WO FAT is:
Kent Stump: Guitar, Vox, Fender Rhodes
Tim Wilson: Bass
Michael Walter: Baterie Mastodontica, Vox
Recorded and mixed by Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound, Dallas, Tejas.
Mastered by Chris Goosman at Baseline Audio Labs, Ann Arbor, MI.
Artwork, illustration and design by Alexander Von Wieding, www.zeichentier.com
Photography by Judy Stump, www.judystumpphotography.com
Staff Rating: Crank this to 10 of 11
Genre: Stoner rock, Sludge
Sounds Like: Kyuss, Crowbar, Sleep
We have been listening to stoner sludge doom metal since the early days of The Melvins and Sleep. It’s been quite some time since an album this sonically masterful has caught our attention. Wo Fat, a three-piece band hailing from Texas, has conjured up a very special formula in their fourth release. A formula that features a myriad of complex deep droning tones and heavy cutting riffs. Five songs (three of which exceed 10 minutes) crafted to near perfection. What makes this album so special is the consistency and amazing texture.
You will hear powerful clean sound that carries full frontal adrenalin. Unlike other doom/sludge albums there are absolutely no lengthy space fillers or fluff. Rather, Wo Fat have put forth every ounce of creativity and energy into a testosterone filled magical work. The first track, "Lost Highway" wets our appetite with an initial lick laced with Brant Bjorkesque fine wine crystal clean guitar work. Then the Crowbar-like sincere gripping vocal style of Kent Stump grabs a hold of your distorted world. The lead track ebbs and flows into dripping sludge and superb change-ups.
The title track "The Black Code" follows with abrupt guitar tunes than crawls into an immense and grindingly slow, fuzzed out riff, reminiscent to Sleeps' "Dragonaut". The pace picks up and a solid thick groove takes form, so thick, you can cut it with a knife, as the vocals are perfectly timed and blend in naturally. This song could end at the 5:00 mark, but not on Wo Fats watch… it continues to navigate through bluesy, psychedelic compositions. "Hurt At Gone" begins with a slide guitar intro, all distorted and fuzzed out, steadily backed by an infectious drum rhythm along with the occasional cowbell. This blues driven song has a steady groove that never changes pace, it just feels so effortless. The album continues with the 12:36 minute "The Shard of Leng"; it’s an avalanche of impressive, rich sounding heavy vibes. We also find some spaced-out synth sounds being added here as it that just adds to the plethora of musicianship being put forth.
Closing the album is the ten minute-plus beast, "Sleep of the Black Lotus". As it starts gradually with intense feedback, all the while knowing it will break out at any moment. And yes, at the 1:43 mark, we hear the rhythm Wo Fat is known for take over. This song seems to have countless riffs and deep sound effects that will challenge any stereo system.
So, there you have it, The Black Code is a stoner rock album for the ages, it seems to get better with every listen as the musicianship and song structures are nearly flawless. Filled with exploration and lengthy jams and impressive vocals, it’s refreshing to hear a band come along and innovate a genre that can get stale.
Texas stoner rock trio, Wo Fat bring the serious dose of the fuzz with guitar riffs that would make Tony Iommi proud with the release of their new album, 'The Black Code'. Just like their debut, "The Gathering Dark," this album rocks hard and heavy, Black Sabbath-style with plenty of Hendrixy acid guitar jams, but ventures further out, into trippy, Floydian, psychedelic dimensions in the spheres beyond. Wo Fat is Kent Stump on vocals, guitar, Tim Wilson on bass and Michael Walter on drums. The trio make haste with the Captain Beyondisms on the opening track, "Lost Highway". This is not cold, sterile, machine-like metal. This is organic, earthy metal full of funk with three songs over the ten minute mark, "Black Code", "The Shard Of Leng" and the juggernaut, "Sleep Of The Black Lotus", making for a record ideal for uninterrupted listening. Taking their inspiration from the heavy 70's greats then kicking it into interstellar overdrive, delivering the goods with the heaviness and sheer weight of Orange Goblin and Kyuss. As any fan of Stoner Rock will tell you, "if it ain't heavy it ain't worth shit". ' The Black Code' qualifies as super heavy, lots of volume, with unforced jamming and full of heavy riffs and deep grooves. It's hard to hold the simplicity of their sound against them when they perform with such earnestness and dedication to what they do. Light up if you have 'em the tune in, turn on, and rock out with Wo Fat. - Highly Recommended
- Tony aka The Atomic Chaser
Thunderous Texas trio Wo-Fat are quite fond of both bendy riffs and doomy tempos as their five-track, 46-minute album THE BLACK CODE indicates. This badass unit throws down a stoner desert diatribe meshing the bottom end of Sabbath, the southern drawl of ZZ Top and the adventurous side of early Pink Floyd with a chock full of furious guitar fuzz and swinging blues rhythms and an exploratory edge that allows the band to launch into cosmic journeys of the highest order (“The Black Code”). Wo-Fat provide an abundance of super heavy guitar led slow burning sojourns to bust the black light out and get completely lost with (“The Shard of Leng”).
The word “thick” in the English language has a few uses. It can mean stupid, it can mean something that has great physical depth yet in the case of this new album from Texan groove masters it is a suitable adjective to describe their entire sound. This is one mighty tasty slab of beef that makes the densest molasses seem as thin as badger’s piss!!!
Wo Fat consist of only three people; guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter, and for three people they create a huge sound that mixes elements of swampy blues, stoner rock and dirty doom. We all know that Texans like things bigger and better than everyone else and that frame of mind applies here in spades. The five songs here, yes only five songs, each stretch their wings in several directions and take their own sweet time to reach a conclusion.
