Spaceslug continue to cement themselves as a stoner doom must-listen band with their latest outing Memorial, an album that captures their bread & butter sound, then supercharges it with the perfect level of gruffness, the result a true sonic feast for the ears.
Spaceslug has been on solid rotation for me since their incredible debut Lemanis back in 2016, yet I have somehow never managed to cover a single one of their subsequent albums since. And there have been plenty – the band have pushed out an incredible six albums and EPs since 2016, each showing a gradual progression in songwriting and recording quality. Now, they have unleashed what could be considered their best and most accessible album: Memorial.
The Polish trio is not one to box themselves into a specific subset of stoner doom, deftly crafting tracks that shift deftly from soft, floaty psychedelic parts into raucous heavy sections, which on their previous record and this one, have grown to include raspier vocals and heavier, almost post-metal sections that set them far apart from their genre peers in terms of creativity. Memorial is a love letter to all those styles from their previous albums, coupled with some of their best recording and mixing yet.
Where Memorial really succeeds over their 2019 record Reign Of The Orion is in the catchiness and replayability of some tracks. As I write this, I’m on my third rotation of the first three full-length tracks, such is the pull of their vocal hooks and guitar motifs. “Follow This Land”, the first track after the introduction, is arguably one of their best ever. A hybrid that combines a full-frontal barrage of riffs, with the classic low-key, raspy vocals that has been a key feature through all their records, this track is equally exciting as it is cathartic. You’ll be moving yet drifting into a peaceful, psych-laden void all at the same time.
The guitar tones are brilliant, with the main guitars feeling more post-rock and indie-inspired, soaring at points to climaxes you’d expect from some post-apocalyptic rock, all the while kept rooted to the earth with stoner doom bass. This fresh palette of sounds really set this track apart, just like the deft songwriting, which, as the track feels like it’s getting a bit transcendental, abruptly pulls you back into the big riffs and stops the track from fading out into obscurity.
Something Spaceslug has certainly improved on with Memorial is the quality of their long-play tracks. “Spring of the Abyss” pushes the ten-minute mark, yet you feel hooked throughout, yearning for an escalation of the cleverly weighted group chants that are offset against verses that remind one of the Gregorian monks and their exceptional use of echoes. The psych guitars that rumble on alongside have nuances to them that keep you interested throughout, with great distortion applied to further the trippy nature of the track.
As I go back to listen to Lemanis after Memorial, I am reminded that Spaceslug leant heavily into the psych and stoner side of things in their early days, with tracks that don’t always go somewhere. Memorial really changes the narrative and keeps you hooked in time and again.
The way Spaceslug use heavy vocals and instrumentation in their music is extremely well done. Never once are they the absolute focal point; instead, they complement the staple sound of Spaceslug perfectly. Gruff, blackened vocals are employed in the right amounts, offering a significant and welcome contrast to the metered stoner vocals. I’ve struggled to place what they sound like, but certainly Cult Of Luna and maybe even LLNN‘s vocals could be seen as comparable, making me wonder if Spaceslug are pioneering the post-stoner genre from Poland.
Backed up by excellent riffs, tracks like “In The Hiatus Fall” and “Of Trees and Fire” are two incredible examples of the use of heaviness in the genre, offering a more palatable experience than many other bands in the stoner-doom genre, who swing too far in either direction for the experience to be memorable. I guess the album name rings true!
All in all, a brilliant addition to their quiver of albums that, as mentioned before, takes all of their previous records and dilutes the best from them into this monster. Diverse, intelligent, and above all a brilliant headbanging experience, Memorial is what many other stoner doom bands should aspire to unleash. One can only imagine what an esoteric experience it must be to see these guys live, moving from the heavy psychedelia into these catastrophically heavy sections. I will certainly look forward to Spaceslugs plethora of albums that will no doubt follow Memorial.