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Grotesque Offerings

Hells Headbangers (2018)
Rating: 8/10

It’s been eight long years since these Floridian doom ghouls plagued our ears with a full-length opus. In fact, in spite of a few early EP’s I though the squelching, swamp-ridden combo had split up. But no, and as a church organ wheezes from the chapel of ghouls it’s clear that Druid Lord are back with another Gothic ache from the most sepulchral of places.

Clean off the dust, lift the coffin lid and inhale the fumes of decay as Grotesque Offerings comes lumbering out of its decrepit hole like some oozing leech that has spent the last eight years feasting upon its own juices.

‘House Of Dripping Gore’ is a festering, squalid nightmare of fuzzed-up doomy distortion and weighty, plundering percussion that gives way to the spiteful threads of Tony Blakk’s vocal tones. The melancholic chords worm their way into the buzzing chords of gloom as an air of mist coats the lungs and the face is clawed at by strands of ethereal webbing. This is true, hulking doom; somewhat graceful in its horrific motions.

Goodness knows how many contemporary doom metal bands I’ve got bored with over the last decade or so, but Druid Lord offer up such a filthy, miasmic air that one can only be dragged into the lair of fog, waste and damp.

As ‘House Of Dripping Gore’ shifts its pace, there’s a foggy stench of Celtic Frost about proceedings and the shadows grow darker as the air grows thicker; weird, echoing solos slip out from the cracks as the bass rumbles and causes dust to descend into the air. “You’ll never leave here alive” mocks Blakk like some evil warlord, and then it’s onto the next twilight zone, aptly named ‘Night Gallery’; a belching behemoth of black blubber which frightfully raises its eyebrows like a soiled mammoth creaking out of its frozen tomb.

This is some truly monstrous doom n’ gloom as Blakk’s vocals filter like a stormy brew amidst sullen waves of mournful guitar chords and percussive plods, which are even outrun by the local church bell. ‘Night Gallery’ is seven-minutes of weighty, earthy slop come slithering your way in mesmeric fashion; only hinting at what other lengthy terrors are lurking around the corner.

‘Evil That Haunts This Ground’ and ‘Creature Feature’ are two lengthy burps of doom which sandwich the shorter menace of ‘Black Candle Séance’. ‘Evil That Haunts This Ground’ lurches in typical crushing doom metal fashion… the stench of sombreness emerging through those fetid axe crawls and Blakk’s toxic slurps. Meanwhile, ‘Creature Feature’ stumbles and rattles like a casket full of dusty bones, and not since Cathedral’s classic works have I heard such a convincing breath of foulness; the murkiness produced here being so engulfing in his fumes.

This is what true doom metal should be about, and having those deathly edges makes this opus far more sinister. When Blakk warns “I’m coming for you…”, I’m already reaching for the crucifix!

‘Black Candle Séance’ and the foggy ‘Murderous Mr Hyde’ are extra treats to behold in their stuffy, sinister and sickly fashion; the former beginning like some boiling cauldron of utmost grime n’ slime. Hats off again to the axe attack of Pete Slate and Ben Ross, who have constructed numerous monolithic mantras to behold. “Something’s lurking behind the door” beams Blakk, and I’m really too terrified to open the darn slab. So instead, like in all old Dungeons & Dragons role-playing games of the 80s, I find myself looking for an easier route, only to be blocked by the wretched form of ‘Last Drop Of Blood’; a hideous manifestation leaking pus and piss from every pore as another guitar solo wails like a sweaty victim dropped to the pit of rats.

Grotesque Offerings, as its title suggests, is an opus rotten to the core; a completely wretched offering thrown onto the slab for the scavengers to choke on. And as outro ‘Final Resting Place’ leads the album to its silence, I’m just glad I stocked up on candles! This is one shadowy record indeed.

Neil Arnold

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