On their debut full-length album, Selangor’s Tripping Haze Ceremony offer up a burning spliff to the stoner metal altar, delivering the sort of weighty, fuzzy crawl one might expect from a band whose initials unashamedly spell out “THC”. For their album, which follows a 2018 demo and a couple of digital-only singles, the three-piece combine re-recorded demo tracks with three new originals, plus a cover (more on that later).
As can often be the case with albums that combine old and new material, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The first half, dominated by re-recorded demo tracks ‘Panhead Dreams’ and ‘Night of the Damned’ (as well as short intro ‘Sativa’s Trip’) is a bit uninspiring and generic. There’s nothing throughout the first half that makes Tripping Haze Ceremony stand out from the legions of other stoner bands—even the Malaysian ones—out there. It’s all a bit pedestrian, really.
Sticking to genre tropes is fine, but the trio can’t find a way to make these tropes feel exciting or even all that interesting. The riffs are decent and the playing competent, but beyond that, it all just drifts along, doing the bare minimum but not much else. New song ‘Big Red Machine’ is the only real standout here, and even then mostly because of a particularly heavy bridge riff that’s impossible to ignore.
Luckily for Tripping Haze Ceremony, the second half of the album is a notable improvement. It kicks off with the tense, instrumental build-up of ‘Space Cat’, an excellent demonstration of the power of hammering one minor-key doom riff into the ground over 10 minutes. It’s heads and shoulders above anything before it on the album: not only is it the best riff on the record so far, but it’s also the first genuine example of the trio’s ability to create and maintain a mood through music.
The real highlight comes after, though, with an out-of-left-field cover of Malaysian pop singer (and convicted murderer) Mona Fandey’s ‘Ratapan Anak’. On the surface, it seems a strange move, but their decision to turn the maudlin pop song into a sparse, haunting acoustic ballad is a stroke of near-genius. It draws out the anguish that underlies the original perfectly, and is honestly quite eerie.
‘Ratapan Anak’ offers the listener some sonic breathing room before the heavy pummel of closer ‘Dead Man’s Terror’. With its overt doom metal overtones, it’s the most assured, sustained example of the trio’s ability to really bring the heaviness. The main riff is every bit the equal of the one on ‘Space Cat’, and there’s even a slight psychedelic hint to proceedings, especially in the woozy verse riff and vocal melody.
To be fair, as generic as it is, the first half of ‘Tripping Haze Ceremony’ isn’t necessarily a deal-breaking negative. The music is at least all executed reasonably well, and dyed-in-the-wool stoner fans will probably find much to enjoy, despite – or because of – how generic it is. But the second half is enough of an improvement that Tripping Haze Ceremony may have been better served by leaving the old songs in the past, and releasing the new songs and cover as an EP instead.
Still, misgivings aside, there’s a lot of potential in the second half; they’ve certainly improved as songwriters, and it’ll be interesting to see where they go from here. For now, though Tripping Haze Ceremony are unlikely to set the world on fire or win over the unconverted with their debut album. But that probably doesn’t matter: The album is a stoner metal album for those who really like stoner metal, and in that sense, it works. Genre casuals and the merely curious should probably look elsewhere. But listeners that want their music played low and slow and slathered in fuzz would do well to check Tripping Haze Ceremony out.
- Release date: November 13
- Record label: Independent