There have been enough notable sludge/doom outfits from down by the Bay Area—Sleep, Noothgrush, Neurosis, to name but a few—that when a newer outfit from San Fran or Oakland starts getting some press, I’d naturally be inclined to stop and check them out. But Cardinal Wyrm, much like the Finns in Cardinals Folly, employs the same atonal vocals made popular by Albert Witchfinder while pushing the patience with lengthy epics a la Bizarre Reverend. So I guess I now know what to expect from any group with “Cardinal” in its name.
Not that these guys are simple RB worshippers, mind you. Black Hole Gods, which is actually their second album, dredges out the downtuned despondency with a guitar tone that’s more grating than fuzzed-out, employing a different type of distortion than the Weedians Nazareth. There’s a certain blackness in here. Not black-metal per se, but definitely blackened sludge, a little like YOB or one of those bands from the Midwest (Coffinworm, Indian, Lord Mantis, take your pick). But the vocals bring us back to doom, or even Viking metal, on 10+ minute tracks like “Dreams of Teeth” and “Born in a Barren Land,” where they even veer off into harsh screams a la (insert black metal band here).
Other tracks are somewhat shorter, albeit not necessarily more upbeat. “I am the Doorway” (James Hetfield-approved title) throws a couple chunky stoner-doom riffs in there, while the slightly-faster “Cult of the Coiled Spine” adds some organ to the mix. But for the most part, they deliver that slow, droning style of true doom befitting of a Reverend…or a Cardinal, as the case may be.