The opening track “Lost Highway” is practically radio friendly at around five and a half minutes whereas the title track spans over ten minutes and in its first 3 minutes grinds through doom, stoner to something that resembles borderline trad metal. From there things just continue to grow, build, grind and groove and not to mention rock out in no uncertain terms. Usually I’m not a big fan of longer songs but Wo Fat never let the grass grow under their feet, never let a riff outstay its welcome and keeping the momentum up at all times. In effect, the song writing is very natural and organic, the songs are as long as they need to be and reach a conclusion when they’ve run their course, be it five minutes or fifteen!!!
Highlight track would have to be “Hurt At Gone” with its slide guitar and crazy Voodoo rhythms. This is how Dr John would have sounded had he been a member of Black Sabbath in 1970. The track ebbs and flows yet builds to a monstrous finale that threatens to implode but the skill of the band is knowing just when to pull things back into line. By contrast the twelve minute plus “The Shard Of Leng” comes across like a steroid driven Pink Floyd riding on a sweet and lazy groove with Stump’s spacious and spatial guitar taking centre stage. We don’t get a sniff of a riff until nearly six minutes in at which point the band really kick into gear, chopping and changing the vibe and the groove keeping the listeners delicately poised on the tips of their toes. The motto here seems to be “expect the unexpected, so when the unexpected comes you’ll be expecting it!” The band appears to share an almost telepathic bond as the songs flow effortlessly and seamlessly from riff to riff but with the vibe of a band jamming through ideas as they hit.
It’s easy to see why so many stoner and doom fans have been frothing at the mouth about Wo Fat and this album in particular. The band takes the formula of these genres and flips them into something more organic and free flowing to create something unfettered by clichés that’s primal, heartfelt and downright effective. Another nugget of pure gold from Small Stone, it’s getting to be a habit!
- Ollie Stygall
Deep in the heart of Texas, a monster stoner rock band lurks in the shadows. Cream of the crop of Small Stone Records current releases. OUT NOW!
Texas could well be the most psychedelic state in the USA. On top of giving us The 13th Floor Elevators and Red Crayola in the 1960s, we now have The Black Code – the fourth album from Texan’s masters of heavy blues riffage, Wo Fat. (They’re named after a villain from Hawaii 5-O in case you were wondering). At it’s heart it’s a blues based rock album, albeit with Texan-sized doses of heavy stoner psych. The band have proved that there’s plenty of life left in those old blues scales yet, especially when given the fresh twist of lyrics that mix dark fantasy, the soul stealing digital age, magic, and the science fiction of H.P. Lovecraft.
Like most music that’s deeply rooted in the blues there’s plenty of room and scope for improvisation. The telepathy between the players, no doubt forged from their tenb years together, means they can feed off each other’s playing till the riffs and grooves reach their full potential. The awesomely named Kent Stump takes his guitar on unhinged flights of fancy, impressively cliché- free, exploratory and inventive. His playing is characterised by de-tuned root notes, a touch of wah-wah here and there, along with some stellar slide work. The equally impressive rhythm section (Tim Wilson on bass, Michael Walter on drums), hold it all together, driving the pace ever forward.
For an album that only contains five tracks you don’t feel short changed with three of the songs clocking in over the ten minute mark. Sixty odd years after Leon Payne wrote the classic country tune Lost Highway, Wo Fat open the album with their own track of the same name, bringing the original song’s dark themes bang up to date, with killer bluesy riffs and a guitar solo to die for. This is followed by the album’s title track, a similarly intense rocker whose lyrics serve as a warning to anyone who’s too attached to their iPhone or has spent too much time on social networking sites -
“You came through the Cloud, with beckoning digital witchery, Almost bought into your virtual utopia, Cyberdrunk with a Quantum succubus, Lured to sell it all on a server named Faust.us”
Hurt At Gone showcases Stump’s masterful slide guitar, whereas The Shard Of Leng is a more contemplative, laid-back affair. It’s vocal free for the first six minutes, the riffs subtly mutate until the hypnotic intensity reaches its peak. Sleep Of The Black Lotus rounds off the album, the band feeling their way into the groove which rises out of the sonic swamp on the back of Walters drumming. This is an album that had me going back to the start as soon as it had finished. Hard and heavy stoner rock at its finest.
- Duncan Fletche
Wo Fat hail from Texas, and from opening track 'Lost Highway' this album starts as it means to go on, drenching the listener in a Rio Grande of fuzz guitar. But it soon becomes apparent that, highly competent as they are in reproducing the sound of early 70s heavy rock, they don’t appear to have much ambition beyond this. The gruff vocals of guitarist Kent Stump also do little to set the band apart.
The title track begins as slow as early 80s Swans, but we’re soon musically back in the previous decade as it picks up to attain mid-pace metal. Lyrically however there are nods to the current era, expressing defiance of “digital witchery” and “fractal thievery”.
'Hurt at Bone' has a more openly blues-based approach and is delivered with greater energy than most of the material. Its more complex, tom-tom heavy rhythm, some powerful electric slide, and guitarwork that evokes Hendrix and Page, combine to make this the album’s most satisfying song. The band’s tendency towards extensive jamming in the latter part of songs is for once reined in, and to good effect.
There is some attempt at a different musical texture in 'The Shard of Leng', where electric piano and resonating feedback create a moody atmosphere. But at 6 minutes in this is thrown away as the band shift into generic quasi-Sabbath rock once more for the remainder of the song.
Final cut 'The Sleep of the Black Lotus' is a further cry against the addictive hypnotism of the Internet age (“The thieves dance/While you’re in your touchscreen trance”), while the band once more give full expression to their musical nostalgia - perhaps that in itself is to be taken as a form of protest. Yet while Kent Stump’s playing will rarely be mentioned in the same sentence as the word ‘economical’, there are times both here and at other points on this album where his self-indulgence is pushed to the point where he goes beyond the blues-rock template and hits something arresting.
