Sunday 1 November 2020



It has always seemed to Desert Psychlist that an element of doom permeated much of Seattle grungsters Alice in Chains heavier tunes, as it did aspects of guitarist Jerry Cantrell's solo work, the bands low slung slurred riffs backed by thunderous percussion and deep growling bass could be argued were doomic in all but name. Cleveland, Ohio quintet The Plague PhysiciansDr. Pink (drums, cajon, udu); Dr. Blue (bass, backing vocals); Dr. White (rhythm/lead guitars, backing vocals); Dr. Blonde (lead/rhythm guitars, backing vocals) and Dr. Orange (lead vocals, cowbell, rhythm and acoustic guitars), have sort of tapped into that grungy doominess of AIC but have upped the doomic/occult quotient so that instead of it being, like with AIC, an element of their sound it is instead more a main component, as their latest release "In Arkham's Shadow" will testify to.

What sounds like heavy rain and thunder introduces opening instrumental "Arkham" and is followed by a deeply echoed spaced out guitar motif that then sees the rest of the band come in on what could only be described as laid back heavy blues groove. "Carcosa (Cassida's Song)" follows and finds the the band hitting a grungy stoner/hard rock groove with the two guitarists trading off riffs ,arpeggios and solos around a clean, strong vocal that tells of "twin suns","strange moons" and the "lost Carcosa". "Prove The Devil" is up next and here the band hit a groove that chugs and gallops along at a mid-paced tempo but is fractured with clever little descents into lysergic territory, it also boasts a great vocal melody that stays with you long after the song finishes. Up until now our doomy AIC comparison has not really held water but with "Difference In The Dose" that all changes and we get mellow Staley/Cantrell type vocal harmonies twinned with crunching low slung refrains and slurred guitar motifs pushed by solid tight drumming and boneshaking bass that would have AIC's Sean Kinney and Mike Starr applauding. "Dagon" takes things down a notch or two and finds Dr. Orange eulogizing about graven idols and leviathan brides over gently strummed acoustic guitar while overhead a majestic guitar solo soars and swoops. The calmness of the previous track leaks into the opening bars of next track "Madness at Sea" but then suddenly explodes like a bomb into a proto-doomic free for all before just as suddenly dropping back into its initial groove to take it to the close. The Plague Physicians go into full doomic grunge mode for the excellent "Crawling Chaos", its clever little recurring hooks and catches pulling you deeper and deeper into its warm embrace but then it suddenly shows its true nature by, at the three quarter mark, morphing into a lumbering proto-doomic monster in psychedelic armor. "Seed of Destruction" finds the band throwing off all vestiges of grunge and fully donning the black garb of doom with crunching power chords, swirling solos, strong vocals, pounding percussion and growling bass lines all present and correct. It's back to a spot of AIC worship for "Rats In The Walls", a mouthwatering slice of delicious grunginess with a groove to die for. The good doctors sign off with "I Am Providence" a romping balls out instrumental with each member going full out and giving 100% .# For those of you who go for a Bandcamp purchase you get a bonus track (we won't disclose it here) which we think should come as a pleasant surprise for those with a penchant for 80's British Ska

If you are of the same thinking as Desert Psychlist in that you believe part of Alice In Chains enduring appeal was the bands underlying doominess then The Plague Physicians "In Arkham's Shadow" should be your next port of call, it is an album that embraces all those dark grungy elements of Seattle's finest and then doomerizes them even further. 
Check it out .... 
© 2020 Frazer Jones

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