Weight of the Tide is very, very heavy.
Epilogue might be a surprising title for a debut album, but the music of Reno metal band Weight of the Tide is appropriately funereal. And the band name is even more fitting because Weight of the Tide is very, very heavy.
The four members are all veterans of the local metal scene, having played in bands like December and Knightfall. In particular, Epilogue evolved out of material written a couple of years ago for Swamp Donkey, the sludge metal band that featured singer-guitarist Mark Moots alongside drummer (and sometimes bassist) Jason Thomas, both of whom are now in WotT.
Many songs on Epilogue fit the template that made Swamp Donkey appealing: slow tempos, catchy guitar riffs, and a heavy, distorted sound that was like a deep, warm, luxurious bath. But the album was recorded well over a year ago, and like many good, prolific groups, the band’s songwriting has changed, and the band members already refer to the material on the album as “the old stuff.”
“The old songs don’t seem out of place, but we’ve evolved a fair amount,” said Moots.
The core of the band’s songwriting remains Crowbar-influenced sludge metal—slow and heavy riffs—with added flavors more reminiscent of classic ’70s metal and hard rock, like Judas Priest and Thin Lizzy, alongside riffs that are a bit more groove-oriented and Black Sabbath-inspired.
Genre subdivisions are the stuff of obsession for metalheads, where the slightest variations of tempo or rhythm can signify an entirely different subgenre—and this minutia can ignite fiery debates among the faithful while evoking eyerolls from casual fans. Nonetheless: if Swamp Donkey was a sludge metal band, WotT is doom metal.
Moots credits the evolution to what he calls “the new blood”—bassist Marcus Mayhall and singer-guitarist Jes Phipps.
On the record, Moots’s singing is prominent in the mix—his voice soars above the guitars rather than growling, barking or howling down in a lower register. Moots credits Phipps with helping to arrange the vocals, and pushing him to sing outside his comfort range. In the newer songs, most of which still only have working titles, both Moots and Phipps sing, sometimes alternating verses, other times joining their voices in harmonies that sound especially pretty rising above the heavy riffage below.
“It’s a classic heavy metal singer approach,” said Moots. It’s melodic singing that’s not totally operatic, but rather in the vein of classic metal crooners like Rob Halford, Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale, all of whom Moots and Phipps cite as inspirations.
The vocal harmonies are sometimes matched by the duo’s guitar parts—including occasional twined harmonized solos. Thomas is one of the area’s most versatile drummers—a guy who’ll play simple, tasteful accompaniment for an acoustic set by a local singer-songwriter one night and then play insane, complex progressive rock with Cranium the next—and his deft feel keeps even the heaviest guitar riffs from getting bogged down. And Mayhall anchors the low end with basslines that aren’t just the guitar riffs repeated ad nauseam.
The band’s songs are also suite-like, with multiple parts, including rhythmic and dynamic variations, that still add up to cohesive wholes, often with third-act breakdowns that almost sound like hardcore punk—a reference Thomas said is “totally unintentional.”
All of this adds up to a surprisingly eclectic sound built around the heavy core. It’s like an iceberg that can pick anything—heavy boulders or beautiful trees, brutal guitar riffs or choirboy harmonies—to carry along in its path.