Unfortunately the overall impression this album leaves is of a band who have mastered a 40 year-old style and are largely content to stick to what they know. Both fans of that style and of grunge will find things to enjoy here - I just feel that Wo Fat have the ability to make something more identifiably theirs if they so choose.
- Adrian Janes
Lighter on the psychedelics than on last year’s Noche Del Chupacabra, Texas’ Wo Fat focus every minute of The Black Code into a titanic extravaganza of towering guitar work and peyote-eating attitude; whether it’s the swamp-blues slide guitars of Hurt At Gone or Lost Highway’s crunching, fist-pumpingly anthemic chorus, there simply isn’t a moment here that doesn’t sound massive. Despite an impressively tight (and, needless to say, colossal-sounding) rhythm unit, the key to their overwhelming scale is Kent Stump, a true-blood freak and an unpredictable, infinitely skilled guitarist that infuses each of this album’s lengthy cuts with wild energy and the spirit of Howlin’ Wolf. If this album gets the recognition it rightly deserves then Wo Fat will soon find themselves joining Fu Manchu in the pantheon of stoner gods.
- David Bowes
I rarely think about band names, however the WO FAT band got me very curious, so I used my old and very smart friend Wikipedia. According to Wiki, Wo Fat is the name of a fictional villain in the long-running CBS series Hawaii Five-O, I did like the original series and the villain itself so I can understand the usage of the name.
WO FAT comes from the US of A and according to their info they play Psychedelic Doom Metal / Stoner Rock. After listening to the album I can say that they play a straight forward Stoner Metal. WO FAT reminds me allot of KYUSS, TUMMLER, ACID KING and even some BLACK SABBATH riffing can be heard within their music with some additional Psychedelic grove to create a solid addition to the Stoner Metal universe. The album consists of five songs however do not worry about it, this is a Stoner band and most of the bands alike create long songs.
I can say that “The Black Code” is the best song on the album with a Doom like riffing and a classic Stoner / BLACK SABBATH solo. The album is more than a solid one and it fits all people that share admiration for Stoner Rock / Metal music, however to others it probably won't appeal.
- Eldad "Blacknasa" Stainbook
Just when you thought Small Stone Recordings couldn’t find anything heavier, anything thicker to put out. Enter Wo Fat to the label roster. This is not their first record, but it is their first on Small Stone, and easily the best record of 2012 so far.
Texas riff rockers, Wo Fat, re-emerge as the heavyweight champions of the drop C tuning, sludge rock genre. All of the elements that I love are involved, from Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Jimi Hendrix to latter stoner bands like Electric Wizard or Sleep. But Wo Fat do not sound like any of those artists specifically, they have a unique sound, combining ingredients from each, and a thread of old fashioned rock and roll running through every track. One can’t help but ponder how much heavier can a band get than this, or how much more Sabbath can a riff sound? Do they think about that when they write this music, as if they're pushing barriers of loudness that haven’t been pushed? You can easily blow out your headphones listening to this band, and I mean that as a compliment. Too much awesomeness perhaps?
Wo Fat’s newest- The Black Code, is a five song, full length album. Three of the tracks run over ten minutes in length. It is epic to say the least. There are blazing guitar solos that sound like they’re running through multiple Big Muffs and amplifier stacks. There are slide guitar parts that Jimmy Page would raise an eye brow too and some off time signature changes separating them from any kind of mainstream hard rock bands currently going for a neo-Zeppelin sound. The album opens with “Lost Highway”. Nothing cooler than setting the tone of an album, by the laws of the road. You can tell this band has toured their fair share by the way they gel, particularly the rhythm section. Every snare hit is a micro-beat behind, or rather weighted and laid back sounding, as if the drummer is putting all of his strength into it. It makes the band sound road-worn.
Every great sludge band has this feel, the ‘slower is heavier’ philosophy. This is the perfect introduction to the album, before splitting in different directions sonically, it’s an all-out rocker with a ‘whoa yeah!’ chorus every kick ass album should begin with. It ends with a ferocious wah wah pedal solo that nails the Hendrix tone perfectly. I was surprised at first listen, as most don’t get that sound in a vintage way correctly. The title track continues with demented guitars harmonizing like an old Sonic Youth record before diving into a variety of melodic instrumental motifs. Around two and a half minutes into the song, vocals come in and the album kicks off again, refreshed with a higher energy. If it were not for these composed instrumental movements, the songs are pretty straight ahead, Sabbathy, the Mob Rules Sabbath when they didn’t care about enchanting wizard imagery, and just rocked the fuck out. But it is not long before they go back to the unexpected, connecting riffs and violent cymbal crashing beats, raising the volume up a notch to what’s already heavier than anything. It is these composed noise sections that define the album.
“Hurt At Gone” is my favourite song of the album. The drumming is reminiscent of the quintessential John Bonham beats all in one song. There are some wild slide guitar parts hovering over a heavy marching snare drum. The time changes are so obscure, I wonder how exactly does this band write? Do they all follow the drum patterns, or do the riffs come first? This would be some impressive music to see live, very rhythmic and strange. Nothing is predictable, and I suspect that’s the way they want it. This doesn’t sound like singer/songwriter music, like one dude is writing all the parts. It sounds like the sum of its parts, like they’re all putting their fair share in, in order to come up with something more interesting. This track also features one of the most bad ass guitar solos that I’ve ever heard, toward the end,
The album continues with “The Shard of Leng”, a completely different vibe. It begins mellow and airy. There’s some sort of mellotron, or vintage keyboard effect through delay to give it that ambient aura you don’t usually hear from a current stoner rock band. This track lets the album breathe for a while, so that they don’t overdose on themselves with the riffs and sing-along choruses. It lets me know there’s an overall vision here, and not just five songs thrown together randomly. The mood of the album is altered so that the listener can take a breather and chill out for a bit. More bands should do this, as opposed to full-on rocking out from start to finish. I tend to get bored with albums that do that. But again, Wo Fat sticks to a vision, surpassing the short view for something more ambitious. Clocking in at twelve minutes in full, halfway through the song turns into a mid-tempo groove and the closest the album comes to a standard verse/chorus, verse/chorus number. And just as it sounds ‘normal’ for lack of a better word, the song devolves into a percussive jam with cowbells and tempo changes. It’s confusing at first, but resolves to a slow-core outro that lasts about five minutes. This is where the band moves into the progressive rock territory and further makes me wonder, how does this band write?
