Straight outta Kitchener, Ontario, Lotek Cruiser is a sludge-metal squad of droogies that will bring gloomy doom stoner vibes straight to your gut. The release of their 2019 self-titled album is nothing more than a vulgar display of power. With heavy tones, piercing vocals from Alex Araya and vocalist Nathan Feriero, and a hunger for doom, this album should already be flagged as being a dangerous endeavour. Add some good songwriting to the mix and you are now faced with an utterly savage album.
The album jumps in with a jump scare. Popping out from the dark is a harrowing scream that kicks in with the force of a full band behind it. “Grains of Time” is the name of this opening track. It has everything from crushing riffs, melodic metal breakdowns and cohesive solos. Founding members Alex Araya (guitar/vocals) and Trevor Rees (bass) played in a death metal band together before birthing Lotek Cruiser. It’s easy to hear the metal aspects mixed with potions of stoner doom. The vocals are harsh, and although the riffs are heavy, the changes hint to more of a progressive metal direction.
“Burn it Down” echoes this statement precisely. The song is lead by growling vocals that could only come from the world of death metal. The music behind the vocals sounds proggy and super stoner. It’s a death metal band in disguise; a stoner-death boogieman if you will. Only two songs in and the listener should already be satisfied with the dynamics of the music. There is a wicked pace to it all, but the vibes slow and roll and then pick up again. What is sometimes lacking in the stoner genre is a strong element in Lotek Cruiser’s music.
And now, queue the sludge. An element not to be forgotten in this mix is the doom/sludge that comes pouring out of Cruiser’s amps. “Buried Under the Morning Sun” is a song that makes you want to see this band live; with full stacks punching your guts and big vocals rushing through the ventricles of your brain. The clean vocals on this track are a huge plus for a band that already has some harsher tones dialed in. This song is another songwriting flex. The intro could not be sludgier, the riffs could not be delivered with a heavier hand, and at one point you will find yourself comparing the vocals to the likes of Chris Cornell.
Don’t let up on these guys by any means, because the next corner holds a slew of face ripping songs. “Plotting Forward” and “Fragments” come back at you with the sandpaper vocals and blistering music. These songs are the shortest ones on the album and serve as a hit that gets you into the final third. You’ll probably have to collect your fragmented self and put it together as quickly as possible if you hope to stumble across the finish line of this unrelenting assault.
“Scars” is the six-minute epic that calls off the troops. Appropriately titled, it reflects the state in which people might find themselves at this conclusion. The intro has you floating in a river of ebb, detached from your physical self. With a slower pace, the riffs roll through, as if the killing machine is reaching the end of its spree. This last song has all the elements we’ve been exposed to throughout this record. The vocals come-and-go from harsh to clean, the guitars are the cleanest we’ve heard on this record, but they are also matched with the tones so sludgy they leak out of the cabs. The rhythm section carries this pulse that is the perfect outro to this album. And then, there’s silence.
Written by Ben Cornel
*edited by Mike Milito