Denver trio The Munsens release their new EP, Abbey Rose, on Nov. 21. The sense of worship is almost immediate on the four-track/40-minute offering, which is their second behind 2014’s Weight of Night (review here), and the band manages to meter out waves of undulating riffs while giving hints of influences from modern doom without becoming beholden to them. To say it adds to what the New Jersey expats did with the prior outing is perhaps to undercut the strange vibes they conjure throughout or the atmosphere in which one finds oneself immersed while listening despite a near-garage rawness of tone. Their low end — it seems to come from the guitar of Shaun Goodwin and the drums of Graham Wesselhoff as much as the fuzz-laden bass of Michael Goodwin (also vocals and cover photography) — is palpable in the extended pieces “You’re Next” (11:25), “Abbey Rose” (8:12), “To Castile” (9:38) and the closing sequel to the finale of Weight of Night aptly dubbed “The Hunt II” (11:39), and that’s a uniting factor through some shifts in tempo, but while I might argue that something with such a front to back flow that also happens to be 40 minutes long is an album whether The Munsens want it to be or not, what they’ve specifically positioned as a second EP gives more than an ample showing of their hefty wares going into a long-player planned for release next year. If this is them laying groundwork, they’re making sure that ground is duly flattened before they build on it.
And fair enough. With the opening buzz that leads the way into “You’re Next,” I’m immediately reminded of Heavy Temple‘s plug-and-praise sensibilities, but The Munsens take their time letting the leadoff track develop on its own, bass and drums joining the guitar so that by two minutes in the plod is completely underway but you’re not quite sure how. One could find tonal touchstones in Weedeater, Bongzilla, etc., and what The Munsens bring to the mix is an overall cleaner take on sludge than one usually finds in the disaffected libertarian screams the genre usually proffers. Michael‘s vocals still arrive in cave-echoing shouts, but they do so on “You’re Next” with a post-Jus Oborn inflection, calling to mind Electric Wizard‘s earlier, rawer glories, which is a stonerism reaffirmed as they pick up the tempo and shift into a dual-layered solo late in the track, riding the riff into a final slowdown and the memorable nod of the Abbey Rose title-track. It’s the shortest of the four, but has the most prevalent hook of the four cuts, and particularly in light of the cover art seems to play toward a kind of gothic horror vibe as it slow-motion boogies its way into a quieter midsection that builds to a fervent churn across the final four minutes. “To Castile” feels even more immediate. Its quicker tempo brings Wesselhoff‘s raw drum sound to the fore, and though less theatrical than the preceding “Abbey Rose,” it pushes further into a similar kind of atmospheric dankness, breaking in the first half to a section of sparse guitar, slower drumming and far-back organ.
This turn is especially well done, and it’s not the last in “To Castile.” Over the next couple minutes, the Goodwins and Wesselhoff careen through winding prog and chunky-style sludge before landing in near-silence just past the halfway mark, from which they mount a surprisingly and engagingly semi-psychedelic build, never quite returning to what was the core of “To Castile,” but ending in slower, thicker riffing that serves as a reminder nonetheless. And much like the longer-shorter-shorter-longer arrangement of the four songs recalls a mirror, so too does the gradual unfolding of closer “The Hunt II” seem to be as much in conversation with “You’re Next” as it is clearly intended to be with “The Hunt” from Weight of Night. That release, which was far easier to argue as an EP overall than is Abbey Rose, was bigger in terms of its production, but as the organ returns in “The Hunt II”‘s mid-tempo midsection and is met with flourish of lead guitar amid all the crush of low end, and as the slower final instrumental push begins that will develop over the last several minutes of the song, topped with another impressive-if-short solo, I can’t say The Munsens aren’t well served by the organic, live feel brought to bear in this material. It gives the vitality of their delivery a fitting complement and positions them not so much trying to crush everything in their path as carving out a space for themselves in a niche-within-a-niche kind of way. As to which modus their debut album — again, debatable whether or not this is it, and they may indeed decide a couple years from now that it is — might follow when it arrives next year, I’d expect it to keep at least partially in this direction, though one never knows when a steady roll is going to present a sudden turn. It’ll be one to look forward to, either way.
The Munsens‘ Abbey Rose is out Nov. 21 on tape and digital.
Please find a premiere of “You’re Next” below, followed by more background on the band from the PR wire, and enjoy:
The Munsens have remained a bit of an enigma over the last handful of years due to the scattered whereabouts of the band’s members, surfacing intermittently for a sporadic arrangement of tours and a pair of releases. 2016 saw the most prominent establishment of the group thus far, with the entire band now residing in the same city for the first time in the band’s career, featuring a rearranged lineup. (Original drummer Shaun Goodwin moved to guitar, with Graham Wesselhoff, formerly of Denver’s Skully Mammoth, taking the helm behind the drums.)
The Munsens made a handful of appearances in Denver during the summer and fall of 2016, and on November 21, will release their first recordings in nearly two years via a 45-minute EP titled Abbey Rose, which preludes their first full-length album, due out in the summer of 2017. Abbey Rose will be available on cassette and as a digital download through the band’s Bandcamp page and will supported by two tours in early 2017, in January and in March. Dates and cities TBA.
All songs by the Munsens
Cover photography: Michael Goodwin
Recorded and mixed by Jamie Hillyer, Module Overload
Mastered by Dennis Pleckham, Comatose Studios
the Munsens is Michael Goodwin, Shaun Goodwin, Graham Wesselhoff