Apart from the awe-inspiring guitar solos, it’s pretty complex music to compose for a trio, and even more over-reaching to stick in drop C tuning and come up with such a diversity of ideas. And what better way to close this album, then a ten minute long, ‘mostly’ instrumental journey entitled- “Sleep of the Black Lotus”. This defies the laws of recording studio engineering techniques, as they intentionally go for that blown out sound. The volume meters in the studio must have been peaking the whole way through, a technique called “brick-walling” where the meters are perpetually in the red. A lot of metal bands go for it, fail, and wind up with a crap sounding record. Few can make this trick work to their advantage as Wo Fat does. This song is like a battle royale between a hundred riffs and sound effects. Dare I say, it delves into the avant-garde for what makes one hell of an album closer and a high moment climax to a mammoth sized album’s completion?
In summation of listening to The Black Code a hundred times already, this is the definitive heavy sludge album of the year and the band’s best achievement to date. Who knows what they’ll conquer next musically, but it would have to be some of the most innovative music of this genre to top this. I wouldn’t be surprised if the band takes some time off after an accomplishment of this calibre. But something tells me, Wo Fat has the imagination and capability to surprise us with another record this good, possibly better in the near future.
- Lee J Diamond
Taking their name from the arch villain in TV's popular Hawaii Five-O series, Wo Fat have clearly had their tongues planted firmly in cheek from day one. But that doesn't stop their fourth album, 2012's ominously named The Black Code, from wanting to put you in the ground! While the band's previous LP, the interestingly named Noche del Chupacabra, laid down the psychedelics pretty thickly, The Black Code seems bent on simply melting your face off -- at least based on first track "Lost Highway"'s devastating, stoner metal energy, which recalls such worthy predecessors as Orange Goblin, Red Giant, and the sadly doomed Unida. Hold your horses, though: Wo Fat won't be pigeonholed so easily. No, no. After the title track gets done alternating elephantine grooves and wah-wah pedal abuse over every speed in the gearbox, "Hurt at Gone" proceeds to hammer slithery slide guitars to Latin rhythms, "The Shard of Leng" flows from mystical Pink Floyd reveries into interstellar overdrive, and "Sleep of the Black Lotus" dives into endless, bong-fueled improvisations. Clearly, melting faces is not the sum total of Wo Fat's ambitions, after all, but the sheer aggression with which they tackle every one of these tunes, regardless of tempo or sonic ingredients, never lets the intensity waver. The Black Code roars with all the power that made '90s stoner rock so exciting and irresistible, and Wo Fat's growing confidence from album to album is living proof.
- Eduardo Rivadavia
Wo Fat, like label mates Lo Pan, are named after a fictional Chinese villain, this time from Hawaii 5-0 rather than Big Trouble In Little China. Hopefully there are more Small Stone bands out there named after other such comical nemeses.
Having not heard a stoner doom record for a while that’s really blown me away, I was hugely thrilled by this album. This is super heavy groove-hungry doom with a huge bottom end propelling five tracks of Sabbath-style riffing and massive wah-wah solos. The band change up the formula with ‘Hurt At Gone’, whose avalanche-slide guitar adds a southern rock flourish to proceedings. The final two tracks are swathed in an effects-driven psychedelic archipelago that arises from the bass-anchored primordial soup.
A truly superb album from beginning to end that also delights with its cover art, which echoes the 1981 movie Heavy Metal. Go pick it up.
- Austin Matthews
An album that clocks in at over 45 minutes yet only has five songs. Wo Fat deal in seriously heavy stone riffs. To be honest for me the songs can outstay their welcome but then I am not a big fan of jam bands and if they are your thing Wo Fat will be right up your street. The title track and ‘Lost Highway’ are the stand outs as the band lay down heavy backing and for a three piece they create a massive wall of sound.
If you like extended jam sessions and a stoner rock vibe this album will be for you.
- Jason Ritchie
WO FAT IS back in order to show the world how to create a massive wall of blues-tinged metallic fuzz. Each muscular riff drops like a bomb while the sonic wave pours over the listener like molten lava. It's like they're powered by a nuclear fusion. Really. On top of that, there's a lot of improvisation which never destroys the basic structure of the song. The truth is that it all fits together perfectly. Basically, this is nothing new, because already the previous album 'Noche Del Chupacabra' (review here) was an impressive demonstration of WO FAT's capabilities. The interplay between Kent Stump (guitar, vocals), Tim Wilson (bass) and Michael Walter (drums) are what makes their music so enthralling and lively.
There is definitely never a dull moment when listening to the five cuts of this album, I can promise you that. In a direct comparison, 'The Black Code' is less psychedelic than 'Noche Del Chupacabra' - which, however, does not mean that WO FAT have turned their back completely on illicit substances. For example, just listen to 'The Shard Of Leng' and you will realize there is still a great potential to stimulate the synapses. But as said above, the mighty guitar work of Kent Stump dominates the album and one can feel that WO FAT come from Texas. That is why it is certainly not wrong to include ZZ Top in this context. But to avoid any misunderstandings, WO FAT do not follow in the footprints of the world-famous blues rock band. They are more like the wild and freaky brothers of Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill and Frank Beard.
