May 6, 2019 Doomstress – Sleep Among the Dead (Album Review)
After three years of touring, EPs, and splits, Texas Doom quartet Doomstress are set to release Sleep Among the Dead, their first full-length, on Friday, May 10th through Ripple Music.
The brainchild of Vocalist/Bassist Alexis Hollada, known throughout Heavy Metal circles as Doomstress Alexis, this new project can be seen as both a natural offshoot and drastic departure from Project Armageddon, the prior main act for both Hollada along with Guitarist Brandon Johnson. Within Doomstress, the two are joined by Guitarist Matt Taylor and Drummer Tomasz Scull.
Bursting onto the scene in 2016, releasing the Supernatural Kvlt Sounds and Wicked Woman EPs, their efforts totaled three original tracks and two covers between them. When Supernatural Kvlt Sounds was revisited with The Second Rite in late 2017, “Bitter Plea” and “Sleep Among the Dead” were added to the stable of original work. Additionally, these tracks open and close Sleep Among the Dead, respectively, with five new original pieces elbowing their way to fill out the remaining space.
As their debut full-length, Sleep Among the Dead makes a bold sweeping entrance with the aforementioned “Bitter Plea.” This track saw wide release through a music video released in October 2017, featuring a mixture of live performance shots and dramatic scenes. The off-stage portions depict Alexis as she wanders a beach alone, and the lyrics give some insight as to what she may be thinking: “plead with the waves to carry me from the shore / drag me down til there is no pain anymore.” For over a decade, Alexis has lived as a transwoman, and while that path may have smoothed out a bit for her personally in the meantime, she is active in supporting LGBTQ and other unfortunately marginalized communities both in and out of the Metal world. The music itself is a strong Power, Doom, and Sludge Metal effort, with distinct Progressive elements, and features some of the heaviest guitar work on the album.
All this in mind, the Doomstress is always present with her bass and vocals, with Geddy Lee cited as a heavy influence that still leaves room. Her bass tone is clearly influenced by heavies such as Steve Harris of Iron Maiden and Geezer Butler of Black Sabbath, as well as Lee. So it comes as no surprise that just past the two-minute mark of “Your God Is Blind,” the album falls down a dense rabbit hole of bonafide English Doom, before making a hard right turn and climbing back to Seventies Rock, replete with winding, wailing guitar escapades. This is while “Bones and Rust” calls again to the early Nineties Doom sound that came out of the bitter North of England.
Then there is “Apathetic Existence,” which is straight Black Sabbath worship, reaching all the way back to the title-track from their eponymous debut; while listeners will notice the parallels immediately, the track veers off the track enough to make its own stamp on the Doom classic. On the other hand, “Dreaming Spider” takes a solemn, meandering path to technical ecstasy as the haunting vocals and thumping bass lines laid by the Doomstress leave fertile ground for proper guitar soloing.
Lastly, Sleep Among the Dead closes with the title-track, crammed with more distinct bass-plucking before the guitar and drums move into a slow dirge of Sludge Rock. As with “Bitter Pill,” this track will sound familiar to anyone lucky enough to have been caught up in one of the band’s fierce live appearances and small-batch releases the past few years, as it has appeared in various flavors as far back as their debut EP, Supernatural Kvlt Sounds, in 2016. The pace quickens as the track nears a close, but overall the track is a slower bookend to the upbeat opener.
The decision to eliminate covers completely shows an increase in confidence and maturity, and while Sleep Among the Dead still opens and closes with two tracks with miles on their tires, each story bears repeating for different reasons. Just over forty minutes long, the album clicks past a bit too quickly, managing to touch several related genres while still sounding fresh and unique. Doomstress is no doubt poised to tour heavily again to support the release, but in the meantime, Sleep Among the Dead offers solace for those fans unable to see the band live. A deft mix of new sounds and familiar favorites, Cryptic Rock is pleased give Sleep Among the Dead 4 out of 5 stars.