Album Review: Early Moods, A Sinner’s Past

Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

early moods a sinner's past

Part of what has been exciting about L.A. County classic doom metallers Early Moods over the last few years is the potential for how they might develop as a new generation’s spearhead in engaging the style. A Sinner’s Past is their second LP through RidingEasy Records behind 2022’s self-titled debut (review here) and their 2020 debut EP, Spellbound (review here), and it follows suit with their prior work in being in immediate conversation with the doom of yore. Somewhere, swimming a vault of Black Sabbath bootlegs like some doom-riffing Scrooge McDuck, Leif Edling is smiling. Candlemass have been a guiding presence for Early Moods since their outset, but as the five-piece of vocalist Alberto Alcaraz (also keys), guitarists Eddie Andrade and Oscar Hernandez (lead), bassist Elix Feliciano and drummer Chris Flores specifically tap “Samarithan” for the verses of “The Apparition,” even the command and confidence with which they’re doing so comes across as continued progression.

But across its CD-era-vibing 49-minute runtime and eight component tracks, A Sinner’s Past is about more than saluting genre heroes. Early Moods had already begun the process of internalizing root influences like the aforementioned Candlemass and various eras of Sabbath, and in the way the punchy bass and steady nod that begins opening cut “Last Hour” gives over right about halfway into its 5:41 to gallop, swing and shred, they not only foreshadow tempo shifts to come like that in the reaches of the eight-minute “Hell’s Odyssey,” penultimate to closer “Soul Sorcery” on side B, but offer a first look at the grim recesses in which their tones will dwell throughout and the expanded scope and intentions heard throughout in “Unhinged Spirit,” with its acoustic intro leading to a procession that lumbers until it careens, or the harsher vocal moments in “Blood Offerings” and “Walpurguise” calling out to the metal of the 1980s without ignoring the 40 years since.

Relative youth as compared to much of the current sphere of doom is still an advantage Early Moods enjoy, and A Sinner’s Past is still rife with the energy of a young band exploring their sound and style, but they also have a better idea of what they want in both of those than they did two years ago, and that comes through as well as “Blood Offerings” trades the Candlemassian poise for a more dug-in, Pentagram-style shove — at least until the screams come (get it? anybody? no? moving on.) — with all due grit and groove, and the title-track makes even the entry of Flores‘ speedy hi-hat at 4:09 as they transition from the initial plod and dudes-running-in-a-circle mosh through the circa-’75 Iommic solo section and into the chugging build-up to the faster culmination, another solo thrown in for good measure before they cap with the riff. That they would cover that kind of ground on their second album isn’t a huge surprise — they’ve proven at this point able to keep their collective head as songwriters through various changes of mood, tempo and melody within their doomly trajectory; they’re a good band and that’s a thing good bands can do when they want to — but that they’d do it with such clear purpose and still convey an overarching atmosphere through those changes is an aspect of A Sinner’s Past that’s demonstrative of their growth as a unit, and it’s not at all the only one.

early moods (Photo by Mike Wuthrich)

The production, helmed by Allen Falcon at Birdcage Studios in Pico Rivera, finds the more cavernous veneer of the first album traded for an in-your-face aural crunch that’s modern in the separation of the instruments but allows a sense of live performance to come through, whether it’s at the dirge pace of “The Apparition,” the midtempo nods of “Unhinged Spirit” and “Walpurguise” or the plod-into-swing of “Soul Sorcery.” While still resonant in their homage to the doom of eld, Early Moods are beginning to cast genre in their image, and the most vital moments of A Sinner’s Past are in the weight of a drag, the coursing tension of their faster movements, and how each plays off the other. They are becoming more dynamic — no doubt the not-minor amount of touring they’ve done in the last year-plus is a piece of this and will continue to be — and stronger for that.

That’s worth appreciating, to be sure, but if your experience of “Hell’s Odyssey” is more about the journey being undertaken and less about how skillfully it retains its impact amid the faster delivery early on — the answer for that, if you’re curious, is the same as nearly always: the bass — and moves into NWOBHM harmonized leads from Andrade and Hernandez before the latter launches into the solo in earnest, I don’t think you’re wrong. Part of the appeal of Early Moods as an emergent revamp of traditionalist doom is the familiar that’s to be found within the new, in aesthetic terms. I don’t think they’ve done their best work as a band yet, but A Sinner’s Past gives more than a few hints of where they’re headed, and the forward potential in their work is no less prevalent for what they’ve achieved in these songs.

You can overthink it if you want — clearly I’m a fan of that approach in any number of contexts — but the material is composed and executed in such a way that, if you want to nod out and let the groove carry you from “Last Hour” to “Soul Sorcery,” there’s nothing in that span that’s going to pull you out of the moment, and for that alone, A Sinner’s Past is a substantial offering. They’ve been on their way to headlining pretty much since the word go, and seem to be motivated toward those ends, toward making an impact on doom and influencing those who inevitably will follow in their wake, but whatever their future might or might not bring, the sense of an idea conceived and realized across A Sinner’s Past is palpable and so is the artistic growth within and around that. If it does turn out to be their most significant contribution to doom — if the band ended tomorrow and cut short all that potential and blah blah blah — you wouldn’t be able to listen to this record and say they didn’t give everything they had to it.

Early Moods, “A Sinner’s Past” official video

Early Moods, A Sinner’s Past (2024)

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