WOODEN STAKE - Dungeon Prayers and Tomb Yard Serenades CD
For the past six months I've been harping on about the greatness of this band so much that I forgot to tell people I've discovered a cure for cancer. OK my bad but still that can wait because here we have the band's debut full length. I wouldn't necessarily call this long awaited as it's really on demand. After releasing a couple of EPs and split releases, which are all in limited quantities mind you, the voices from the underground got excited with them in the short form format but were curious and wanted a full length. Not one for hyperbole myself, unless it's my own hyperbole that is, I proclaimed "WOODEN STAKE are one of the best Doom bands out today" a few weeks back after reviewing their Invoke the Ageless Witch 7". I'm sure you all remember that one since I practically threatened to conjure up the spirits of my dead family members to haunt anyone who refused to pick it up. Since it only came out as 300 copies that fell in line with the website's readership, but I digress. After hearing just those two songs plus a few from their debut EP Vampire Plague Exorcism, which I still don't have but am willing to sacrifice a finger from my annoying neighbor's hand to get, I became an instant fan of this duo who are Wayne Sarantopolous, aka: Elektrokutioner (Guitar, Drums and Keyboards) and Vanessa Nocera (bass and vocals). I've discussed the point many times that some bands can put out fantastic short form releases but it's their full lengths which hold the true surprises for better or worse. In this case I'd say Dungeon Prayers and Tomb Yard Serenades is of the better variety.
The first time I played this I thought holy crap it's the soundtrack to a documentary on Mario Bava. Either that or WOODEN STAKE has been invited to Moldavia, which is a real hot spot for Spring Break in Romania, for a Bava film festival. Just like the gothic horror atmosphere Bava's film classics evoke upon the viewer this band does the same in audio form. Vanessa and Wayne are transformed into Asa Vajda and her paramour Javuto but instead of enacting revenge they're playing eerie fuckin doom. To some people, myself included, that's one in the same. Throughout this release Vanessa's vocals jump around from clean spoken harmonics to the witch vocals and finally the demonic growls which will have a hipster's dick retreat inward out of fright. She sounds like a combination of immortal high priestess, a blood thirsty witch and Barbara Steele on a bad acid and vodka bender. Either way it's fine with me because if I ever get to see em perform I'm standing right up front ready to die for art. I've had a good life, at least that's what I've been told and this band is worth it. Check out opener "Cadaverum Caecorum Liber" with it's surreal occult beauty for a perfect example followed by "Salem, 1692". Another favorite cut on here is "Die Rache der Hexen" which sounds like BLACK SABBATH and the VELVET UNDERGROUND getting into a car crash in front of the cemetery gates while on tour in Germany. There they meet Jinx Dawson who says "wanna start a band I've got acid?" The first tune they write next is "Six Feet of Earth... And All that it Contains".
Musically speaking this whole release is full on bizarre. You have to play this a few times in a row to catch each hypnotic nuance being put forth. My excuse of course is that I started drinking an hour before I pushed play and now I can't find the stop button. But anyway Wayne's drum pounding, accompanied by Vanessa's bass work, is something outta the summoners who marched through villages during the Black Plague. As far as his guitar work goes I'll have to repeat something similar to what I said in the 7"er review. He comes out with a tone that's sounds like a freakin torture device. Think of a broken dentist's drill that's shooting out sparks as it enters your mouth. Another incredible cut on here that brings every fatal facet of this band to bear is "Skullcoven". It's epicus doomicus meets 70's nostalgia then wait till the end when Vanessa let's loose a banshee wail that'll freak out your neighbors if you blast this loud enough. If they ever perform "Skullcoven" live (can they do live gigs?) they need WITHERED's strobe light rig setup as a backdrop. Then have someone walk around the room to grab people unsuspectingly, "aaaahhh". Just watch those hipster infused drinks fly. The two closing cuts on here are phenomenal. "Anguished Atonement" feels like you're in the last death throws after demonic possession. "Bleeding Coffin" is probably the least radical of all the nine cuts on here for around two minutes then it bows out into psych doom territory. It finally ends by rocking out with it's serpentine tongue which leaves you hypnotised.
Dungeon Prayers and Tomb Yard Serenades is far better than most of what goes under the term Doom of late and frankly I believe it's needed. I find more originality and well thought out attention to detail plus a few eclectic touches, like the instrumental piece "Cemetery Closes at Sundown", within their music than a whole lot of other bands today who merely recycle riffs from 70's hard rock unknowns or blatantly hump the SABBATH corpse. Strangely enough SABBATH killed the summer of love and nowadays you have wannabe hippies stealing from Tony Iommi's riff cookbook. WOODEN STAKE's inclusion of a gothic horror motif is also essential since hippies and candles never mix. Everyone's stoned then someone knocks over a candle and next thing you know you've got a house fire. The only this worse than the smell of a crispy hippie is the burnt couch that they've had unwashed people crash out on for years. This full length really sets fire to the chafe which is all of the average sounding sludge and stoner retreads which have cropped up like weeds of late in the extreme music scene. I believe the only thing better than this release would be to see them at a club packed with a noob hipster metal crowd. Except that instead of coming out and playing their own material they switch it to songs from SCAREMAKER, a more Death Metal influence band both Vanessa and Wayne are also in. Then again doing a few BEYOND HELL songs would scare some scencester turds away as well. Look simply put, because I'm drunk, this is the most exciting and interesting release as far Doom metal goes to come out in years.