Dab City by BongzillaRelease date: June 2, 2023
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
The love that Bongzilla have for their home state’s dankest herb is truly a treasure to behold. 2015’s comeback release Weedsconsin took a deep dive into Wisconsin’s predilection for weed and Dab City plumbs those depths further still. Recorded to tape across two sessions and fuelled by 10g of concentrate and 120g of cannabis flower, it’s a heady celebration of Madison, WI, of the timeless power of the riff, and of their own legacy as a band. Lurching Sabbathian blues ripple and distort into the eternal ether, hazy jams crackle and flicker and Mike Makela’s demonic croak continues to sound exactly how you’d expect the dude from the Dopethrone cover to. Yep, this is everything you’d want and expect from a Bongzilla record.
An immediate plus for Dab City is that it sounds marvellous. Their decision to go analogue on its recording was a smart one and it imbues these songs with a sense of life and character. Jeff Schultz’ guitar benefits the most, the riffs crackling and buzzing with the weight of a natural disaster, and his lead lines taking on a hazy, nomadic spirit; Makela’s voice drops low in the mix, giving it an abyssal quality, while the thick bass grooves cling to the speakers as they ooze out. Coupled with the raucous slo-mo clatter of Mike Henry’s drumming, the album sometimes resembles a quarter-speed MC5, a garage rock-n’-roll sojourn tempered by the combined strength of overproof whisky and pungent sativa.
Secondly, it’s an album that stays very close to the band’s roots while never repeating itself, nor sounding like it’s content to coast purely on past glories. ‘Dab City’ is a proud, blundering titan of a song, packing a series of stone grooves that will stick in the brain for days and breaking them up with dreamy drones; ‘Cannonbongs’ brings the legendary Dixie Dave Collins on board to narrate the creation of the “flaming cannonbong”, the fiery inevitability that comes from mixing 151 alcohol and bong rips, before settling into an extended percussive jam that will sap all sense of time’s march before cranking up the volume for one last blaze of glory, and closer ‘American Pot’ somehow manages to start off on the record’s most upbeat, swinging high but close in a fusion of swirling, distorted psychedelia.
For anyone with an even passing knowledge of stoner sludge as a whole, none of this will come as a huge surprise but even the biggest critics will undoubtedly admit that Bongzilla are among the best at what they do. Dab City is a damn-near perfect representation of why they remain legends, its near-hour of grizzled riffage showing that great grooves, a chemistry honed across decades and the willingness to crank the amps up to 11 when the need arises will always hit the spot.