There was once a time when doom meant nothing more than plugging one's guitar into an amp, drenching the distortion in fuzz, and busting out long-winded jams on the sorrows happening in the world. It is this spirit of an era that Germany's Voodooshock capture on 2007's Marie's Sister's Garden. While many doom bands today are content in playing a sort of feedback pissing contest with one another, Voodooshock focus instead on writing good songs first and heavy songs second. The end result is a throwback album that recalls doom's forebears while doing each and every one of them justice.
Catchy, warm, and fuzzy, the doom on offer here is little more than fuzz-blanketed hard rock played extra slow and with an emphasis on depressing melodies and wailing solos. Bands like St. Vitus, The Obsessed, and Pentagram are all worth noting, and this is definitely a band weaned on the working man's blues of Liebling and Wino. In terms of modern peers, the only real comparison lies in Witchcraft, though they are much more jangling and upbeat than this outfit. I would mention, though, that the analogy is an apt one as both are inherently retrogressive bands bringing fresh life to old forms of metal.
The vaguely alternative rock stylings of "Please Let All Truth in Your Heart" lead the proceedings. Ponderous yet crisp percussion rhythmically sways behind blurry, Soundgarden-esque chords and nearly immobile melodies, all while frontman Uwe Groebel mournfully laments the state of things. It is hard to say how, but this song is clearly metal, just in its friendliest and most primitive incarnation. A 1970s style guitar freakout, meanwhile, ends the song on a patiently executed high, and the oft-repeated chorus gets one last exhilirating moment in the limelight.
Title track "Marie's Sisters Garden" features a unique, sloth's crawl cadence, the likes of which soon transforms into quiet palm-mutes drenched in flecks of spastic melody. There is the tiniest trace of Ozzy Osbourne himself in the vocals, a hint of lurking insanity, and it is readily apparent here. The song furthermore descends into blissfully drugged-out opium fields of sound, replete with fiery wah-wahs and soaring choruses.
"Funeral Farewell" is essentially a busted-up St. Vitus tribute, dripping with menace yet being glacial in speed. Black Sabbath's early, hallucinogenic paranoia hovers like a green cloud over the entire track, the rest of it playing out like a well-worn b-side by The Obsessed.
"Feeding Flames with Letters" triumphantly soars through open vistas of jangling harmonies and turns into an exquisitely subdued doom ballad when the time comes. In a show of excellent restraint, the song gracefully morphs into an increasingly scuzzed-out doom assault. This is some gripping stuff here folks.
"Truth" is a mid-paced rocker complete with some 1970s prog-rock flourishes subtly buried in the mix and wailing vocals courtesy of Groebel. The man's bluesy yowl is truly captivating, and when placed behind catchy, driving heaviness, the end result is a memorably potent sonic mix.
"Custom-Made but Sacrificed" is a song that shuffles in on some barely-there walls of fuzz. It next careens out of the speakers with a surprisingly modern spin on the band's aforementioned fuzz-rock. Though the usual melodic/traditional doom is there, Groebel's vocals take a unique approach by at one point briefly sinking into a fully-fledged death metal growl and later on breaking down into anguished moans. It all sounds cathartic, and much more intense than the genre's forefathers were socially capable of at the time.
"Miserable Mercy" is a slow epic, the likes of which plays shimmering riffs at the pace of a funeral dirge. Mournful washes of distortion ebb-and-flow over the listener, producing a blanket of warm despair. This is one of the best pure doom cuts on the entire album.
"Warm Knives Cut Deeper" sounds just like doom originally was---slower heavy metal! Smooth yet crawling chords slither past Groebel's silky howls. Beyond that, the song features a sort of bouncing groove, the likes of which is simultaneously melancholy and hopeful.
The fiery "I Need a Rest" shimmies with palpable energy, feeling like a light but stinging rain of sparks. A NWOBHM-era air-raid shriek courtesy of Groebel leads into a Trouble-worshipping guitar charge and swinging haymaker riffs to close the song on a muscular note.
"Diamond Queen" slowly chugs along with grooving riffs, providing the album with its romantic song. There are plenty of lighter moments on a track like this (namely the Woodstock guitar harmonies or the haunting choruses) but the riffs thankfully never move away from slow headbang territory either. The balance is perfect, and it works wonders.
The sprawling epic of "You Don't Need to Fear Death" is nearly double the length of any other song on the record. It begins with a sinister feedback which quickly dies, then oozes forth with an oldschool rocker that recalls Blue Oyster Cult or the Doors but heavier. Much like earlier songs on Marie's Sister's Garden, this song features well-played dynamic shifts and plenty of slow, memorable guitar parts; here, everything just seems more effective as there is more of it. It definitely makes for a sound climax to the album!
If more brutalizing forms of the heavy have got you down, Voodooshock might have the sound you're looking for. Their blend of yesteryear's proto-metal with today's modern woes makes for a strong combination. Here's hoping that with so many trendy "retro" movements happening, Voodooshock get credit for their participation.
Voodooshock's Marie's Sisters Garden
1. Please Let All Truth in Your Heart
2. Marie's Sister's Garden
3. Funeral Farewell
4. Feeding Flames with Letters
6. Custom-Made but Sacrificed
7. Miserable Mercy
8. Warm Knives Cut Deeper
9. I Need a Rest
10. Diamond Queen
11. You Don't Need to Fear Death