Album: Act One
Label: Shadow Kingdom
Genre: Doom Metal/Stoner Rock
Release Date: October 26th, 2018
Stoner rock and doom metal have been on a convergent path for a while now. With current trends in music pushing more emphasis on big, exciting, crowd-pleasing moments and psychedelic tones dominating the production of artists across many genres, it seems we may be on the verge of a stylistic wave that will carry the stoner and doom scenes into more progressive territory. Groups like King Buffalo and DVNE have been active forces in this change, with fantastic releases just within the past two years. And, of course, it is impossible not to mention the seemingly defacto king, Elder, who undeniably has had major and lasting influences on the convergence of the genres we are witnessing. As we near the end of 2018, Maryland, USA, has given us a new angle on this changing perspective. Alms places a comfortable foothold in familiar techniques and a daring grasp on presentation with Act I that, when it comes down to it, is just down-right fun.
As the title suggests, Act I is the beginning of a story that, while not entirely distinguishable in a narrative sense, has no issue painting the journey for the listener through a clever and colorful music structure. Early in its little-over half-hour play time, images of cloaked soothsayers behind red curtains draped in purple smoke are conjured by beautiful organ work combined with the warm growl of guitars that fade out in mirage-like drones—by far the most captivating moments of Act I. Those moments are mirrored by groove-driven ballads straddled by the accompaniment of well-done harmonies, and there is rarely not an excitingly fun and self-indulgent guitar solo shredding away in the back. Affinity for this switching of styles keeps longer-than-average tracks from growing stale, despite many parts that will be instantly recognizable and will create unavoidable comparisons to The Sword and Wolfmother.
Strangely, the faults and the strengths of Act I verge on being indistinguishable. While approaching the album critically, it is easy to say that the experimental portions could have pushed a little harder to finalize their atmosphere, and the sing-along choruses might have you thinking about too many bands at any one given point. It is also undeniable that Alms’ formula just works, and it works well. And the final product is a unique presentation that is undoubtedly theirs in the end. Furthermore, when considering the many cookie cutter bands that inhabit the stoner and doom scenes, Act I is an anomaly of a developed framework coming from a debut album. If the title is any indication, we can expect more of this adept story telling and for it to develop alongside the skill of this quintet.
Where I believe Alms will make their biggest impact and ultimately make a name for themselves is at their live performances. Act I comes in just shy of 40 minutes, making it perfect for an opening act or festival performance. Continuity and flow from track to track are superb, giving the inclination this a piece to be played front-to-back in its entirety and planned so that between the aggressive head-banging and dancing, the moments of reprieve and anxious tension emerge at just the proper spots.
Act I starts as a story not necessarily with a whimper or a bang. It simply begins and continues in a voice undeniably its own. Culminating through songwriting not overly conceptual nor lazy, these storytellers from Maryland have serious potential if they are able to perform alongside established artists in their stylistic area. Alms may not turn heads at first, but with the huge potential of things to come, they will keep our ears and our curiosity.
1. Dead Water
2. The Toll
3. For Shame
4. The Offering
5. Deuces Low
Total Playing Time: 33:51