Being a doom metal fanatic my taste for the heavy and doomy but definitely metallic has significant elasticity. I enjoy doom metal that more discerning ears might not have the time nor inclination for. I’ll leave the lower end of my listening spectrum out of my writing but over the years the shear amount of doom I’ve leant an ear to is significant. Amidst the boulders, forests, and rubble of that mountain of doom there are some quality bands that seem to have gotten lost and left off the radar of most doom fans. These are not the very top shelf, the legends of the genre, but they are really good and considerably enjoyable. It is this article’s intent to get a few more doom fans to discover them.
Dark Covenant (CA)
First up is Dark Covenant from Quebec. They issued a four song demo in 2009 and a nine song album Eulogies for the Fallen on Emanes Metal Records in 2011 (really seven songs with long named intros and outros). All four songs from the demo are redone on the album so there really is no need to track down both unless you find yourself really loving this and want the other versions (the differences are not great between versions). If you love your doom metal epic this is going to be a real treat for you. They may be a rung below the greats (Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Forsaken, Solstice, and Sorcerer) on the epic doom metal ladder, but this is still real quality stuff.
Fully fat and metallic rhythm guitar creates both slow melancholic riffs and chugging surging riffs when the pace picks up (Yves Allaire does a great job on all the guitar work on this album and a sturdy job on the drums and keys). Leads are well placed and played (just check the guitar parts right after the 3 minute mark in “Perennial Solitude”…stellar stuff there) and the vocals are spot on for what makes this music work. Vocalist Christian Verreault has a powerful voice that will have you thinking early Rob Lowe on a few occasions but more often throws in enough distinctive character to stand apart. The rhythm section (including Stephane Verreault on bass) holds it all down in a very solid fashion and together a good part of what is on offer in addition to well written songs is a real tightness and professionalism. There was an attempt a few years back to get this project going again, but apparently that has ended and so has Dark Covenant (at least for now…doom heads can always hope).
Death Rides a Horse (DK)
Next up is Death Rides a Horse from Denmark and relative to our last band, their output was a bit more robust. There is a two-song demo from 2009 which is good but not world shaking. Improvement moves forward (and pretty much continues from here each release) from there with the four song Pantokrator ep surfacing in 2010. This one is really good mid-tempo for the most part and solid riff-based metal with the fairly unique vocals of Ida Hollessen out front. The cover of The Scorpions’ “Fly to the Rainbow” is not only really well done and an excellent choice, but shows a great combination of balls and “we don’t care we do what we want” attitude that imbues all their material.
We saw the three song Tree of Woe EP in 2012 and the entrance of a more swaggering feel and an increased ability for the music to convey an epic feel at times. Inferno Records released both ep’s on CD with a really nice bonus track “Dominion of Metal” and I strongly recommend tracking down that release. They put out a single in 2016 with “Urizen” a great album preview and “The Crusader” well worth tracking down as an exclusive track. Their last album to date (and technically first full length) More God than Man came out in 2017 and is a damn fine album. There are no dud tracks here and the over 12-minute epic “Throne of Gilgamesh” is worth the price of admission alone. All stuff well worth tracking down…and the only band in this article currently still active with hopefully more to come.
Chicago’s Witchcross (not to be confused with Denmark’s Witch Cross) have definitely been a doom band worth a higher attention level than they have ever gotten. One of the many admirable things about this band is that it has had the same four members since 1992. Vocalist William Jannusch (also of Ravensthorn, Shadowlord, and currently forming a new band) and guitarist Dereck Anderson were previously in Nocturnal Doom who put out the album Shades of Despair in 1991.
The first self titled album came out in 1993 and while the production values are rough and there is definitely an unfinished feel to much of it; there is also a healthy serving of walloping doom. Some of the songs like “The Golem” and “Bad Trip” make appearances in more mature, more polished and better produced versions on the later album Crypt of the Undead while others like “Together We’ll Get High” are better left to the band’s youthful exploits (as are a few of the Sabbath steals on the first one, but they were also a Sabbath cover band so a little slack is probably in order). The second album Innocence and Evil came out 16 years later in 2009. Unlike the first one, it has not been re-issued as of yet but does reprise a song from the first album and have four others appear on the last two albums so there are only 3 songs than cannot be heard elsewhere.
Crypt of the Undead appeared in 2015 and represented a significantly improved production. This one is 13 straight solid doom numbers. These are good songs and there are some really nice inventive riffs here like on “Walking the Path to Your Tomb”. There is definitely a high level of horror movie and literature reference here including of the B-variety but the sincerity is super solid (Ozzy-esque front man Count William is a die-hard horror fan). This is really good doom and the band is all in on every song. Had this been a lost album from some barely heard of 80’s band it would be legendary now. Witchcross’s last album was 2018’s Cauldron in Satan’s Shadow . This one is basically another 13 numbers as solid as the previous album albeit with a slightly different production and an added Sabbath cover. “The Hag” is my favorite here but the quality is consistent amongst the songs. If you like some of the songs by Witchcross chances are you’ll like most of them. Witchcross are back solidly together as a group with the original line up and are writing the new album aiming for release in 2021!