Old Thunder is a one-person doom metal project grounded in the US. Mainman Dustin Grooms plays every single instrument and does vocals on the band’s debut EP “Slings & Arrows”. Irrespective of anyone’s thoughts on the quality of this release, that fact alone is always impressive. The good news is that fans of doom metal have absolutely no reason to question the quality of this release. The four full tracks on “Slings & Arrows” are competently played, and sound relatively up to par with much of the subgenre’s slower bands. I emphasize slow because, at times, Old Thunder is just too slow. The first full track, “June 2, 1910”, opens with some huge ringing chords, and drums underneath that sound like an eternal struggle to hit the beat (this isn’t a comment on Grooms’ ability to stay in time, but rather the sluggish pace at which the track moves along). After about a minute and a half of this, things speed up considerably, and this is where I’d consider the EP to be at its best. Although one could hardly consider this sound doom, whenever things are speedier and more energetic, the EP flourishes. This aggression is aided by Grooms’ superb growls. He leans in a bit of a black metal direction; his voice is raspy, but not particularly shrieky. Even when the music becomes slower again (thankfully not as snail-like as before), Grooms continues his hostile assault.
There is one area where it becomes difficult to appreciate Old Thunder’s sound, even for doom fans. On “June 2, 1910”, there is a clean guitar interlude about halfway through. The interlude itself starts off promising, and the guitar work is definitely very melancholic, but relaxing (a re-occurring feeling on this EP, particularly noticeable on “Serpent Sovereign“). Yet where this section fails is with Grooms’ clean vocals. He abandons metal altogether with his singing, and his voice is so far outside the realm of metal that I don’t even have a good comparison to give. When his harsh vocals return (in a fantastic transition, I might add) the song becomes enjoyable again, but this is just one section that should have never occurred. Interestingly, “Rainroom” also has some singing, but it is much better on this song, and similar to something that Insomnium would do.
Of course, there are 3 other tracks on this EP that exceed 4 minutes, but “June 2, 1910” was the most worthy of discussion simply because it covers the ground that the rest of the EP does as well. Thankfully melodic singing is used sparingly, but melody itself does return often. “Rainroom”, for example, features some fantastic harmonized leads. Their appearance alone makes the song a highlight, and they are relatively pervasive throughout the track. “Sinking” is a somewhat more plodding song, though it conjures an enjoyable atmosphere. At times it uses a quieter melodic lines that complement the tortured screams of Grooms, while at others, it chugs with riffs and mid-paced drumming to create a trance.
In the end, “Slings & Arrows” is a relatively solid piece of doom. With its one flaw aside (that lasts no more than a couple of minutes), it manages to deliver a variety of interesting riffs while mixing up the tempo. Although it is not entirely the most memorable release, it is still a worthwhile listen.
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3.5/5 or 70%.