Speaking of like-minded bands - Tia Carrera or Dwellers have similarities to WO FAT and this is absolutely no disadvantage in my sonic world. Therefore it fits perfectly that 'The Black Code' is WO FAT's debut for Small Stone Records. Conclusion: From start to finish there are no weak spots on this album. There's an amazing flow while the overpowering heaviness is weighing you down and the powerful grooves kick your ass into action. Thus, there is no other course for me than to recommend 'The Black Code' highly.
From the muddy swamps of “Noche del Chupacabra” back to outer space and the not so friendly planet Mars. WO FAT revisit the sci-fi thriller concept in their new album “The Black Code” released by Small Stoner Records (after BLACK COWGIRL this label has to be my favorite one right now).
Since “The Gathering Dark” the band earned my respect but I’ll admit it was right after “Psychedelonought” that I had no other choice but to TREAT EVERY WO FAT RELEASE AS A MAJOR ONE. For those who know, WO FAT is one of the best contemporary stoner acts out there. From artwork, to lyrics, to songwriting, singing, guitar playing, and the overall sound, these guys have a totally unique style that is both enjoyable and distinguishable from miles away.
WO FAT did nothing new in “The Black Code”. As always they deliver huge dosages of 70′s grooviness. The amount of fuzz reaches critical levels here, while the amazing work on the production exposes the band’s assets in a unique way. Kent Stump’s voice sounds just a bit rawer than usual and it is the first time I realized what a great singer this guy is. Without doubt he must have one of the most characteristic voices in metal right now. “The Black Code” is strangely, balancing between heavy riffage and improvised psychedelia and in this way it keeps you always on the edge of your seat.
While their previous album “Noche del Chupacabra”, failed to amaze me, judging from the reaction of the press and fans it must be only me! In any case, I feel that with “The Black Code” WO FAT did it! Thus, they earned a position in this year’s Roadburn, fairly.
“The Black Code” has the best flow as an album but on the downside it does not contain their best hits. I still believe that “Psychedelonaught” remains their best work to date but this one comes as a second close. Enjoy…
Blasting off from the deep fens of the bayou, and landing direct on the unforgiving, red-sand terrain of Mars, WO FAT have made quite the trip in bringing to light their latest full-length effort, “The Black Code,” a fitting next giant leap for these Stoner Metal Texas heroes.
Where 2011’s “Noche del Chupacabra” saw the band singing about backwoods demons, “The Black Code” features the trio bringing their righteously uplifting brand of Southern Rock into the far-reaches of space, which, unsurprisingly, works just as well – oxygen or not. WO FAT’s sound bridges the fuzz of Stoner desert Rock with the fluid dance of psychedelic Space Rock easily, adding strong elements of Doom, soulful Blues, and the hard-edged Classic Rock of the 70’s to delightful affect in a way that very few bands are capable of achieving.
Like their last album, the band doles out five songs over 46-odd minutes and kills it, exhausting each second with rolling bass lines, fuzzed-out guitars, pounding drums, and Kent Stump’s knack for catchy refrains and supernatural lyrics. Of course, the band also delivers their patented brand of exceedingly heavy Blues-based jamming, with Stump, especially on a track like the gargantuan “The Shard of Leng,” showing off some unruly solo-work that works nicely with the encompassing alien-world theme.
With songs like the foreboding “Lost Highway,” or the star-cruising “The Black Code,” WO FAT add great distinction, a sentience to each track on the album, making sure “Hurt at Gone” hits you hard with its crispy guitar-slides, but likewise at different angles than the album-closing “Sleep of the Black Lotus,” which is, quite possibly, the most thundering 10 minutes on the record.
As they’ve grown so adept at doing, WO FAT mess around and come out with something genuinely unique, energetic, and definitively heavy. While “Noche del Chupacabra” currently exists as the band’s magnum opus, with a few more listens, “The Black Code” may end up taking its lunch money. Do yourselves a favor and welcome “The Black Code” to your planet with open ears.
ME(n)TAL NOTE: This is WO FAT's debut on Small Stone Recordings.
Cosmic cowboys Wo Fat lay down some serious rumble fuzz on their fourth full-length, The Black Code, and if the brass over at Small Stone HQ aren’t smiling about Wo Fat’s first submission to the label, then I would have to assume their ears got ripped off by a gang of Detroit thugs while attempting to hail a cab after a drunk and sweaty night at Small’s. Actually, forget that. You don’t need ears to experience The Black Code; you can feel these heavy desert blues in your bones, man. Right before they shatter. I’m not sure why it took so long for this particular band and this particular label to hook up, but the important thing is they’re together now, and to say they’re made for each other would be a gross understatement. Small Stone is constantly dealing out big, demolishing riffs, and sure enough Wo Fat’s holding five fuckin’ aces of ten ton groove. Yeah, The Black Code has its moments of psychedelic sorcery and demonizing slide, but ultimately it’s just one gargantuan stoner rock dust-up, and if Los Natas ever got it in their heads to come down from the Andes and settle under the hot Texas sun, they need to get permission from Wo Fat just to plug in. And you think Kyuss Lives! crumbled under the weight of all that legal nonsense? No, the truth is they caught wind of The Black Code and decided that continuing with the reunion was completely pointless.
- Jeff Warren
... the masters of Texas RIFFage are back : WO FAT "the Black Code"
There has been a lot of STONER bands featured in the blog over the past weeks, some good surprises, some others just average and/or pretty unoriginal... Listening to the new 4th album of WO FAT puts you necessarily in the highest category, the kind of band that helps reviving the flame when you feel ponderosity coming; no disappointment possible, the menu is guaranted full of sheer heaviness, bluesy groove and blistering psychedelism !!!
What is each time delightful with this awesome trio is their fantastic heaviness, always valued equally (which means immensely !) despite a constant evolution from album to album with an evergrowing musical interaction and development on a "keep it authentic sonically" basis.
