Saturday, April 20, 2013

Halmos' Full-Length LP "Exist" Review

Between the Boston bombing and West, Texas explosion, we're living in rather tumultuous times. When things get chaotic, it's nice to have some consistency, some familiar things, and things that are comfortable. The strong and still growing doom metal scene in Atlanta is full of sounds to help you calm down, slow down, and chill out, and Halmos' new album is a definite example of this. Their new album Exist delivers a solid, consistent, and plenty heavy effort that builds and expands upon their first EP, Vicious Cycle (which was one of my first reviews.)
Since the EP was released, the former duo has expanded into a quartet, adding Melanie Maher on bass and Casey Yarbrough on guitar number two. Both new members partake in vocal duties as well, meaning that everybody in Halmos gets to have his or her say at some point.

The vocals on songs that were brought over from the Vicious Cycle EP still focus on guitarist Corey Briley's straightforward speak-shout style for a good bit. However, the explosion of variety in the vocal styles since the EP serves as a testament to how important interesting vocals are, and how they can add a lot of intrigue and even depth to a band's sound. The clean singing in tracks "Outcry" and "Datura" stand out to me, and sometimes can get stuck in my head for hours. They just fit their underlying groove so well, and contrast nicely with the spoken and rougher vocals. The rougher vocals feel stronger in this release as well, and add yet another vocal variety.

Beneath the vocals thrums the heart of a doom metal beast. What Vicious Cycle hinted at has been realized in the form of fully fleshed out riffs. These Georgians worship at the same riff-hewn altar as doom behemoths Sleep, Conan, Acid King, Electric Wizard, and Black Sabbath. Everything is drenched in fuzz and distortion afforded by the ridiculous amount of Orange amps these guys have. The addition of Melanie Maher's bass playing adds much needed low-end support, and Casey Yarborough injects a freshness and versatility that sets the tracks new for the LP apart. The pacing is good, and shifts to fit the context of each song; nothing feels overly fast or slow. I could see myself jamming Exist while cruising down the highway with the windows down on an 80° summer day, while pumping my fist in time with the anthemic stylings.

This picture of their amps alone should
tell you how rad this album is
All together, Halmos plays slow and heavy, with a lot of groove and a lot to say. In their interview with Sludgelord, Corey talks about how the album is broken down into 3 parts, based on the givens of existence. Tracks 1-3 are about "Meaninglessness and Existential Isolation", 4-6 touch on "Freedom and Its Attendant Responsibility", and 7-9 focus on "The Inevitability of Death." Substantial topics in doom and stoner metal? I guess it's more likely than you think. This only adds to the intrigue of the album, and elevates it to a thought-provoking level not normally associated with this sort of music.

Although it is still somewhat constrained by sticking to music that was created as a two-piece, Halmos' style has become much fuller, fleshed-out, and maybe even more fully realized on this album. The addition of the new vocals adds welcomed contrast to the original style, and the added bass and guitar give this record the thump that Halmos deserved. As I see it though, these guys and girl are on the upswing: this album is just an appetizer for what I think Halmos can do. If they're headed where I think they're headed, their next album will fucking blow doors down. Not that this album is a slouch by any means, it's a damn good stoner anthem worth your time and money. But Halmos, they're just getting started.

The biggest noticeable change is Travis Anderson's hair. What was once a pinhead afro has transformed into an intimidating yet glorious peacock's mane as fuzzy as their sound. Awesome.

To see for yourself, stream it here while you still can!

Up next, look for the regular allotment of show reviews, but especially look for some Black Tar Prophet reviews that have been way, way overdue.

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