In the summer of 2013 I had the opportunity to meet up with some friends and attend the Sub Pop Silver Jubilee celebration in the Georgetown area of Seattle. I certainly made note of a few artists that I absolutely had to see – J. Mascis, Father John Misty, Mudhoney, among others – but it was the artists I had no preconceived notions of that left me stunned and bewildered (except for Mudhoney – I’m still riding on that obsession). I strolled over to the Elysian Stage, oblivious to the bodyguards turning people away from the gate. A tap on the shoulder later, and I was enjoying the set from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth from outside of the filled to capacity main viewing area – along with hundreds of other folks who were lined up in the street and on the hills bordering the I-5 freeway. What we were treated to was a grunge doom metal set that delivered in spades.
Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are fronted by Tad Doyle, famous for his grunge era band Tad. Tad never seemed to fit into the early 90’s Seattle grunge prototype – delivering aggressive records that didn’t get the hype that followed Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden, and Alice in Chains. I didn’t fully appreciate the records at the time, but have grown to love just about everything Tad released. It doesn’t feel much like the popular grunge bands though – it has a metallic slant that Alice in Chains perfected mixed with a rawness that Mudhoney still delivers. The band fell apart in the early 00’s and Tad’s next project, Hog Molly also fell apart after just 1 album. After some time away from music, Tad formed Brothers of the Sonic Cloth featuring himself on guitars & vox along with his wife Peggy on bass and Dave French on drums. The recording process has taken a few years, but the wait was worth it – it is no small statement to say that the debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth is the finest record Tad Doyle has ever been involved with. Moving on from the grunge sound, this is a record deeply seeped in a doom metal atmosphere. Moments of beauty crop up throughout, the darkness never overwhelming the tunes completely.
Opening track Lava is one of the few songs on the record to not extend beyond the 5 minute mark. A simple riff becomes a hymn like chant based on the legends of Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier in Washington State – the belief being that Mt. Rainier is long overdue for an eruption. It is an homage to the power of Mother Nature. The guitar riff at the 1:20 mark will make your head explode, as a warning. What an introduction to the band! Unnamed sits smack in the middle of a quartet of songs that are all over 8 minutes or so. An extended acoustic opening embraces beauty before the darkness sets in at the 1:30 mark. The music threatens to break out into an upbeat metal anthem, but the band shows restraint by keep the temp slow – barked vocals, and a thrashy repetitive guitar riff building over its 8 minutes. The wordless chorus by an overdubbed chorus of Tad Doye’s is chilling. Tad Doyle says this song is about “…letting go of false perceptions of ourselves and others in order to be truly open and free from the shackles of perception”. I Am is the song that can help the listener connect Brothers of the Sonic Cloth to their grunge roots – an ominous guitar riff and restrained but growled vocals help set the tone. The music explodes in a musical cacophony after 2 1/2 minutes or so – an uplifting (though noisy) vibe struggling not to be overwhelmed by the darkness. Doyle lets out some blood curdling screams in this song that are truly amazing. Outro (Piano) is 2 minutes of instrumental piano music, a fitting way to close the record. The calm after the storm.
This just might be my favorite record of the year so far, and not the usual style of music that I gravitate towards. Throw out any preconceived notions you have of what music Tad Doyle makes will sound like – this isn’t Tad or Hog Molly. Tad Doyle, Peggy Doyle, and Dave French have delivered a masterpiece that leaves grunge in the past. This record comes highly recommended.
Verdict: Transforming from Darkness into an Angel of Light
For Fans of: Tad, YOB, Scott Walker, Sun O ))), Sonic Youth, Black Sabbath
- Empires of Dust
- La Mano Ponderosa
- I Am
- The Immutable Path
- Outro (Piano)