I was really excited to receive this from Ave Noctum HQ, principally because I had seen the band live at the Stoner V Doom festival earlier in the year, and found them to be one of the stand out bands of their day. As you might expect with a name like Morass of Molasses, this is a band that’s pretty heavy on the sludgy side of the house, but as you may not expect, they’re from the mean streets of…erm…Reading. Having only ever been there once to watch football, I have no idea what the scene is like down there – and truth be told I could remember some bass theatrics when I saw them live, but the rest was a bit hazy thanks to a small amount of over indulgence with beer.

The first thing to say is that “The Ties That Bind”, while undeniably being an album which could quite comfortably fit under the sun-streaked umbrella of “Stoner” metal, has quite a bit more to it than that. In fact, you’ll find a hefty funk influence on here (check out the rhythm section on “Death of All”. It may not quite be Infectious Grooves, but the funk is heavy here!), along with generous portions of blues, straight forward rock and the sheer granite heft of metal.

If you like your bass, then this is going to be a bit of a wet dream for you. Sure, there’s some excellent guitar playing on there – some of the axe work really reminded me of Spiritual Beggars and Firebird, but here, the down-low rumble of the bass is king. Whether busting out a burbling backbone that keeps everyone racing to keep up, or providing the sultry kind of sprawl that could quite easily be the soundtrack to the sleaziest club you’ll ever visit in “Estranger”, the playing is mesmeric. The laid back vibe permeates the entire album, and is none the worse for it. I have to give special mention to bassist / vocalist erm…”Bones the Beard”, for his clean vocals which have a reedy, perfect counterpart sound which balances against the low end rumble of the music perfectly.

There’s plenty of light and shade in the songwriting, with some reflective instrumental moments, such as the gentle acoustic introduction and mellow sound of “Legend of the Five Sons”, which quite easily be the missing track from Sabbath’s “Volume 4”, in the vein of numbers such as Planet Caravan, flute and all! Elsewhere, sheer ragers like the feedback drenched, power-chord blitzkrieg of “Persona Non Grata” brings the pummelling, with the drums really booming through a decent pair of headphones. While there are plenty of tricks up the sleeve of the band when it comes to their songcraft, there’s nothing so leftfield that you’re going to be left wondering what the hell you’re up to. They’re progressive, in a sense, sure, but there’s enough of the familiar to make this an instant appeal kind of platter.

Quality through and through then, and to say this is only their second album, you have to say that they’re poised to become one of the key players in UK Stoner / Doom music. Top drawer.

(8/10 Chris Davison)