The question for a lot of music these days is not whether a record is worth buying, but whether it’s worth downloading for free. There is just so much good music that is recorded and produced by the artist and legally available to download for free or close to free that it’s hard to compete. Then there’s the huge amount of shit that’s out there both via established labels and again out of someone’s bedroom or their Mum’s basement.
“Doomgroove” is the fourth self-recorded and produced record from Australian solo artist Judd Madden (apart from a collection of earlier recordings) and runs for around an hour. It’s available, like his other release, as pay-what-you-want on bandcamp. He talks about donations to keep going rather than payment, such is the lot of many an artist.
Stoner rock/metal is always difficult to judge when you’re not stoned. I did indulge in a bit of weed and acid when I was younger and I’m fully aware of the mind-opening properties of heavy, repetitive drone and sludge when stoned. Now that I’m straight I still enjoy music as much or probably more than I did, but I now respond differently to drone, doom, sludge and the like. It doesn’t all work for me in the same way. That’s not to say doom/stoner is all the same – of course it’s not. For example, there’s some dark, disturbing and grimy stuff (Sutcliffe Jügend, Adrift For Days) and some deeply hypnotic and calming stuff (ThisQuietArmy). Then there’s the likes of Glowsun who are more engaging and who are far from dark.
So where does Judd Madden fit into all of this? Well, it’s pretty heavy going doom sludge metal, with little relief from the labouring metal guitar and bass work over slow deliberate drums and samples. It chugg-chugg-chuggs slowly and methodically through chord progressions that sometimes build tension but are generally one huge release. The songs are long and most are rather similar in tone and feel. Scratch the surface though and you find a bit more going on. Drums play around a lot more than you expect, with varying rhythms, some great off-beat work and some very fluid and solidly metal passages. I never get the feel this is just rambling noodling, but has a clear structure that it stays very close to while remaining loose and free enough to not feel contrived. Any complexity is not there for its own sake but to add depth and texture through subtlety.
This record is not unlike a lot of other doom, and understandably it’s not something you can play for most occasions – it’s not meant to be. It’s not a style I listen to a lot but it compares well with what I do play now and then. Madden has just released another record that follows a similar path and it’s definitely worth checking his discography out, and definitely worth downloading.