Wednesday 16 November 2022



The tragic loss of a member will obviously have a huge effect on the remaining members of a band, a totally understandable state of affairs given that said band would have not just lost a fellow musician and integral cog in their musical wheel but have also lost a confidante, a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and, most importantly, a friend. For some bands the death of a member can be a bridge too far to cross and so they will reluctantly call it day, others however see carrying on as the greatest tribute they can possibly pay to a partner in groove. It is this latter option that Connecticut stoner/sludge combo Afghan Haze decided to follow when they tragically lost their drummer Randall "Randy" Colbourne this year, knowing that the very last thing Randy would have wanted was for the band to fold the remaining members, Jonathan Mlyniec (vocals); Erik Barrett (bass) and Jon Harrison (guitars), asked Paul Litewka to join. However, prior to his passing Randy had completed putting down rhythms on the bands second album "Hallucinations of a Heretic" and it is this album we are reviewing today, a barnstorming mix of sludge, blackened doom and stoner metal, infused with elements of space and psych, driven from beneath by a mighty fine drummer.

The ironically titled "Pushing Up Daisies" kicks things off, a song that we would normally describe as an instrumental if it were not for the various soundbites and samples that are layered over its crunching riffs and thunderous rhythms. More doomic than sludgy the song is a kick-ass opener, situated just the right side of brutal, that highlights, among other things, Afghan Haze's unique and sometimes off-kilter approach to heavy music. "Satan Ripper" follows and sees the band hitting into a more familiar sludge/stoner metal groove, decorated with a forceful bear like vocal, a groove that does not deviate too much until it reaches its midway point when a sudden burst of white noise and feedback heralds in a brief, but quite captivating, period of lysergic laced otherworldliness that features a heavily phased guitar motif being played out over an equally effect laden bass line and militaristic drumming, the band reprising the songs original groove shortly after, only this time at a more doomic pace. A song entitled "Hellijuana" might lead you to expect some sort of Sleep-like ode to exotic smoking materials, but you would be wrong, granted the song does possess a "weedian" flavour but lyrics like "peel back my skin, expose my tissue" and " my soul sinks into the soil, where my body will rot", roared in bullish tones, do not exactly paint a picture of a stoned-out nirvana. Having arrived in Hell and had a taste of its many delights Afghan Haze then decide to show us around, pointing out a few of its residents and generally giving us their impressions of the place, a sort of twisted travelogue set to a soundtrack of sludgy stoner metal riffage driven by powerful rhythms. Final song "Gin Whore" begins with sampled narrative of a murderer describing the dismemberment of one of his victims in detached, matter of fact tones then erupts into a droning low slow, heavy blackened doom groove with the vocals taking on a grittier more spoken than sang/roared meter, "this is the pleasure palace" intones Mlyniec, in his unique bullish tones, and for lovers of sludgy metallic blackened doom it most certainly is!

Afghan Haze's "Hallucinations of a Heretic" is a dark heavy and uncompromising album that mixes brutality with unexpected moments of cosmic finesse, an album that works not only as a fitting tribute to the late Randall "Randy" Colbourne but also as a statement of the band's future intent. 
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

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