Recipe for Best-Ever Doom Artist:
1 tbsp. Guitar shreds
1 cup Possessed female vocals
½ tsp. Moaning feedback
8 oz. Funeral organ
1 qt. Originality
¼ bunch Executioner’s hoods
Bloody Panda is bloody incredible! Best doom act to come along, ever! They are a class act from their impeccable musical timing to their intimidating stage presence. Their innovative formula for a larger-than-life metal entity is ambitious and unmatched. This record humbly demands attention without any self-indulgent attitude or artificial pageantry. “Summon” is the real deal. It’s what you’ve been waiting for and have yet to find.
This band’s story is too amazing to go untold. So, to give you an idea of what you’re entering into I’ll share it with you. It all started back in 2003 when visual artist Yoshiko Ohara left Japan behind her and pressed on to spend her savings on a trip to New York City. She had brand new recording equipment in tow and the idea that she’d move to America to make music, even though she didn’t know how to play any instrument whatsoever. She then posted advertisements for band members that read, "Seeking guitarist, bassist and drummer to form the biggest band in the world, as soon as possible. Must have dark personalities." Does that scream epic or what?!!! One such ad posted in a local record store, caught the attention of trio Josh Rothenberger (guitar), Bryan Camphire (bass), and Blake McDowell (organ), who responded and subsequently joined Yoshiko’s project. To top it all off they got drums, tabla, and rim percussionist, Dan Weiss. They then threw together their love for music and their eclectic, eccentric passion into this vortex of dread. And so this NYC doom procession led an experimental dirge to the good guys at Level Plane Records in 2007 and released their first album, “Pheromone.” Then Profound Lore Records for “Summon” in 2009. 2010 sees the release of “Summon” packaged as a stunning 2xLP on 20 Buck Spin Records.
“Summon” is history-in-the-making as Bloody Panda is one-of-a-kind and sure to be a great influence to doomers everywhere. Sure they fall in line with their deep sludge and thick droning reverb, but they’re so, so much more. So much here to unpack. Let’s just say that this album frequently has its non-traditional moments, such as seriously down-tuned riffs, mortuary-style organ ambiance, much extended instrumental sequences, and lots of eerily still moments pregnant with skin-crawling moodiness, all trapped inside a snail’s tempo. The most noteworthy characteristic of Bloody Panda is undoubtedly Yoshiko’s vocals. Without her involvement with this project it could not be what it is. Her voice, sometimes alluring and stunning like a siren, sometimes spoken like a dark ritual incantation, sometimes shrill like an emotive banshee, is a key ingredient to the epic angst of “Summon.” The lyrics are hard to make out, but they are both in Japanese and English, which is kind of unique too. She is remarkable at what she does.
I definitely think “Gold,” the starter, is one of the best tracks on “Summon.” It’s got ridiculous buildup, with very satisfying sung vocal duties by Yoshiko in the breakdown. But every one of these seven tracks is a must-hear. The centerpiece, perhaps the filling between the two slices of bread, the donut, whatever analogy you like, is “Miserere,” track five, which is a seething 21 minutes of exorcising ferocity. Plenty of emotion in that one, a real rollercoaster. It’s eye-rolling, brain-numbing, bone-jarring introspection. There’s almost something sacred to it.
I have to include the visual element on this release. Absolutely the best album art on any metal release I’ve ever seen. I’ve been disappointed by the corny album art on too many metal releases, but this is anything but. It’s all Yoshiko’s canvas work. Gray-scaled surrealism with bold figures of blue and red. Very esoteric, very mystical, very arcane. There’s also a cool bonus DVD with both the CD and vinyl release that depicts “Miserere” personified. I’ll be honest and say that it makes me think of an artistic rendition of a cross between The Ring and Guantanamo Bay. Enigmatic.
Then there’s the band’s image. From footage I’ve found online of live appearances all the guys wear executioner’s hoods, slicing through the guitar strings with a long stroke like a guillotine. Yoshiko especially seems to get very animated as it all whisks her into another reality. Bloody Panda’s got it all. Try as they might, no one else will ever be able to do what they do. Bloody Panda is it. This is the only metal album you need this year. 9/10 -- Dave Miller (9 June, 2010)