When I first saw Swamp Ritual play a show, I had no expectations. I was there to see Bellingham's Helms Alee play, and Swamp Ritual was just the opening act. But the moment Dustin Fugere first hit the rumbling bass notes on "Whiskey Wizard" and belted out "From the ice the Kraken appears," I was delighted. The hypnotic sludge, tamped down by Sid La Tray's scatter—shot drums, barrels forward like a meteor in molasses. When that sound boils out of double bass stacks at a live show you can feel it in your bones. Fortunately, that's an easy sensation to replicate if you turn up the volume on the duo's new eponymous album.
"Whiskey Wizard" and "Ditch Witch" are the strongest, catchiest tracks on the album. These songs, especially, are dotted with D&D-style imagery, but that fantasy aspect is sparse enough so as not to fall into the realm of parody. These guys are less narrative storytellers than they are mood makers—and the mood here is heavy without feeling bleak. Plus, I can appreciate big-guitar sagas about outer space, dragons and wizards. Especially a whiskey wizard. I don't know what that is, but with Swamp Ritual at the helm, I know I like it.
Swamp Ritual plays an album release show at the Palace Fri., Oct. 2, at 9:30 PM, along with Stone Elk and Piranha Dog. Free 21-plus/$3 for those 18–20.