"The Black Code" contains five songs, like for "Noche del Chupacabra", and is the first release of the band for Small Stone records, a relation that should be harmonious and this time made to last... Where this last album was particularly swampy and cryptic, this new one still evokes the obscure but is accentuated in the mysterious and unknown, reaching a cosmic dimension (not just suggested by the amazing cover!).
WO FAT favor more than ever grooviness and 70's inspired fuzzy jams and this quickly gives the neat impression that you've got here a real grower, each listening revealing more in depth subtle running bass lines, thunderous drums or mindblowing riffage. Songs like "the black code" and the wonderful closer "sleep of the black lotus" are avalanches of mindblowing psychedelia and heaviness mixed together. Vocals are warm and gritty, perfectly in tune with a top-notch musicianship.
"Hurt At Gone" has a nice boogie southern touch which if necessary reminds that those guys come from Texas and have learnt out a lot from the high voltaged Heavy Rock of the late 70's.
The 4th song "the shard of leng" is a bit different from the rest, maybe not as unbridled and exciting at first, the band explores new galactic horizons in its first part which is a great breath in this burning journey, then it growes on you with rising tension and heaviness to end with some heady and amazing fuzziness.
WO FAT likes it heavy, in a stunning fluidity, full of twists and turns that regularly make you wonder if those guys are effectively a trio or a quintet !!! in that sense they could sometimes remind an heavier and doomier cousin of The Atomic Bitchwax.
It's certainly "Noche del Chupacabra" that convinced the Roadburn team to make WO FAT a leading guest at next edition, but I'm sure that "The Black Code" confirms even beyond their expectations that their performance will be one of the highlights of 2013 ! Now let's hope that a proper European tour is planed too, so that not just a too limited number of privileged fans can experience live this fabulous band... I vote firmly for an ELDER / WO FAT european tour next April, this would be the most exciting package imaginable !!!
- Steph LS
‘The Black Code’ is the fourth album from Texan rock / metal juggernaut Wo Fat. Featuring just 5 tracks, ‘The Black Code’ showcases the band’s epic, down tuned, southern fried, blues-infused psychedelic rock.
‘The Black Code’ is big on groove sharing most in common with Kyuss, Sleep, as well as Acid King and fellow label mates, Songs of Otis. Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix and ZZ Top (particularly first track ‘Lost Highway’) influences can also be heard, while some of the riffs and grooves recall the now defunct and legendary Australian act Christbait (check out to “Blow” and “Big Anus” from Christbait’s 1996 album ‘Dirtypunkmutha’).
One of the most appealing qualities about ‘The Black Code’ is how organic it sounds – no fancy overdubs or electronics here – just three dudes not just rocking out but telepathically exploring together during their frequent epic instrumental passages.
“Lost Highway” is the album opener and begins with a Kyuss meets ZZ Top style riff before drums and bass enter, and the stomp box switches to distortion, ensuing in an almighty groove. Of the five tracks, “Lost Highway” is the shortest at 5:45 and also the most straightforward and hooky. Here the trio combines their stoner-rock grooves with ZZ Top style songwriting smarts. Wait for the 4:00 mark when Wo Fat change gear and surge into a double time groove ala Kyuss and guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump lays down a mad guitar solo wailing until the song’s end. Vocally Stump exhibits traces of John Garcia of Kyuss but with a more Lemmy (Motorhead) meets Rob Zombie guttural sound.
The title track follows with odd guitar bends and floor-tom pounds before a massive and grindingly slow, fuzzed out riff is introduced. The pace picks up and a solid groove takes form from 2:30 at which point a simple but catchy vocal also creeps in. During the first half of the song, we find more structure with the trio exchanging rocked out verses with half-time grooves for the chorus. From 5:00 onwards however the song steers in an instrumental section introducing a psychedelic element including bad-ass blues driven guitar solo.
“Hurt At Gone” begins with a southern-fried slide guitar intro, all distorted and fuzzed out. Guitar chords ring out during the verses while backed steadily by a drum shuffle on the toms. At 2:00 the beat changes to a more straight forward groove with cascading cymbals while a slide guitar takes the place of any vocal chorus. Certainly the most blues driven track on the album, “Hurt At Gone” is fluid, grooving along effortlessly.
As mentioned above, the album features its fair share of epic instrumental and likely improvised passages no more evident than the first six minutes of “The Shard of Leng”. At 12:36, “The Shard of Leng” is the longest track on the album and doesn’t get going until right on the 6:00 mark where the band lock into a thick riff-heavy groove (and a Rage Against The Machine style groove at that) before vocals finally enter at 6:30.
When the final track “Sleep of The Black Lotus” finds its feet at 1:40, the song follows a traditional verse/chorus arrangement and employs more of the ZZ Top songwriting. Just as you think the song ends, a fat doom section emerges where the band spend the next four minutes with Tim Wilson (bass) and Michael Walter (drums) bolstering together a solid stoner groove while allowing guitar solos to wail.
Unfortunately with large slabs of instrumental sections, only a singular down-tuned guitar in their arsenal, and with the absence of any major hooks except for “Lost Highway” and “Sleep of The Black Lotus”, during the first couple of spins a lot of the material runs the risk of being indistinguishable and missing that certain spark. The album is at its best when melody and songwriting smarts are incorporated into the tunes.
Kyuss and Sleep fans take note; ‘The Black Code’ is a worthy addition to your collection.
Be sure to check out the band’s website, which features a sci-fi motif complete with alternate dimensions, cyber-visions, and alien sightings – all done in the style of a b-grade horror movie.
Up until about a month ago, I had never heard Wo Fat. I was familiar with their name, and quite honestly, I was intimidated. I’ve already explained this to Kent Stump (guitars/vocals) of the band, so we’re all good there. I had some weird, preconceived notion that if I listened to Wo Fat, well . . . something violent would happen within my head, something unforeseen would damage my already damaged psyche and my personal End of Days would be right around the corner.
