“Hey you! Does your driveway suffer from damaging foliage growth? Is your lawn marred by unsightly dandelions? Well worry no more, and see them off with Ohio’s own Weed Demon. A single application of of their patented ‘Astrological Passages’ brand sludge will obliterate unwanted plants, oh, and probably smash the paving slabs and smoke all your grass too, but you can’t have everything.” Okay, silly piss-taking aside, even though Weed Demon really does sound like some sort of commercially available version of Agent Orange for use by the amateur horticulturalist, and onto the music. So, if you are sensible enough to splash some cash on the band, what do you get? Well, the review version I got was four tracks of intense brain battering sludge that clock in at a solid forty minute plus mark; the CD/download throws in the bonus of “Dominion of Oblivion”, and well, with a title like that, I can only imagine it fits in well with the dark and crushing tone of the rest of the album.
Title track ‘Astrological Passages’ sets off the proceedings, lumbering forth with the inexorability of a juggernaut rolling slowly down hill, demolishing all before it under the musical wheels of the bass, guitar, and drums, all the while urged on by the commands of the shared, bellowed vocals. A greater creeping subtlety opens ‘Sigil of the Black Moon’, surely the title of a Conan story that Robert E. Howard was working on before he ended his life all too soon. However that comparatively gentle touch is soon crushed like the jewelled thrones below a barbarian’s sandalled feet, confidently entering the densely pummelling and hypnotic riffage that was once the sole domain of Sleep. I say “was once” because, and brace yourself for some heresy here, I didn’t much rate their recent release ‘The Sciences’, and frankly, if I had the choice between that or ‘Astrological Passages’, the latter would be getting the play. There you go, that’s just my opinion, so you can take it or leave it.
The pace picks up from a plod to a stagger for the opening of the almost indecently short sub nine minute ‘Primordial Genocide’, but some three minutes in ‘Weed Demon’ demonstrate a far more delicate and nuanced side, the normal aural assault developing into an almost trippy instrumental break that lulls in the listener with a false sense of calm before the solo gets more strident, the tempo increases, and vocals scream in like a cry from your worst come done. The whole is rounded off by ‘Jettisoned’ as the fuzz factor is turned up to Volume 4, and the band’s love for all things Iommiesque and cannabinoid is refined into a thick instrumental tar that amazingly closes with some dark countrified noodlings.
‘Astrological Passages’ is nothing new, nothing ground breaking, but what it is, is confident, far more so than you’d expect for a first album, densely satisfying, and just the sort of thing that will have long hair adorned heads nodding along in slow time with appreciation.