Welcome to The Lazarus Pit, a biweekly look at should-be classic metal records that don’t get nearly enough love; stuff that’s essential listening that you’ve probably never heard of; stuff that we’re too lazy to track down the band members to do a Hall Of Fame for. This week’s joint proves the superiority of crossbred strains, although you probably shouldn’t smoke anything called Roachpowder. Anyway, this is their debut, Viejo Diablo (The Music Cartel).
In the mid-to-late 90s, there was a small but enthusiastic movement in Sweden of American stoner rock revivalists. Spiritual Beggars, We, and Roachpowder faithfully re-created the sounds of Kyuss, Monster Magnet, and Down. Much like the British blues acts of the 60s, hearing this style re-created by people with no connection to the geographical or historical context of the originals is a little weird, but at least weed and boredom is a universal constant.
Half Swedish, half South American, with a sound rooted in the desert by way of New Orleans, Roachpowder formed from the residue of Skintrade, an alternative metal act whose previous album had been called, you guessed it, Roach Powder. When they realized that alternative metal basically sucked, three quarters of the band split off, grabbed guitarist George Bravo’s brother on vocals (probably because he did amazing Phil Anselmo and Dave Wyndorf impressions), and mutated into a sludgy stoner metal group. Probably not the best path to fame and fortune in 1997, but hot damn, these guys got it right.
It’s not that they’re particularly innovative. Hell, it’s not like this is a subgenre that embraces innovation. Instead, they just slam home the sludge. “Get out of My Way” could be an outtake from Nola (I’ve certainly mistaken it for one in the past), starting off a lysergic surge and a hearty “GOD DAMN.” “Galactic Blues” launches with the sound of a 1969 Barracuda launching into space before following a somewhat wobbling path through the lava lamp quadrant. “Black Stone” takes a ride down the spine of God, “Cosmic Emperor” takes a crowbar to the dopethrone, and “New Orleans” pays homage to a town none of them have probably ever visited. “Demon Bitch” is pretty self-explanatory, and then they close with an incorrect reference to a drink from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
After this, they swapped out their bassist for a dude from Entombed (who were pursuing a similar direction at that point anyway) and put out one more release, 2001’s Atomic Church. And that seems to be it for them – Skintrade recently reunited, so looks like they’re giving that another go. If Down couldn’t even make it big, these guys sure weren’t going to, but they might have had a little more luck if they had come from the south (or New Jersey, or Southern California, or really anywhere but Sweden). As it is, they’re still wandering the cosmos, with a document of their journey left behind on earth for those adventurous enough to uncover it.