Today is Halloween in the UK so what better time could there be to being reviewing an album entitled "Haunted" (Exile On Mainstream) , an album from a collective called Confusion Master hailing from Rostock, Germany who some may remember from their 2018 debut "Awaken" or their 2020 "Split" with metallic punksters Angoisse. Confusion Master, Mathias Klein (bass); Stephan Gottwald (drums); Gunnar Arndt (guitars/fx) and Stephan Kurth (guitars/fx/vocals), are a band who, in their own words, "walk traditional doom paths, deeply rooted in sabbathian mud" while explaining that they also have a tendency for leaning towards "sludge and underground hardcore". A heady mix you might be thinking, and you would be right in your thinking, especially when you factor in that the band also have penchant for a spot of heavy psych too.
A high pitched droning effect opens first track "Viking X" followed by a brief period of grainy guitar noise, the band then explode into a groove that although possess a proto-metallic vibe is most definitely rooted in doom and predominately the "stoner" variety. The band have been compared with Electric Wizard by their record company and there are places throughout this song and the rest of "Haunted" where you can hear why that comparison has been made, there is a similar crushing gnarliness in the guitar tones and like Electric Wizard Confusion Master tend to use volume as weapon of mass destruction, but to our ears there is a little more going on with these Germans, especially given their preferences for the occasional wade into more lysergic waters. Vocals throughout the album are delivered at the monotonic end of the spectrum yet at the same time are melodic and easy on the ear and their clean delivery works perfectly as a counterbalance to the heavy sonic barrage constantly being unleashed above and beneath them. As with many bands within the underground rock scene these days Confusion Master supplement their vocals with occasional sampled narrative but these snippets are not thrown in randomly but are cleverly placed so as to add atmosphere and a degree of context to the lyrical content of each song they appear on. As we said earlier Confusion Master's groove predominantly dwells within the realms of stoner doom but that doesn't mean they should be just dismissed as just another low, slow and heavy outfit as there are moments on songs like "The Cannibal County Maniac", "Casket Down" and "Jaw on a Hook" where the music steps outside of itself and begins to explore newer avenues, admittedly these moments are rare but when they do crop up they tend to send shivers down the spine.