Scott Angelacos – Vocals
Tom Crowther – Bass
Jeff McAlear – Drums
Brett Walker – Lead Guitar
Chris Hayden – Rhythm Guitar
01. The Sleeper Awakens
02. Terror Mounts (Wretched Thing)
03. 7,000,000 Years (Ancient Astronaut)
04. The Basement
07. The Mirror
08. Unspeakable Horror
Sludge metal has been a favourite genre of mine for a few years now; an obsession that started in my younger years with Pantera and Crowbar and further expanded into bands such as Mastodon, Neurosis, Electric Wizard, and High on Fire, to name but a few. I fell in love with the heavy droning rhythms, the slow yet aggressive tempos, balls-to-the-wall shouted vocals, and guitar riffs that shook the very ground I walked on. A great sludge metal album is a force to be reckoned with; a no-holds-barred assault on the senses. A great sludge metal album can crack the heavens and move mountains.
The upcoming fourth studio recording (after two previous albums and one EP) from long-running stoner metal outfit Junior Bruce, Pray For Death, is one such album. From the opening attack of ‘The Sleeper Awakens’ to the final destructive bars of ‘Unspeakable Horror,’ the Florida five-piece have dredged up a monumental listening experience from the swamps of their hometown DeLand and turned out one of this year’s strongest metal releases.
No strangers to hardship after original drummer Brett Tanner passed away in 2012 and rhythm guitarist Bryan Raymond suffering a debilitating motorcycle accident in 2015, as well as several line-up changes, Junior Bruce regrouped and readjusted in 2018 with new members and an intention to begin the band’s next chapter.
Drawing influence from Black Sabbath to Motorhead, Pink Floyd, and almost everything in-between, the band delivers freight train riffage throughout Pray For Death that has just the right mix of menace and groove. ‘Terror Mounts (Wretched Thing)’ is a Lovecraftian nightmare dragged kicking and screaming through the bowels of Hell itself, drenched in harsh vocals from Scott Angelacos and thunderous bass lines from Tom Crowther as monstrous guitars intertwine; as if the unstoppable force meets the immovable object. ‘Anti-God’ is a relentless rager taking aim at religion while ‘The Basement’ takes a slightly slower but no less heavy approach, treating us to riffs throughout that would make Tony Iommi blush.
‘7,000,000 Years (Ancient Astronaut)’ is absolutely awesome as it tackles space travel against a backdrop of reverb-heavy guitars and progressive rhythms whilst still maintaining the swamp fuzz sound. The progressive elements help the album flow really well, and it’s a joy from start to finish. ‘one-nine-nine-nine’ is a tour-de-force and one of my favourites on the album as it delivers on all fronts, however ‘The Mirror’ is probably a weak link for me. It’s the one song stopping me giving this record a perfect score, and while it’s by no means bad, it doesn’t have anything memorable and just pales in comparison, for me at least, to the rest of Pray For Death.
Overall, Pray For Death is a must-listen for any fan of sludge or doom metal and will be a worthwhile addition to any rock fan’s collection. There’s so much here to love that any real negatives I have are more nitpicks than anything else. Crack open a beer, chill out, smoke them if you’ve got them, and journey into Junior Bruce’s world. This is a stellar record that demands to be played as loudly as possible, and it’s another fantastic entry in the band’s catalogue to date. If you call yourself a metalhead, do yourself a favour and listen to Pray For Death.