Tuesday 6 June 2023



Malta, a small island country situated in the Mediterranean Sea, is not a place renowned for its underground rock scene, mainly due to its lack of venues willing to host rock shows, but that does not mean one does not exist. Malta does not lack bands who want to play heavy music the lack is with the limited resources at hand for these bands to promote that music. Thankfully the rise of music hosting sites, like Bandcamp, and small specialist record labels, like Ripple Records and Electric Valley Records, there are many more opportunities available to bands and artists from all over the world to get their wares out to wider audiences. It is in fact thanks to Electric Valley Records that today we get the chance to introduce you to Hemplifier, a stoner doom trio from Santa Venera, Malta consisting of Emanuel Portelli (guitar/vocals), Bażaż (bass) and Dino Mifsud Lepre (drums & samples). Hemplifier's groove is one we know will go down well with regular readers of Desert Psychlist, a heavy blend of low slung riffage and pounding percussion played at a sedate tempos and then sparingly decorated in an eclectic mixture of vocal tones, all of which are now available to hear on the bands debut "The Stoner Side of The Doom".

With a title like "The Stoner Side of The Doom" it is a pretty sure bet that Hemplifier are not going to be pinning anyone's ears back with grooves of thrash like furiosity or mid tempo Sabbathesque proto doom, as the album title suggests this is an album residing at the stoner end of the doom spectrum. Slow, low and heavy is the order of the day here with the band jamming dark insidious grooves that boast a lumbering rather than a galloping gait. First song out of the traps "Headless Chicken (intro)" begins with drummer Lepre beating out a simple but effective tattoo which is then joined by a low slung bass refrain from Bażaż, the songs increasingly sinister dynamic then becomes even more sinister thanks to guitarist Portelli layering raked strings and behind the nut picking just beneath the groove, the overall effect coming across like the soundtrack to a John Carpenter movie. The final drum beat of "Headless Chicken (intro)" is almost immediately followed by the piercing feedback and dank, reverberating riffage of next song "Brujo", a song built around one single riff but with the tempo of that riff constantly shifting back and forth between really slow and extremely slow, its accompanying vocal wordless and guttural. Next up is "Invocation" a song that sees the band mixing their cellar crawling stoner doom dynamics with elements of funereal doom and drone and then layering the resulting outcome with an unsettling but strangely intriguing blend of vocal stylings. Hemplifier offer us up an instrumental next, "Gort" is similar in style to its predecessor in that it possess many of the same elements of funereal doom and drone but differs slightly by adding an element of psych to the mix, but let's not get ahead of ourselves and start thinking along the lines of Elder or REZN here because Hemplifier's take on psych is completely different being that it is much darker, much more dense and much, much slower. For "Weedcraft" Hemplifier almost, but not quite, go down the proto-doom route, the songs groove is more strident and livelier than much of what has passed up until this point and its harsher vocals are definitely more in keeping with what we have come to expect from a modern doom album. Final song "Snooze (outro)" somewhat expands on the ideas explored on the opening intro in that it jams a groove that could easily serve as a movie soundtrack only instead of John Carpenter think something more along the lines of an Italian B movie themed around satanic horror and the occult.

"The Stoner Side of The Doom" is everything a stoner doom album should be, it is ponderous, dark, intense and thunderous yet, unlike some albums in the genre, it is far from being one dimensional. There is an air of daring and a sense of innovation to be found in Hemplifier's monolithic grooves and low slow dynamics that regular listeners and lovers of sedate paced heavy doom will find both extremely refreshing and highly rewarding.
Check 'em out .... 
© 2023 Frazer Jones

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