Review by Greg Maki
Having never ingested any mind-altering substances, I wonder if I have the proper perspective to review “Ashen Blood,” the debut full-length release from Denver, Colorado-based stoner/doom metal outfit Green Druid. However, I have spent a couple hours of my life listening to this album, and I think that, plus my status as a lifelong metalhead, gives me every right to have an opinion on it.
Be sure to find a comfortable seat before you press play on this one; its seven tracks run 74 minutes—take out the closing “Nightfall,” which essentially is three and a half minutes of ambient noise, and you have six songs that add up to better than 70 minutes. It takes a certain amount chutzpah to throw that out there for your first exposure to the world, and I admire the complete lack of pretense on the band’s part. There’s no catchy single to lull in unsuspecting listeners; if you’re looking for hooks, you’ve come to the wrong place. Green Druid’s “single” is the 10-and-a-half-minute dirge “Dead Tree,” with a psychedelic video of kaleidoscoping colors and lights that’s kind of perfect. I have a feeling a lot of the band’s target audience will see something similar when they hear these tunes whether watching a video or not.
With little in the way of discernible structure, the songs inch along from one deep, dark passage to the next. Plodding, hypnotic rhythms draw the listener in slowly, and just when you feel like you’re about to get lost in the ponderous depths that await you, guitarists Chris McLaughlin (also the vocalist, though you won’t hear a lot of him) and Graham Zander bust out a tasty riff you can ride back to the surface. The extreme lengths of the songs serve a real purpose—the effect wouldn’t work in a typical four- to five-minute track—but I’m still searching for a legitimate reason why “Cursed Blood” must drone on for an interminable 18 minutes and 34 seconds.
I generally prefer a little more energy in my music than what “Ashen Blood” has to offer—to my ears, it’s at its best on “Pale Blood Sky” and “Rebirth,” where the riffs provide stronger forward momentum—but I could see putting this on after a particularly long day at work, lying back, your feet propped up, and zoning out to it. I just might be missing something without the, uh, enhancement others might enjoy.
(Earache Records, March 16, 2018)