Actually, after having spent some time with the Wo Fat catalog, I can’t dispute any of the above mentioned possibilities are out of the question.
Enough babble . . . on with The Black Code!
The latest Wo Fat release, as found on Small Stone Records, is a devastatingly heavy album. Where the previous album, Noche Del Chupacabra, was a heavy beast of a record, The Black Code up’s the game and redefines the word “heavy”. The production is a little crisper, and that adds a greater definition of the variety of tones that the band uses to convey their menace. The greater definition makes the cleaner portions of the music cleaner, therefore, when the heavy portions drop, it feels even more overwhelming than before. But none of the knob twiddling and sound engineering knowledge would mean shit if the music wasn’t up to par . . . and folks, The Black Code beyond par . . . it’s a hole-in-one, if you really want to follow a golf analogy!
The songs, while at times are marathon in length, they’re so well conceived and executed that they don’t feel like they’re as long as they are. The individual performances from the trio of musicians is top notch and, while the focus may be on the guitar heroics of Stump, the rhythm section of Tim Wilson (bass) and Mike Walter (drums) keeps this sludge-y, doom-y, Lords of All That Is Heavy sound moving in the right direction. Grok . . . to listen to the rhythm section alone is a lesson that every bassist and drummer should enroll in. This tandem kills it . . . every minute of every song . . . which allows Stump’s guitar work to soar to the heavens when he’s not following along the trail that’s being blazed ahead of him.
Opening the album with “The Lost Highway”, I was originally surprised that with the subtle injections of blues mixed in with groove. By no means was it a “bad” surprise, it just wasn’t what I was expecting and it was a welcome change from those preconceived notions that I had going into this record. The riffs follow aplenty and savagery of the rhythms make the body roll with the groove. Brutally heavy music, but done with class. It’s not heavy just for the sake of posturing and knuckle dragging Neanderthalic music fans . . . it’s heavy with a purpose and as a way of life. What could get lost if one’s not paying attention on this particular gem, is the bridge leading to the wah-ed out guitar solo. There’s a dynamic there, a building tension, and when that sucker breaks, it’s like dam busting open and getting caught up in the oncoming rush of water. Try to cling to the guitar solo for some buoyancy, but beware . . . the thundering crash of the rhythm section will try to break your grasp. Fucking great song!
The title track follows next, and for over ten minutes, you will be bombarded with a tune so finely crafted in the ways of the Heavy that it may go down as the blueprint for those who follow. The tone that Stump gets out of his rig is awesome, and I don’t mean the overused meaning of the word . . . you will truly find yourself sitting in front of your speakers with mouth agape and staring in wild wonder at how such a heft can come from an instrument . . . you will be in awe, ergo . . . his tone is awesome. Once the band kicks in and the trio is riffing in unison, damn, it’s an example of the fierceness that these guys can seemingly whip out without a thought. It feels natural and organic, nothing is forced, almost as if these guys are connected by the strain of DNA and they have become a living, breathing, riffing single entity. Again, the Wilson/Walter tandem hold a great groove in the mid-portion of the song while Stump goes absolutely nuts! Jesus . . . the sounds this guy gets from his guitar are insane! And, when the trio drop back into the main riff, the tempo goes up and it’s a stunning sensation . . .
Only five songs in length, but clocking in at over forty-five minutes, The Black Code is rife with sonic exploration and extended jams. Sit back and take the journey, man . . . and when you get to the album closer, “Sleep of the Black Lotus”, I’ll be here waiting to wax poetic about its brilliance. I’m thinking that this is my personal fave off the album, but I have a sneaking hunch that “The Shard of Leng” may be lurking in the shadows to usurp the closer from this temporary throne. “Black Lotus” is a gem of heavy rock . . . in fact, if you close your eyes and image hard enough, you can actually see someone chipping away at the edges of a piece of ore yanked unmercifully from the earth, and the gleaming radiance of the precious rock shining from the crud surrounding it. That’s how I hear this song . . . beauty and elegance wrapped in a shell of darkened, crusted matter.
Wo Fat may still be creeping around the underground, but don’t think that this creature of the depths won’t be pulling itself out of the muck to spend time in the sun. These guys are on the rise and The Black Code is the elevator that will lift them to a greater audience, a more receptive ear. It’s an album that just stuns with every listen, not just in song structure, but instrumental performances and sonic execution. With the year coming to a close, I suspect this album will be on my Year End Best Of List. I can’t see it not being there. The album was done so well that the music just can’t be ignored.
Wo Fat describe themselves on their website as a blues-infused version of psychedelic doom; I will describe them as stoner 'doom' metal, for simplicity's sake. They are revered in the stoner metal scene for their identifiable sound, but still able to deliver some originality with each song.
This is their first release on Small Stone Records, which follows on well from their 2011 release, 'Noche del Chupacabra.'
The Texan-trio's latest offering 'The Black Code', starts off with 'Lost Highway', which is a perfectly fitting intro song for the album. Starting off with melodic guitars, going into heavy, fuzzy guitar, driving bass-lines, accompanied by the gravelly voice of frontman Kent Stump. The jam at the end of the song flows well on to the next track 'The Black Code', which feels like a continued jam from the title track - something the band does well.
'Hurt At Gone' takes a different direction at the beginning, with a rumbling drumbeat, accompanied by occasional hits on the cowbell, which gives this song a different edge to the others on this album. Kent's vocals feature much earlier in this track, and shows the band's ability to vary the layout of their songs.
Fans of the band's boundless jamming ability, should be impressed with 'Shard Of Leng', which gradually pulls you into the song, floating into heavy lead guitar. The pace picks up and features some vocals half-way through, ending in a dirty, psych lead session.
