Okay, last time I got a band that sounded this conclusively retro, it turned out to be a re-release from 1970 (WARPIG). This time, however, Arizona Doomsters TOTEM (see note below), simply have the whole retro thing down from production to sound to attitude. In addition to Doom, the two other categorizing qualifiers you should know are: 70s and psychedelia.
The main focal point for the band’s marketing, reviews, and name change (see below) is vocalist Jex Thoth, the woman on the EP’s cover. She provides a unique touch in the world of Doom, where you’ll never see a woman singing unless there’s a Gothic image crisis going on. Her closest soundalike is Karen Gilligan of CRUACHAN (when the latter sings more firmly). She’s a welcome element, but it seems that the promo sheet and Internet buzz exclusively focuses on her to the detriment of the music, which would be rather unfortunate.
TOTEM’s brand of Doom is uniquely laced with Psychedelia, a description which may invite comparison to Stoner bands but with would be unnecessary. Maybe a nod to ELECTRIC WIZARD, but I’m not quite sold on that comparison. The music is heavy and oppressive, slow but rarely drawn out. The band usually sounds like they’re just jamming and making it all work, but when you come into contact with an actual jam session (the last half of the eleven-minute closer, “Tauti”) and the organist and guitarists are all going different directions, you are thankful for the cohesion of earlier songs. There’s even a touch of early British Prog on “Kagemni.”
This is really a good release. The band isn’t breaking the mould, but they are playing a competent form of Doom with enough stylistic deviation to really keep one’s attention. I’m looking forward to the forth-coming full-length and you should be too.
Since the release of this EP, the band has undergone a slight line-up change and switched its name to JEX THOTH.
(Online July 23, 2007)