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Paying no heed to the controversy/drama presently simmering beneath this band’s surface, the fact of the matter is Beelzefuzz do an excellent job of subverting stoner doom’s basics, making for captivating experience along the way.


Album Review: BEELZEFUZZ The Righteous Bloom

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Paying no heed to the controversy/drama presently simmering beneath this band’s surface, lists Beelzefuzz’s status as “disputed” at the claim of a former member who says he was turfed and had all the music he wrote and moniker he devised stolen out from under him; the band actually broke up in 2014, reformed without said member as Righteous Bloom before changing their name back to Beelzefuzz a year later. Supposedly they have the court-settled documents to prove ownership of the moniker. Despite it all, they seem to have a perfectly good head of steam when it comes to playing shows and posting on Facebook and Bandcamp… the fact of the matter is Beelzefuzz do an excellent job of subverting stoner doom’s basics, making for captivating experience along the way.

Pick an element of that which comprises the Maryland band’s sound and chances are there’s something different, or different enough, about it working to separate the material of The Righteous Bloom from the bands they’ll automatically be compared with. Those include Pentagram (because every stoner doom band has some Pentagram in ‘em), Pale Divine (because guitarist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McClosky are members of both) and Revelation (because bassist Bert Hall is a member of both). From the start, vocalist/guitarist Dana Ortt’s airy, high register vocal escapades are inversely proportional to both how low Beelzefuzz is tuned and the amount of weed resin trapped in the facial hair of band and fans. Not only are his pipes reminiscent of slamming vintage Ozzy into ASG’s Jason Shi and Confessor’s Scott Jeffreys, but he’s especially talented and creative in the phrasing department.

The lines comprising the verse of storming lead-off track, “Nazriff” and the ready-for-stardom chorus of “Hardluck Melody” bore wide paths into my auditory canals upon first listen, and have yet to leave my cranial slop and be subtracted from my humming-while-strolling-down-the-street repertoire. And the way he inserts soaring and infectious melodies into riffs that charmingly dance with and around blues and rock-based scales is masterful to say the least. The previously mentioned “Hardluck Melody” is a perfect example. Imagine Black Sabbath decked out in a pair of Clutch’s stomping boots with layers of six-string pealing to a center-parted, tie-dyed majesty in the sky (dig that crazy dual lead that closes out the song!) and the vintage organ moan and most singers would find it difficult carving out space for themselves. Ortt figures it out and nails it.

Herein lies another deviation point Beelzefuzz takes away from their obvious influences and inspirations. While they’re undoubtedly rooted in the world of doom – being from Maryland, the odds were spectacularly in favour of this being their chosen path – theirs is a more refined, melodic and elegant take on the sound’s standard bearers. The simplest move of classification would be to lump them in with those that have offered their own twist on the likes of what Trouble and Penance have wrought: bands like Torche, Valkyrie, ASG, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats and Cathedral, out-there-moments and otherwise. In many spots, there are signs that genre advancement is as much a goal for the band as is writing solid songs. “Nebulous” is slow burning, slow hand riffology with a shit-ton of dynamics and palm-muted movement around the blues and beyond with quick descending runs, reggae-like chord snaps and propulsive kick patterns (that Ortt throws in some laid-back, but killer, vocals only helps matters) with a couple of abrupt, but appropriate, mood shifts.

They do have a tendency to fall into well worn traps of loose, acid rock jammolas like “Rat Poison Parfait” which wasn’t as enamouring because it fell on the wrong side of ordinary traditionalism. This, however, is a personal preference of your humble scribe; some listeners, especially those more invested in the sub-genre and its purity, might find such a nod to the conventional to be a good thing. Though, my mind’s eye can picture many of those same people braying negatively about the dearth of crushing guitar tones on The Righteous Bloom. How about we focus on asking if it was really necessary to have every song be presented at virtually the same plodding pace? A little tempo variety would have been nice and contributed to making this that much more of a compelling listen.

The strutting riffs in the title track – and again, the vocals Ortt orchestrates within – aren’t any less engaging because of the lack of velocity. In fact, having this sort of motion within a gradual boogie guitar provides space for the note combinations to kaleidoscopically breathe outward. And the almost southern bluesy meets the Beatles’ "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds"-era feel to album closer “Peace Mind” also puts a stricter emergency brake on the pacing, but adjuncts a small wall of power chords, more delightfully smoky soloing and doesn’t suffer from a lack of pace. This could be the take-home message: that, despite lazy categorization, Beelzefuzz don’t entirely play by the rules and what they do makes enough of a difference to make for an interesting, if not special, time spent.

Score: 8/10

(Please note that the below is a demo version of “Hardluck Melody” that I found online. I ran it here because including footage from an old episode of Soul Train rules and whoever did this is obviously a genius!)


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