Friday 24 March 2023


If a band cites among its influences such luminaries as Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, Sleep and High on Fire then you are probably expecting said band to have a somewhat similar sound, well you might unless that band hails from Scotland and goes by the surprisingly un-doom-like name of The Rhubarb. The Rhubarb, Hannah White (vocals/bass); Seán Maguire (vocals); Michael McConville (guitar) and Jack Donnelly (drums), may share some of the qualities of those bands they cite as influences but sounding like them is not one of them, this is a band who approach their doom from a whole different angle as you may come to realise when giving their latest release "Symptom of Failure" a listen.

Everything we said about The Rhubarb not sounding like the bands that have influenced them might sound like absolute tosh when hearing the opening bars to first track "Mist", its dark riffs and thunderous rhythms are most definitely Sleep-ish, maybe even Sabbathian, in texture and colour, but then in comes the dual vocal attack of White and Maguire and suddenly those textures and colours take on a whole new hue. White's voice, ethereal and haunting combines with Maguire's low clean baritone to give the bands music a unique and different vibe and feel to that of any of their contemporaries in the field of doom, in fact Desert Psychlist would go as far as saying that there is not a band out there, at the present time, that sound anything like The Rhubarb. There are times throughout "Symptom of Failure" where you are left wondering if you are listening to some studio created mash-up whereby some tech savvy producer has layered the vocal tracks of one band over the metallic grooves of another, but then there are also moments when those grooves and the vocals weave together in such perfect unison that you have to concede that this is the work of just one band, and a very good one at that. The musicianship, on songs like the sinister "Awful Breed", the mournful and heavy  "I Wanna Play a Game", the schizophrenic "I Can't Roll" and the epic "Mother's Ruin", is nothing short of outstanding, White's bass lines growl and purr, Donnelly's drums are thunderous and articulate while McConville's guitar work is a mixture of dark crunchy chord progressions and searing fiery lead, factor into the equation White and Maguire's astonishing vocal interplay and its not hard to understand why The Rhubarb are attracting the attention of those both inside and outside of their Scottish homeland.

A high level of musicianship combined with sweet and sour harmonies and tonally opposed vocal trade offs is what makes "Symptom of Failure" stand out from the crowd, it is not a conventional doom album by any means yet it is still very much a doom album. Purists might bemoan the fact that its vocals are not typical of the genre but then The Rhubarb are not your typical doom band. 
Check 'em out ....  
© 2023 Frazer Jones

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