A bleak haven of all things sludge

Founded in 2008 in Hochelaga, Montreal’s trashiest ghetto, doom trio Dopethrone have honoured their birthplace and namesake for this album with a parallel level of bleakness and grime as their hometown.

Hochelaga, fourth album for the band, instantly hooked me with its crushing pace and tone; a steadfast dedication to sonic filth. What else would you expect from a band named after an Electric Wizard song/album? Consequently, I was obsessed with Hochelaga, and a preceding release Dark Foil (2011), for the last two weeks. The average track length is seven minutes, just enough time to dwell in the cascading riffage of guitarist/vocalist Vince and bassist Vyk, the former providing the occasional psychedelic solo. Some may find the common slow tempo of all seven tracks a little dull after a while, others, (like me), might honour the purpose of this musical approach, and listen accordingly. As any true worshipper of the fuzz will understand, this is an album primarily designed to slow down biorhythms, numb the brain, and shake the body. Hochelaga should best be enjoyed in a echoey, dim, and warm room, where one can stare at the shadows and feel closed off from the world.

Riffs such as those heard at the end of ‘Chameleon Witch’ succeed in sending the listener at least half way into oblivion, albeit via very cathartic means. It’s enjoyable to hear Dopethrone putting effort into crafting hooks in their songs and employing aural abuse wisely, instead of constant destruction alà Eyehategod. In short; they’re catchy.

All tracks on Hochelaga serve as music to go back to again and again to evoke a certain emotion and mood, and not just to put on when seeking revenge on your neighbours, parents, or hi-fi equipment. Vince has one of the best voices for stoner doom in the scene, equal to Weedeater’s Dave ‘Dixie’ Collins and Sleep’s Al Cisneros. With a delivery that drips venom in all songs, his screeching howl in the intro of ‘Scum Fuck Blues’ deserves multiple listenings. Vince’s trademark ‘evil chuckle’ brings a smile to my face every time I hear it. Like many worthy doom bands, Dopethrone’s main themes centre on debauchery, evil, drugs, and the occult.

Various audio snippets relating to these topics punctuate the LP. “Cool it, cut it, strangle it. In the jungle land of narcotics, it’s fight, claw, kill, and every man for himself”, a grim spokesman recites in the intro of ‘Sludgekicker’. Possibly referencing the band’s native Canadian climate, the recurring sound of  icy wind segues four of the seven tracks, adding to the menacing bleakness of the LP. Other such striking audio samples include ritualistic throat-singing, air-raid sirens, a squealing pig, and warped sitar sounds. Lyrics leave a little to be desired, with average length of words being limited to a couple of stanzas, and choruses only a sentence or two long. But with an album such as this, lyrics are not the main attraction.

The heft of Hochelaga focuses on effects, and the way they are used, in sedating the listener through the power of the riff. Thanks to producer Jean-Baptiste Joubaud, Dopethrone have achieved a thicker sounding album than Dark Foil. When the low notes hit, they really pummel you. Drummer Carl punctuates the punch of the album perfectly. The only clean guitar tone in the LP can be found in the first minute of ‘Riff Dealer’; last track on the album. If you find constant distortion bland, you would not have found this album in the first place. For lovers of grimy sounds, Dopethrone have forged a bleak haven of all things sludge. Hochelaga: A feather in the cap for Canada’s underground music scene.

1. Sludgekicker
2. Chameleon Witch
3. Vagabond
4. Scum Fuck Blues
5. Dry Hitter
6. Bullets
7. Riff Dealer