Gargantuan Blade - Gargantuan Blade (Self-released)

Gargantuan Blade rumble and a tumble with an ineffably 70s and 80s charm, channeling the ur days of ‘doom’ in a way that very, very few of today's bands even think to dolet alone pull off. Nowadays, death-metal bands are making a foothold for themselves in the ancient guild of groove making, and whether or not you want to use the same subgenre label, ‘deathdoom,’ to describe new slo-bro bands like Morbific and legacy acts like (early) Katatonia, the injection of down-tuned, distortion-addled boisterousness has taken over Bandcamp. I love me my Batholiths and my Mortiferums , so I can’t really complain. Still, it’s worth pointing out what might be lost if we mistake them for doom metal per se, because listening to something like Gargantuan Blade’s debut, I can’t help but reminisce about what it was like (even for a young buck like me! at the turn of the millennium!) to headbang to the bridge on “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”—and to know that that was heavy metal, notwithstanding the various extreme offshoots I had yet to discover. Sabbath's fascination with the occult was still legible in the gothicism of bands like Type O Negative and Celestial Season (a personal favorite). But Sabbath was fuckin' fun too, and so is Gargantuan Blade. 

Some of you have probably sighed by now, “Oh, so it’s a trad record. It’s trad doom.” Let me speak directly to your concerns: If you are uninterested in the fetal developments of extreme metal, this record may not be for you; on the other hand, if you are uninterested in that insincere and grasping quality to the pop metal masquerading as trad on Bandcamp (lookin' at you, Haunt), then Gargantuan Blade mayin a single downward chopopen your mind to new old thrills. Because you see, the devil’s in the details. The clear-but-not-too-clear mix shows great faith in the simple powers of a tube amp, which lets the bass blast out exactly how you'd want it to, if you were cruising down a freeway playing Deep Purple on your Firebird's tape-deck sound system, windows (manually) rolled down. That Gargantuan Blade’s singer is actually a baritone is also a throwback on top of a throwback, and even if he could never aspire to the range, dynamism, or charisma of an Ozzy or a Dio, one gets the sense that he understands their appealand his limitsenough to offer a reasonable facsimile. And really, that's the wonder of the Blade and other 'trad' outfits that actually work: They've read the material inside out, and they get it. When you think a song like "Black Lotus" is too slow, listen closer to the moments of emphasisto how the singer becomes death-row Daniel Day-Lewis in The Crucible, to belt out, "Oh Lord," and to how the songs kick into a hilariously mid-tempo overdrive in their final third. It makes you want to go back and listen to "War Pigs" and "Heaven and Hell," which do the same exact things to excellent effect. For those and many other less obvious reminders, we have the Blade to thank.