Bong [Album Reissue]

Bong‘s eponymous debut was first released on vinyl way back in the dark ages of 2009. For those of us for whom even tape is fast becoming a distant memory, it’s been a difficult record to get hold of.

On the back of some fairly positive critical reception to their newest effort, Mana Yood Sushai, and a run of successful live shows, label Ritual Productions has to decided to give the band’s back catalogue an airing in a format those of us without a good old fashioned hi-fi can finally get a hold of.

Atmosphere is key when it comes to drone records, and luckily on this release Bong more than deliver. From the minimalist build-up that initiates ‘The Starlit Grotto’ to the fuzz drenched, feedback laden guitar solos peppered throughout the record, everything Bong do feels like it’s meant to create a cohesive, oppressive feeling of unease.

fuzz drenched, feedback laden guitar solos

Unlike, say, the fuzz-drenched, groove-based mess of Electric Wizard‘s best material, the guitar work throughout Bong is minimal and precise. Low droning notes hum with the kind of washed out distortion that merges seamlessly with low end bass rumblings, while the drums add that much-needed edge with precision cymbal crashes always on just the right beat. It’s careful, measured sonic oppression, and you really can’t fault the attention to detail that feels present in the positioning of each and every note.

Eastern influences crop up throughout the record, but never overpower. Use of sitar throughout the record is tasteful and extremely well implemented; only on repeated listens do you even really notice it slowly building up around seven minutes into opener ‘Wizards of Krull’. On the first time through it’s almost as if it just appears. Coupled with the low, droning, almost entirely lyric-less vocals that resemble religious chanting, at times Bong genuinely feels like an audio descent into some Eastern interpretation of hell.

Potential highlight of the album may go to the guitar solo in ‘Asleep’, which starts out sounding like someone recorded feedback in a wind tunnel and ran it through a wah wah pedal,  gradually morphing under the vocals into a dissonant quasi-melodic motif, before fading into ominous droning noise. This solo alone perhaps best encapsulates the shifting, building structures of the record, as songs creep in, sink to brutally heavy, droning lows, and then artfully fade into silence.

Bong certainly isn’t for the casual listener. If you’re looking for an introduction to doom metal, go grab a copy of Dopethrone or Sleep’s Holy Mountain and prepare to receive an education. What you’ll find here is more in the vein of Sun O))), though lacking the variety and subtle hooks of more musically accomplished bands.

If drone is your thing then this record is definitely worth a spin, but the lack of any true hooks or really noticeable crescendos makes it an ultimately forgettable, though certainly by no means bad, release.

Released October 1st on Ritual Productions

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