Don't let the album's cover fool you; these UK stoners love their kush. "But Seth, this isn't Stoner Sunday, this is Sunday Sludge!" I know, I know... hear me out. Dopefight's Buds has enough stickiness to fool you into thinking this is lazy, wake-and-bake, middle-finger metal. But the muddy tar in these thirteen tracks qualifies this album as an aggressive, confident shot in the arm to a genre often dismissed and misunderstood. Dopefight may not bring the masses to understand why we love our smeared, down-tempo detours of all that is heavy, but they'll lend plenty of chutzpah to our principle that sludge has its place.
You won't immediately recognize how Buds sounds; you'll be too busy feeling it. From Babygoatsick's hammer-toe riffs and Hale's crunchy bass, you'll understand why Dopefight didn't see the need to complicate things with too many words. When the music speaks this well on its own, vocals can quickly become superfluous. Dopefight know just where to start and just where to end.
Owen Fareye Karti spends much of Leviathan's Burp molesting frets and changing tempos. The assault is peppered with brief pause, though bouncy stomp is quickly ushered out by a return of repetitive and inexorable grime. It's hard to imagine Nob. Nod. Noi. coming from anywhere other than the bayou (this swamp lick is delicious), with comparisons to Bongzilla being certain. Don't let that take away from what Dopefight's doing, though. The balance the band strikes between aggression and passive-aggression is rare, as they exercise restraint just as often as they flatten your cavities.
Loose, low bass introduces the backyard fistfight of Slug 'n' Mop, the album's sludgiest track that reminded me of junior high bullies smacking me with my own knuckles as they laughed and taunted "stop hittin' yerself!" Los Mano Del Daemons is slow enough to finish a race just behind Weedeater, with guitar fuzz hanging like wet ivy. A gee-tar mosquito buzzes around your face in the thick morning sun as bass licks your heels. You don't know if you wanna forge ahead or turn back, but it doesn't matter. Whatever you THOUGHT this song would sound like quickly gets swallowed by Owen's vocals and tempo shifts.
A boggy groove is apparent on Specimen, at times sounding like a late-night hitchhike to the liquor store with some dudes you don't really know. Jock Witch is the album's hillbilly moonshine peddler, opening on a damn-near Speak & Spell thumbing and rolling into hard-packing, Alabama Thunderpussy drums and garden-tool guitars. Bogtrotter is as fitting a title as you'll find here. Karti's fretwork is again highlighted, though Ant Cole's drums are absolutely eccentric. This song pokes you in the chest until you actually believe you didn't need lunch money in the first place. (see also: Brighton Town is a Fuckin' Whore. It's quick, and it cuts straight through bone).
It's always important for an album to end strong, otherwise the entire experience can go sour. Pistophelees snags you by the collar and shakes you awake with a crusty, locust-hum guitar. A slow plod ensues, however, hovering just above sea-level with a watchful guitar and a voice that attacks from behind. AmpNonceFuck could be Black Label Society in a rhythm-section love fest. The riff is southern (South England, sure), the drums slap foul mouths, and the track owes a (slight) debt to Orange Goblin.
Finally, the album's hidden track is its most surprising. This primal, delicate jam finds a gorgeous balance between organs and drums. The guitar is patient and pensive, sounding like it was recorded on a day when Dopefight smoked either too much or too little. The clank of a tambourine evokes memories of Stealers Wheel's Stuck in the Middle With You. As this blissfully endless track falls into a Jameson jig, an Englishman interrupts with "Uppers, downers, purple hearts, hash, shit, heavy shit, dust, chasing the dragon, monkey on your back, ferret down your trousers..."
Honestly, this trio can't be too stoned. They've demonstrated enough ardor to their sound that nothing's getting in the way. This gem moves from sludge to stoner to doom to hillrod, and it's evident Dopefight know exactly what they're doing. Aggressive, hard, and constantly adjusting, this is what many bands try (and fail) to achieve. Dopefight have engineered a mountain-tumble you're happy to jump into. Shifting tempos, diminishing influences, persistent heaviness... what more could you want on a clammy Sunday morning. Maybe just some Panama Red, huh?
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