The weed must be really good in Bangalore, India, because the city keeps churning out one quality doom band after the other. Following in the footsteps of the likes of Djinn & Miskatonic and Shepherd, the aptly named The Grim Mage is the latest in a line of Bangalore based doom bands… and boy, these lads do kick up quite a fucking gust of smoke with their first demo entitled “Worshipper.”
On the surface, The Grim Mage fall prey to, or rather consciously adhere to all the obvious stereotypes of Stoner and Sludge doom of the modern era. It’s there in the band name, it’s there in the choice of the demo title, even there in the artwork and rears its stoned, misanthropic head once again when you look at the tracklist and spot the Electric Wizard / Eyehategod covers. You can’t avoid those blatant homages to the stoner cult even when you start the demo – movie samples dominate the music between the heavy riffing and psychopathic screams. It’s safe to say that this band wears its influences on its sleeves – depending on which side of the divide you lay on, that could be either a massive turn on or a colossal turn off.
The choice of cover tracks is interesting, because the music appears to be primarily indebted to “Dopesick” (and onwards) era Eyehategod and “Dopethrone” (and onwards) era Electric Wizard – a mixture that is by no means uncommon in the doom world of today, but the way in which this ensemble blends those two primary markers together is of more interest to this reviewer. In terms of the riffs and vocals, the Sludge element remains more prominent than the Stoner element. The vocals especially seem to bow at the altar of Mike Williams, save for the final track – where he should have continued prostrating at the same altar, rather than attempting the singing style. However, key proponents of sludge style riffing – the crushing, percussive stops and the faster hardcore-influenced sections – are never triggered, and the band ends up relying on stoner grooves to keep the music going – and keep the joints rolling. Their original songs “Sweet Demon Sugar,” “Worshipper” and “I Am Not Dead” are very well composed, from the bass-breaks coming in at the right time too to amp up the psychedelia, to the vocalist’s vocal delivery, and the group ends up concocting three very memorable tracks – even if the craving of a little tempo upcharge in the vein of Melvins, Iron Monkey or even “Holy Mountain” era Sleep lingers on til’ the end.
Though many may be put off by the production, I personally love it. Frankly, there is nothing more suiting to this kind of Sludge/Stoner Doom than basement level production. The heaviness of the riffs is not at all downplayed or relegated, it just takes on an altogether different form. A mundane wall-of-sound style heavy doom tone would have stripped all identity from this demo, to be honest. Instead, the in-your-face sound here, highlighted well by the garage vibe of the drums, makes the music even more nefarious and evil – as if a satanic ritual were occurring as you light your afghan hashish blunt. Not too dissimilar to the effect conjured up by most of Ramesses’ material.
Individual performances are great here, but the vocal performance drops as the tracks go on, perhaps the vocalist should give his throat a little rest before assuming control of the microphone. The samples are a little overdone here, and there are moments such as in “I Am Not Dead” where the sample just drags on and distracts from the crushing weight of the music on display. Overall this is a nice little demo, with some amazing original tracks showcasing the potential of these lads to go on and do some nice things in the scope of Indian Doom Metal. Less focus on covers and more focus on honing their own craft would help take them a level higher and really stomp some ears.