Morass of Molasses
These Paths We Tread
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This one took a couple of listens to fully absorb and I honestly wasn’t too sure how I felt about it at first.  UK alley prowlers Morass of Molasses play a rough n’ tumble hand of stoner rock and hardcore with stylistic left turns into trippy psychedelia, sludge, doom and a Pantera/Kilgore/Pissing Razors’ hewn modern groove metal element faintly present in a track or two.  There were a few moments scattered across my 10 or 11 full spins of the album where I was sort of scratching my head and thinking, “I’m not sure if this is my thing or not.”  Then the next thing you know the spacey psyche elements were getting in my head, the dual vocal styles started really showing off some cool schizophrenic personality and a big riff would slap me upside the face.  By the end of my lengthy jam sessions with the band’s debut LP These Paths We Tread, I was sold.

Lead-in cut “My Leviathan” toys with soft, psychedelic guitar textures in the early going build-up making me immediately think of Colour Haze (one of my favorite brain sizzling psychedelic rock bands of the current age), but that assessment quickly goes out the window once Phil “The Mountain” Williams lays into a fly-infested sludge riff and vocalist/bassist Bones “The Beard” Huse spits out a sandpaper scream.  Drummer Chris “The Beast” West (damn good show on the nicknames here, ha!) thrashes his way into some Oak felling snare fills as Williams peppers the grooving riff charge with an overload of wah-smothered lead guitar gravy.  Throat-shredding vocal screams shapeshift into ethereal croons, showcasing the fact that The Beard’s got some versatility in his pipes (as well as a pulverizing downtempo to his bass thumpin’).  The dangerous teetering between blacklit, psychedelic pulsations and ferocious sludgy hardcore works damn well despite my first impressions; a literal sonic maelstrom of Eyehategod, Backwoods Payback, Colour Haze, Raging Speedhorn, Pantera, Pissing Razors, Clutch, Suplecs, Down, Borracho and Orange Goblin from where I’m standing.  Pretty cool shit!

“So They Walk” opens with breathy vocal restraint and smooth, summer ready fuzz-blues riffs for an instantly hook-laden heavy rocker.  They really tap into that 90s birthed, pavement peeling stoner rock of the Man’s Ruin era with double-tracked guitars winding leads across the main riffs and West strutting his stuff with punchy, intricate tom patterns and sturdy classic rock backbeats.  Screaming vocals make a few appearances for some added emphasis on the simple lyrical proclamations, carving the tune into an easily memorable anthem.  A groovy little late game solo will blow your lava lamp to pieces before the song returns to its catchy verse/chorus grooves.  The album really hits a mammoth-sized stride on the vast, seamless expanse of “Serpentine.”  That aforementioned duo of introductory tracks is solid but this 7+ minute behemoth is an airtight chamber of heady riffage hellbent on suffocating you with a pillow made of lead.  Sampled winds howl, stripped down guitars wander the psychedelic plains, feedback scorches the forests and the next thing you know a knockdown, dragout textbook heavy blues riff comes shambling from the moors with intent to maim, cripple and kill.  Swirling salvos of bass and bubbling toms punctuate the verses giving Bones space to exercise his somber croons.  Melody is plundered and usurped by dirty southern-fried sludge riff upheavals, bone-cracking snare fills, multiple vocal personality disorder (screamed/sung/hushed) and twangy lead guitar extensions.  Again, the sparse, desert baked trip-out melodies remind me of Colour Haze…just total liquid mescaline shots of atmosphere that really turn the song into something else.  5:33 heralds the arrival of an apocalyptic riff that’s certainly the meanest, toughest groove on the entire record (calling to mind some of the powerhouse riffing from Suplecs’ Sad Songs, Better Days).

Mid-album break “The Ritual” is a chant summoning Dionysus with a female chorale and tambourine percussion; real Pagan, Wicker Man kinda stuff right here and it seems like the band arranged their own version of it as I can’t seem to dig up a source that they might have sampled.  “Centralia” actually references the ghost/mining town in good ol’ Pennsylvania and conjures up a ghastly atmosphere with looped news anchor announcements (one even distorted, demonically) fighting for airtime against a burly, pickaxe swingin’ blues riff.  A hearty dose of multi-tracking allows The Mountain’s guitar to hold down a riff and do some wildman, Pat Travers-esque “Snortin’ Whiskey” leads atop the foundation of gnarled bass and gritty Mason Dixon swing.  The beat keeps things in the pocket this time around with just enough flash to render the background exciting n’ colorful while the vocals stick to the melodic registers except for when the track closes on a pure DOOM slog where the screaming is not just fitting but practically a necessity.

That same oppressive doom vibe spills over into “Maenads,” the downplayed psychedelic intro torn to shreds by some of the most downtrodden riffing and rhythmic crunch ever cut to tape.  Throughout they stay the course, with the verses employing drippy reverb n’ echo and a creeping vocal slink to match; paving the way for the choruses’ churning tempestual riffs and pained yells.  Briefly the dust kicks up for a vintage Fu Manchu high-octane riff boogie that quickly decays into megaton sludge/doom pathos.  Epic is a monstrously overused word in the rock n’ roll review world but album ender “Wrath of Aphrodite” surely deserves the tag.  Coming off like a “Green Grass n’ High Tides” southern/country rock sprawler set to a stoner/doom soundtrack, The Beard croons “Hell hath no fury like a goddess scorned,” instantly laying the foundation for a monster hook beneath a melodic, bleakly overcast riff.  Soon the hook morphs into a triumphant, booming mantra with the entire band homing in on a magma hot slow groove.  Tempos suddenly shift to a banging, 70s hard rock sunder pounded into place by killer tom/kick drum shuffles and dexterous bass lines lending oomph to a storm of riffs and fireball solos.  It’s such a soulful workout that I simply can’t get enough of it and immediate repeat listens were a must.

These Paths We Tread is a goddamn fine stoner/hard rock record that perfectly blends old school playing with modern malice.  Those groove metal elements are really only present in the first two tracks as the remainder of the album continues to take a different trip farther and farther to the outermost reaches of the cosmos.  Hell, even the couple of things that rubbed my ears the wrong way on the first few listens all fell into place.  From tip to top, Morass of Molasses’ debut is a fucking awesome, addictive record with tons of replay value.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
July 6th, 2017

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