Heavy metal anoraks will know Tommy Stewart as the bassist in the NWOBHM-inspired thrash band, Hallow’s Eve, who released three albums on Metal Blade Records in the 1980s, including their legendary 1985 debut, Tales of Terror. These days he runs his own boutique doom metal label, Doomba Records, and releases music under the Dyerwulf moniker with drummer, Eric Vogt. Now on his second full-length, Stewart used the isolation of Covid-19 to channel his art into yet another experimental interpretation of doom metal, only this time he recorded it live and with minimal instrumentation. It should come as no surprise that Doomsday Deferred is a strange record, like everything else associated with Dyerwulf.
You’ll be scratching the back of your neck after only twenty seconds of ‘Shadow in the Well’ when the fuzz and distortion levels creep up on you and Stewart’s bizarre blues rock vocals lodge in your head like a cult leader indoctrinating you during a bad acid trip. It’s like Black Sabbath minus the hooks, but with the improvised psychobabble of Sleaford Mods on a recording budget of $100. ‘Two Trog Yomp’ is just as bizarre. How about Tom Waits playing morbid noise rock with a spooky “O-uh-oh-oh-oh-owe” vocal harmony to tap your foot to while Stewart puts his bass through a monstrous voltage of electrical pops and cackles? This is what a garage rock band would sound like if forced to learn the live parts of a Sleep demo.
Yet despite the perplexity, Dyerwulf is not bereft of charm. The two-minute bass guitar shred of ‘Madness for Two’ is as good as Manowar’s cover of ‘Sting of the Bumblebee’, and ‘Rolling My Own’ could pass for a Primus song if it were not so grounded in avant-garde doom. After track three, the electric guitar disappears from the mix. This may sound odd for a doom band, but Stewart’s distorted bass rumbles are heavy enough to substitute for the mid-range sludge of guitars. ‘Indiscriminate Trepidation’ captures the essence of the Dyerwulf sound – spoons for percussions, bass reverberations for the main riffs, and rambling multi-tracked mutterings wrapped in a Jane’s Addiction-meets-Captain Beefheart sideshow. ‘Stars Flee in Pain’ will even remind you of The Cure’s overlooked 1984 album, The Top, with its keyboard drones and tribal tom drum patterns.
It’s easy to see why many people don’t get Dyerwulf. This reviewer is one of their number. The vocals contain no traces of aggression, and Stewart sounds like Helmet’s Paige Hamilton attempting to sing in tune when not imitating Jello Biafra or an unmotivated Ozzy Osbourne. It’s difficult to do justice to the doom metal genre with only cameo appearances of heavy guitar. Is there a genre of rock or metal more dependent on the droning power of the fifth chord? At times, it feels like the umbrella term of ‘experimental’ is an excuse to incorporate all manner of directionless bleeps and noises at the expense of more conventional structures. Only on ‘Not Prey to Yourself’ does Stewart produce a song that speaks to the darker side with a fascinating marriage of Swans and Alice in Chains coalescing around an array of lo-fi vocal harmonies. We need more of this and less of the meandering bass guitar fuzz as the focal point of the compositions.
It’s doubtful you’ll hear a more bizarre record all year, but it’s worth listening to if only to challenge your settled musical tastes and your desire for something different.
Release Date: 03/09/2021
Record Label: Black Doomba Records
Standout tracks: Madness for Two, Not Prey to Yourself, By the Blood of Mars
Suggested Further Listening: The Body – I Shall Die Here (2014), Dan Weiss Starebaby – Natural Selection (2020)