Belzebong, Light the Dankness: Eternal Stench

Posted in Reviews on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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Nobel laureate Bob Dylan once told us that everybody must get stoned. Poland’s Belzebong would seem to proceed from the assumption that they already have. The instrumentalist four-piece of guitarists Alky Dude and Cheesy Dude, bassist Sheepy Dude and drummer Hexy Dude present four lumbering tracks of stoner sludge on their third album, Light the Dankness — released by the band as well as Emetic Records and Abraxas Records — and if one is a sucker for weedian themes and puns, the record’s titles are sure to please, from the name of the thing itself through component cuts “The Bong of Eternal Stench,” “Pot Fiend” (okay, not so much wordplay there), “Doperganger” and “Roached Earth.” Riffs lead the plodding charge through a 35-minute, two-sided LP that could hardly be more smoked out if it covered itself in hash oil and self-immolated.

It is a crust of tone and vibe that one can trace back to bands like Bongzilla and Dopethrone, but the fact of the matter is Belzebong have been at this for a decade now and over the course of their 2009 demo (discussed here), 2011’s Sonic Scapes and Weedy Groves (discussed here), 2015’s Greenferno and this album, they’ve made the style their own and brought a sense of character to the familiar addled-ism of the overarching aesthetic. Light the Dankness, which is vocalized only with periodic samples, is nonetheless able to convey its sensibilities not only through its titles, but through the bare riffs and grooves themselves.

That is, even without knowing the name of the band, record, or any of the songs, one would hear “Doperganger” and realize the Dudes who made it were bombed out of their collective gourd. And they may or may not have been at the time of recording — they may or may not be right now; infinite universes of infinite possibilities, folks — but the point is they want to sound that way and they do, so by the time the ur-lurch of “Roached Earth” takes hold, all rumble and searing fuzz leads and crash cymbal-washout, their victory in meeting that goal is complete.

Belzebong are not strangers to this way of life, and they don’t come off like it. Over the course of their decade together, they’ve toured steadily with SheepyAlky and Cheesy as founding members and Hexy coming aboard in 2014, and that has helped fuel the reputation that at this point precedes their work, but regardless, Light the Dankness has no trouble making an impression on its own. The album begins with a homemade sample introducing “The Bong of Eternal Stench” as a disgusted woman’s voice pleads, “Oh god, what is it?” only to be answered by the creature itself, “It’s the bong of eternal stench!” And so it is. The mood and tone for the record is quickly set in the opening track, which is also the shortest of the four at 6:07, and while Belzebong‘s material has always seemed to leave room for verses — as though they wanted the listener to bring their own supply — the crashing, lumbering, downward riff seems to speak out the song’s title as it thuds away into the murky cannabinoid abyss.

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Searing leads crop up and dissipate like the smoke they are, and the underlying rhythm makes the most of the band’s penchant for repetition without redundancy, seeming to change not necessarily predictably but just when a part has worn itself into the consciousness fully. The bass tone is must-hear and well present in the Skyhammer Studios mix, and “The Bong of Eternal Stench” gives over to “Pot Fiend” with a sample announcing the change, but otherwise is immersive enough that one might get lost in the vibe after just the first six minutes. That’s obviously the idea, and it’s worth keeping in mind just how conscious these decisions are for a band who otherwise so successfully sound like fuckall incarnate. The placement of the samples. The shifts from one part to the next. The push to and through solo parts. All of these things come together to form the resin-caked nod that is Light the Dankness, and as on-message as Belzebong are, they never lose sight of actual song construction as they go.

And man, they go.

“Pot Fiend” rounds out side A with nine and a half minutes of filthy swing, pitting slow-motion shuffle and massive riffing against each other and seeing who wins en route to its final crash and fading feedback, and another sample begins “Doperganger” on side B. The second half of Light the Dankness is longer than the first, with “Doperganger” at 7:50 and “Roached Earth” at 12 minutes flat, but the method is largely the same: Riff unto oblivion. “Doperganger” picks up the tempo somewhat from “Pot Fiend” in a kind of winding central progression born of a dirtied-up Sleep influence, but they tool around with it effectively throughout and seem to explore the reaches where the song might go, a solo arriving after five minutes in just as the song seems to start tearing itself apart. A longer sample emerges as they pull it back together and trash their way into a stretch of silence preceding “Roached Earth.”

The sample at the start of the closer comes from 1957’s Curse of the Demon, if you’re wondering how steadily obscure Belzebong‘s horror-aficionado status runs, and following its narrator warning of supernatural creatures and demons and whathaveyou, the track unfolds into a particularly bleak, almost mournful gruel, a solo as it approaches its midsection weaving in and out of the mix on long-held notes that border on melodic but seem overwhelmed as much by the surrounding mountainous riffage as by the depressiveness drove their creation. Resolution, such as it is, comes in the crashing final section as “Roached Earth” rings out its final distorted gurgle, feedback once again serving as the last remaining element to go.

I would not speculate on what tales of terror may yet be forthcoming from Belzebong as they push ever deeper into the plunge that is their hydroponic-grown methodology, but their craft has only grown more virulent with time and for all of Light the Dankness‘ weedery, the album is actually a pretty efficient execution. It’s clear Belzebong‘s decade hasn’t been misspent in developing their style, and while they may be playing to the tenets of crusty stoner sludge, it’s easy enough to argue they’re adding to them as well.

Belzebong, Light the Dankness (2018)

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Emetic Records website

Abraxas Records website

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