Album of the Month

The debut full-length from Greek band Automaton is weighty, sludgy, coffin-lid-slamming Doom perfection.
(Read more)

Random band

Ansia (meaning 'anxiety' or 'eagerness') is an Italian three piece that plays slow doom metal that reside somewhere inbetween black, death and funeral do...
(read more)

Thermal Mass : I,...Gore Head

Australia's Thermal Mass debut with a swaggeringly venomous slab of old-school Doom Metal.

You won't have heard of Melbourne's Thermal Mass, I can pretty much guarantee that. They're not big on internet presence: there's a Bandcamp page populated with half a dozen tracks, some tagged as Doom, some not, and this debut album is only available by contacting the band directly. There's neither a band logo banner, nor a picture on it: just - as a bit of a clue what to expect - the Periodic Table entry for lead. Not that I'm completely convinced glossier self-promotion offers all that much extra exposure: in that sense, things have gone somewhat full circle - pre-internet, the best (and sometimes only) way to find out what was out there was word of mouth, post-internet, the best (and sometimes only) way to pick through the legions of readily available online music is...word of mouth...

So, that's how I was introduced to Thermal Mass, as a rather circuitously-obtained recommendation that came out of a completely different conversation. Happenstance: one of my favourite ways to pick up on new bands. Back before the world turned upside-down, guitarist/vocalist Gallinov sent me a copy of the 'I,...Gore Head' CDr. It took almost a month to arrive, and by the time it did, everything had changed. It was worth the wait, though, Perhaps not entirely for the package itself - a simple, though fairly informative, gatefold digi wallet with surprisingly cheeky, almost Monty Python-esque artwork - but more because it's currently the only way to get to hear the whole album. That comprises a core of eight tracks recorded back in 2015, plus three bonuses: one newer (2017) and a couple older (2013), all three sets recorded with somewhat different line-ups.

And, as it turns out, it's quite the appropriate soundtrack for these troubled times. Old-school heavy, this is very much a throwback to the days when Doom was a fledgling offshoot of Metal, amped up for maximum darkness and nastiness. I'm reminded of Blue Cheer's 'Vincebus Eruptum', attitude-wise, hammering the sneering, swaggering biker rebellion of the one-time 'loudest band in the world' like a stake through the heart of the already dying flower-power summers of love. Thermal Mass, with their biting social commentary, and anti-authoritarian stance, fire a similar salvo at the complacent globalised capitalism which has proved so sadly lacking in recent months.

Musically - well, you don't really need to look too much further than Sabbath and Pentagram, shorn of their occultism. The sound may have been ramped up to a beefier, fuller and more modern production, but it's nonetheless proudly keeping one solidly-planted foot in the most sinister, oppressive and outright evil-sounding Metal of the early '70s. Unlike many of the later exponents of that super-heavy, sludgy Stoner-type sound, there's no attempt to turn it into another slowed-up Electric Wizard vibe: Thermal Mass are happy to stick with largely mid-tempo four-to-five minute offerings which emphasise their early-Doom roots, with some more deliberate pacing in the longer pieces.

That's not the whole story, though it's certainly the most obvious. 'I,...Gore Head' does bring some later influences on board, too - 'No Exit...' kicking off with a ferocious bass-heavy rumble reminiscent of early Voivod, 'Off With The Medicine' woven around samples of Gandhi's 'Kingsley Hall' speech, the longer and slower-paced 'Numbered Days' giving clearer space to reveal background layers of distorted noise, one reason why the album's sound is quite so full and heavy. Up front, the lead and rhythm guitars maintain an almost-constant dynamism, shifting between riffs and solos that complement the effective, at times Ozzy-like vocals, which generally operate somewhere between laconic contempt and venomous snarl. Everything unfolds with such confident panache that you may not even immediately notice how detailed and classy the compositions are in their own right, though it won't take many spins before those details become very clear.

Overall, it's a vehement and energetic performance, riding a neat line between tightness and spontaneity. In part, that's down to the album being recorded live in a Sabbathesque nine hours flat, with an absolute minimum of studio tinkering, but it's also obvious that the band are very much on the same wavelength when it comes to belting out the music. The bonus tracks come across as more rough, ready and aggressive, but there's no shortage of the latter in the album itself. Combining blasts from the past with more contemporary subject material, it's a strangely prophetic, invigorating rebellious piece of work to rage with, against the slow-motion drama of accelerating death, world lockdown and the slide into economic abyss. Play loud, and spread the word!

Click HERE to discuss this review on the doom-metal forum.

Reviewer's rating: 8.5/10


Tracklist :
1. All Ords
2. Off With The Medicine
3. No Exit/New Landlords
4. Mass Fear
5. Bad Eggs (Gargantua)
6. Numbered Days
7. Madhouse Eath
8. Oriente Lux
9. Married To Mayhem (Bonus)
10. Voice Of The Planet Seed (Bonus)
11. Off With The Medicine (Bonus)

Duration : Approx. 58 minutes

Visit the Thermal Mass bandpage.

Reviewed on 2020-04-15 by Mike Liassides
Advertise your band, label or distro on doom-metal.com