Despite its unmistakably devoted fanbase, stoner metal has been veering on a downward slump for a few years now. One of the reasons perhaps is that the sub-genre all too often has become merged with doom metal and stoner rock, where bands from all three fields favour the same themes and concepts when writing new material. Thank the drug-addled spiritual icon in the sky then, for the likes of Wo Fat, a band that, with every successive record, seems to surge forward both confidently and musically. Wo-Fat are the sort of band that restrict naysayers of stoner metal whilst at the same time developing their own adventurous take on the sub-genre, and 2016’s “Midnight Cometh” is no stranger to that point.
The album opens up with two menacing, monolithic efforts which could easily claim to be among the heaviest tunes Wo Fat have ever crafted in their 13-year career. The lengthy ‘There’s Something Sinister in the Wind’ reaps the rewards of having a beautifully enhanced riff section before the hazy vocal delivery of both Kent Stump and Michael Walter infiltrate the already mesmerising sound. From this point onwards, the whole song seems to rely on tried-and-tested albeit still fresh experimentation involving elaborate percussion techniques and almost sludgy, mind-melting guitar work. Whilst pace isn’t quite in favour of the song’s progression here, it’s more than made up for thanks to a relaxing vibe retained throughout, enabling both Stump and Walter to balance the musicianship whenever they feel fit to do so. The neighbouring ‘Riffborn’ certainly lives up to its title. Riffs bask in hazy glory once again, and the accompanying lyrical content makes frequent allusions to the days of Hendrix and Purple, where it’s hard for the listener not to get cloaked in a cloud of groovy metallic sludge. Essentially, it explodes in places where the audience doesn’t quite expect, and that’s what makes the opening moments of “Midnight Cometh” so indulgent.
That said, the rest of the album almost falls flat at times, and unfortunately, there aren’t any salvageable opportunities to ensure that “Midnight Cometh” retains the original energy it started out with. ‘Of Smoke and Fog’ is arguably the most experimental number of the record, though only because it dips its whole proverbial body into the world of blues and the lighter side of stoner rock. As enticing as this may be for particular fans, on the whole it represents a step down from the more menacing vibes of Wo Fat’s heavier material, and it almost threatens to descend into a more-or-less pointless jam section. Then again, Wo Fat bring back the instrumental gusto and manage to finish the song on a high. The album’s second half unfortunately carries on with this slight downward spiral, but there are moments of glory where you’ll likely be reminded that Wo Fat are back in full form. The largely percussive mid-section of ‘Three Minutes to Midnight’ and album closer ‘Nightcomer’ both signify heavier underlying sounds the more you listen to them, and despite the nasally vocals overcoming the instrumental presence of the band, you can surely appreciate the amount of enjoyment which went into every song of “Midnight Cometh”.
“Midnight Cometh” naturally continues the adventurous and open-ended journey of Wo Fat’s already lengthy career, and even though it doesn’t quite match the quality of the band’s past works, it does a good job of reminding its audience that the band are more or less at the forefront of stoner metal itself.
Released: 20th May 2016
- There’s Something Sinister in the Wind
- Of Smoke and Fog
- Le Dilemme de Detenu
- Three Minutes to Midnight