Various Artists, Planet of Doom: First Contact EP: A Way to Break the Ice

Posted in Reviews on July 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

planet of doom first contact ep

The Planet of Doom: First Contact EP is something of a curio from the outset. What it effectively does is to retintroduce The Planet of Doom (discussed here), which is an upcoming animated feature helmed by artists Tim Granda and David Paul Seymour bringing together huge names from the graphics and sonics sides of the heavy underground to tell a story in varying chapters, each with its own designer and each with its own music. As projects go, it is breathtakingly ambitious. A generational work, and understandably, it’s been a few years in the making at this point. Last I heard, a 2019 release was expected, but in order to keep momentum going, keep the movie in the mind of potential viewers/fans, and give a taste of the general aesthetic of the work, The Planet of Doom: First Contact presents four songs in a relatively brief 22 minutes that essentially serve as a sampler of what’s to come.

In order, the release presents tracks from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, who every bit deserve to be the leadoff with “Sword of the Sea,” Italian upstarts Messa, who bring the seven-minute “Serpent Libido,” Sweden’s Vokonis with “Runa” and Northern Ireland’s Slomatics, whose “Jagaer” closes out. They are just four among the likes of Order of the Owl, Phillip Cope (ex-Kylesa), Slow Season, Space Witch, Mother Crone, Granda himself, Ironweed, Destroyer of Light, Ufomammut, Cirith Ungol, Wo Fat, Orchid, Elephant Tree, who will ultimately feature on the finished product, but they’ve obviously been chosen as the first representatives because of the flow between the songs. Often with soundtracks, there’s an issue of sonic incongruity between individual cuts, and reasonably so. Different players, different tones, different recordings, different moods — it should sound different in the end result. With Mos Generator, Messa, Vokonis and Slomatics, though, it’s not an issue.

And not because the bands don’t have their own respective styles, from the pure heavy rock with just a slight darker tinge of Mos Generator through the atmospheric approach of Messa, the brash doomly bombast of Vokonis and Slomatics‘ futuristic engagement, there is enough of a leap between sounds that one would hardly be surprised if The Planet of Doom: First Contact wound up disjointed, but the progression toward Slomatics‘ “Jagaer” is such that from Mos Generator onward, there’s a downward motion brought to bear. We’re not just making First Contact with The Planet of Doom like Jean-Luc Picard showing up with a handshake and a gift basket from the United Federation of Planets — “Try the Alvanian snap peas!” — we’re being brought on a descent below its surface into some lurking subterranean cave, surrounding by an ancient murk and a looming sense of threat as we move deeper through. In that way, “Sword of the Sea” is a perfect lead-in.

the planet of doom first contact vinyl

With guest vocals alongside those of guitarist Tony Reed, the track builds on the moodier spirit of the band’s 2018 album, Shadowlands (review here), with a gradual unfolding that moves by 90 seconds in toward a more rocking tension that lets loose just before two minutes in. A sudden organ-laced break at around 2:20 leads to a section of progressive guitar textures and the aforementioned guest vocal spot, stopping again, this time to complete silence, before crashing out to a big rock finish that brings on Messa. Kind of a curious structure there, and if “Sword of the Sea” was left off Shadowlands — I don’t know that it was recorded during the same session or it wasn’t — that peculiarity might be why. In any case, Messa, who’ve reaped massive acclaim for their 2018 album, Feast for Water (review here), present the longest inclusion on the EP and earn their time well with a blend of ambiance and heft that serves as a distinguishing factor even among other accomplished purveyors of riffly wares. They’ll begin to hit the European festival circuit this Fall, and accordingly fall into the “one to watch” category, but even more than that, they’re one to listen to, since “Serpent Libido” does so well in its moody affect and loud/quiet tradeoffs, moving toward a plodding section that turns suddenly to blastbeats to end and set the stage for the initial roll of Vokonis‘ “Runa.”

The Swedish three-piece’s participation in The Planet of Doom: First Contact could hardly be better timed. They recently signed to The Sign Records and will record their third album in August to follow last year’s resounding The Sunken Djinn (review here). “Runa” was reportedly written specifically for The Planet of Doom, and though what it might have to do with the plot remains a mystery, the riff and crash of the band’s sound is well intact in the sharply delivered five-minute cut. It’s a solid showing of what they do and the individualized edge they’ve taken on developing since getting their start just a few years ago. They’ve become a vital outfit in the Euro underground, and “Runa” shows why in its blend of aggression and nod. They continue to both grow and impress, and while I don’t know if their next record will be out before the end of 2018, they very obviously are actively working to keep moving forward. The sudden collapse at the end of “Runa” gives Slomatics a bed of silence on which to begin the underlying synth of “Jagaer,” which soon enough unveils its tonal lumber and rolling rhythm.

I know there are plenty of heavy bands involved in The Planet of Doom, but Slomatics‘ blend of entrenched narrative, their otherworldly vocal echoes, and their inhuman, post-apocalyptic slow-motion assault from guitarists Chris Couzens and David Marjury and drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey is perfect for the film. “Jagaer” unfolds with patience and weight alike, and continues in the vein of the band’s 2018 split with Mammoth Weed Wizard BastardTotems (review here), to assure that Slomatics are in no way done after wrapping the trilogy story that finished on 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here). That’s invariably good news to anyone who’d take on The Planet of Doom: First Contact, as their thud-and-swirl methodology wraps by diverting into a momentary wash of feedback and cutting to nothingness. Hints of more to come? One might say that, and as it’s convenient for me to do so, I will. Either way you take it, The Planet of Doom: First Contact augers remarkably well for the rest of the soundtrack when it finally arrives, and speaks to the curated sensibility of the entire proceeding. As samplers go, it is of impeccable quality and only adds to the well justified anticipation for The Planet of Doom itself.

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