Comprised of two-thirds of the now-defunct stoner outfit Sufferghost, Hamden, Connecticut riffers Curse the Son emerge with the first full-length since their 2007 inception, the self-released Klonopain. It’s an album almost entirely unabashed in its influences, proudly flying the backpatches of Sabbath, Sleep, Trouble and Goatsnake in its seven component tracks, the vocals of guitarist Ron Vanacore fitting right in line with the heavier end of slow stoner/doom rock. Curse the Son, more or less in a wasteland as regards their local scene, maximize their tonal heft in Vanacore’s guitars and the bass of Cheech (no, it’s not that Cheech), as if making up for what other bands might also have on offer, while also keeping a more or less straightforward approach to the style that should be familiar to those experienced in the ways of the heavy underground. In many ways, Curse the Son is a scene band without the scene. All the more respectable then, for them to stand alone and not compromise on what they want to be musically.
And judging by the material on Klonopain – four tracks of which appeared on Curse the Son’s 2009 Globus Hystericus EP in previously-recorded versions – what they want to be musically is slow. To their credit, even when they’re not playing slow, on parts of “Anullus of Zin” or opener “Unbearable Doer of Wrong,” they sound like they are. Vanacore’s guitar tone is essential to this, as he takes a heavily-fedback solo on the opening cut, offsetting some of the Goatsnake-ery in the central riff, but still keeping that molasses-boogie feel. Drummer Rich Lemley does well with the tempo changes the riffs present, but isn’t a flashy player by any stretch or as present in the mix cymbal-wise as he might be on other records in this style. No doubt, Klonopain is led by the guitar and mixed in a way that heavily favors it, but for weedian riff metal, that’s more or less par for the course. Vanacore’s vocals – entirely clean and in the Sabotage-era Ozzy tradition – offer enough change throughout to stave off monotony, patterning themselves on “Y?” in a way that reminds of what Floor did so well and only recently got credit for: blending semi-melodic vocal accessibility with balls-heavy doom guitar, while also leaving room to kick into ultra-Sabbath mode toward the end, launching with a suitable “Right!”
“Globus Hystericus,” which was 6:07 on the EP is 5:51 on Klonopain, and sure enough, the song seems to be cut abruptly, as though the tape ran out. After the title track, however, with its massive instrumental sprawl, ebbs and flows, it’s easy to already be so lost in Curse the Son’s richness of sound that you don’t even notice, even with a couple seconds of silence before closer “Pulsotar Bringer” starts with its quiet intro notes. Vanacore’s riffing, complemented with Cheech’s bass and Lemley’s drumwork, is once again leading the charge, and all the music seems to be in service of the groove. This is how phrases like “riff worship” get coined, and while I think that’s a fine ethic on which to base a playing style – it’s certainly worked plenty of times before and I think it works for Curse the Son as well – little touches like the minimalist breaks on “Klonopain” do a lot to break things up, and I’d like to hear more of that kind of experimentation from the band next time around. Not saying they have to or should get locked in heavy/ambient tradeoffs, but there’s a lot about Klonopain they can take from and develop going forward. In that way, it’s very much a debut album.
However, given the fact that some of these songs are at least two years old, it’s also a debut album that’s extremely assured in what it wants to accomplish, and it does meet its every stated goal with nod-worthy gusto. Ending with perhaps its most Sleep’s Holy Mountain riff is a good way for Klonopain to go out, as it shows the trio have nothing but reverence for their genre godfathers, and that they’re up front about that works greatly to their benefit throughout the album. It’s not necessarily a record all about offering something new, but Curse the Son definitely make the most of what they have, and Klonopain sets them up for any increase in intricacy they might want to bring about next time around. And hell, if they keep it up, Connecticut might just wind up with a stoner/doom scene after all.
Tags: Connecticut, Curse the Son, Hamden, Unsigned bands