school Hammer Horror type of vibe. If there is a checklist for doom metal bands, these guys have just checked every box with Hochelaga. The album might not break new ground, but if you want some heavy doom/stoner/sludge you cannot do much better than this.