“Tel” hail from Richmond, Virginia. Their name, as it turns out, is not a reference to the much missed Terry Wogan, but rather a Hebrew term meaning the rebuilding of a civilisation over the ashes of its former self. Or something. In any event, this is the first album for the four gentlemen, weighing in at a mere five songs.
That being said, “Lowlife” has a good pedigree. It was recorded by Garret Morris, the axe slinger for fellow Virginians Windhand, and producer of other doom merchants, including our very own Electric Wizard. In sound then, what do we have? Well, Tel are aiming for the mid-tempo noisy doom thing, coming across a little like an unholy smash up between the primitive bashings of High On Fire, with the smooth fuzzed out guitar of Yob, and not a little early British Doom/Death thrown into the mix. If that sounds like it’d be a mess, well, good news: it isn’t. This is undeniably American Doom metal. The influence of the likes of The Obsessed can be heard in the sprawling guitar bridges, but none the less for it.
Opener “Ouroboros” has a progressive work out before exhausting itself into oblivion. The mix of clean, almost choral vocals and the harsher bellowing reminiscent of the harder sections of classic acts like My Dying Bride works well here. “Submerged” follows, with a particular emphasis on the marriage of the guitars with the impressive tub thumping of Matt Grigsby on the drums. “Red Level” starts things with a full-on death metal start, before settling down into more traditional doom-laden territory. Hats off to young Mr Morris, as his production job has given the whole platter a leaden heft and a gravity of its own. The bass in particular pops alongside Dante DuVall’s clean singing, courtesy of four stringer Ed Fierro. Michael Potts keeps the riffing urgent alongside the relentless rhythm section. “Choke” is the penultimate track, erupting from the speakers in a blast of feedback followed by an off-kilter, lurching riff. It’s perhaps on the final track “Strangers” though that the band really let loose; an eight minutes long epic that sonically hat-tips the like of Fall of the Idols and Isole as much as it does the more storied doom bands.
At five tracks, even the most doom-sceptic of listeners is going to be able to maintain interest in the noise being produced. There is space for the band to assert their personality a little more, but there was enough here that kept me intrigued over the running time, and wanting to hear more. In terms of a debut, this looks set to introduce them to a much wider audience.
(7/10 Chris Davison)