'Sleep Of The Black Lotus' encompasses all of the best parts of this album ending this recording on a high note, and keeping the band's status of Kings of Stoner 'Doom' Metal untarnished.
For anyone that hasn't heard Wo Fat before this album shows a broad range of their psychy-fuzz talent. Crank it up and enjoy.
- Jo Hayes
Following two strong releases in last year’s Noche del Chupacabra and 2009’s Psychedelonaut after their 2006 The Gathering Dark debut, Texas fuzz rockers Wo Fat make their debut on Small Stone Records with The Black Code, a self-recorded five-track full-length that serves as a loud and clear heralding of their arrival in the up and coming class of American heavy riffers. While furthering the semi-jammed ethic that Noche del Chupacabra (review here) began to solidify, guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump leading through sections of jazz-hued fuzz improv, The Black Code also further refines the crispness in the band’s songwriting and highlights more sci-fi thematics than its horror-from-the-swamp-minded predecessor. The five component tracks of The Black Code total 46 minutes, and through that time, Wo Fat show basically two modes of operation. They’re either riffing or they’re jamming. The distinctions are clear. If you’re listening to the part of the title-track that has an absurdly catchy chorus in the tradition of their own prior highlight cuts “El Culto de la Avaricia” from Psychedelonaut (review here) and “Descent into the Maelstrom” from Noche del Chupacabra, then that’s the structured first half of the song. If Stump is ripping out a righteous classic rock solo while bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter (who also contributes backing vocals) hold down a thickened funk rhythm, that’s the jam. It’s not hard to tell when the one starts leading to the other, and opener “Lost Highway” is really the only song that doesn’t break into an extended instrumental section, but just because Wo Fat telegraph their moves doesn’t make The Black Code any less enjoyable. Bolstered by Stump’s engineering job which captures analog warmth (though I’m pretty sure it’s a digital recording listening to Walter’s toms later on, and I don’t inherently view that as a negative) without sacrificing either clarity or sonic professionalism – that is, the album doesn’t sound amateur and clearly Stump’s recording skills have developed no less than his songwriting over the last couple years – The Black Code offers payoff to the potential Noche del Chupacabra displayed, working off similar ideologies in a more solidified, clear presentation. I have no scruples saying it’s Wo Fat’s best and most arrived work yet.
The album starts in medias res with “Lost Highway,” a song that underscores the band’s ascent to the distortion-caked fore of next-gen American heavy rock with a mid-paced stoner groove and a strong chorus hook. For those who’ve never encountered Wo Fat before, there really isn’t anything revolutionary in their approach – it’s heavy riffs, thick grooves, gravelly vocals and classic rock structures leading to extended instrumental jams – hardly reinventing the wheel. What makes The Black Code work so well, however, is both the power trio chemistry between Stump, Wilson and Walter, and the skill with which the familiar elements they’re working from are combined. Wo Fat are unabashedly fuzzy, and that fuzz well earns a Fu Manchu comparison both in terms of its thickness and the way it seems to slow down every riff that comes through it. The opener is the shortest track on the album at 5:25, and it’s a solid lead-in for the more expansive material that follows, the 10-minute title-track keeping its verse and chorus in mind for the first half – it is the strongest chorus of the album and so well picked to represent the whole – and then there’s a ring out just before five minutes in and the instrumental jam begins. By now, these guys are more than adept at sounding natural and keeping a flow going in a jam without sounding forced, and the progression of “The Black Code” is no exception, but you pretty clearly get two pieces instead of one unified whole, or even two pieces and then something to tie them together structurally like a revised verse or chorus. In the end, they come out on the right side of “Not all who wander are lost,” but for a band so obviously adept at heavy rock songwriting as to come up with the chorus to “The Black Code” in the first place to then willfully abandon the premise they’ve set for themselves seems incongruous on a conceptual level. Somehow, the song works.
In searching for a reason why that should be so, the best I’ve been able to come up with is that it’s a part of the subtle psychedelia and overall laid back vibe in Wo Fat’s presentation. Stump is tearing through solos, Walter is periodically thudding away on his double-kick, and Wilson is holding down the songs from getting out of hand, but The Black Code is still a pretty low-key affair. If it’s a rock and roll party – and I’d argue that it is – then it’s the backyard barbecue kind more than the rooftop “let’s all take pictures and then post them on our Facebooks” kind. Though to be fair, I don’t know that the latter kind actually exists anywhere other than cellphone commercials. Point is that by the time “The Black Code” is seven minutes in, it’s done well enough to bring you along with it on its trip into the jam that you don’t feel like it’s out of place, even as far away as the original chorus might seem. It’s that success that’s at the heart of what makes The Black Code such an achievement for the band. CD centerpiece and vinyl Side A closer “Hurt at Gone” finds Stump’s guitar taking more of a back seat to the Walter’s drumming, which drives the progression amid slide work and a gradually developing groove. In terms of its chorus, it’s not as strong a cut as the one before it, but it’s not trying to do the same thing. Wilson’s bass does well in filling out the mostly guitar-less verse lines, following Walter’s toms over a bed of distortion. “Hurt at Gone,” for being less focused on its chorus, flows more easily into its jam than did the title-track, taking what might otherwise be the solo section and drawing it out over a longer period while holding to basically the same rhythm as the rest of the song. Stump remains a formidable lead guitarist, busting out licks that aren’t any showier than they should be, but effective in highlighting both his own technical ability and the in-pocket feel between Wilson and Walter. As Side B gets underway with “The Shard of Leng,” a clear divide has taken place.
Both “The Shard of Leng” and The Black Code closer “Sleep of the Black Lotus” follow a more jam-minded path. That’s to their overall benefit, as the jams are, as ever, well executed and well patterned, but the swampy psychedelia at the beginning of “The Shard of Leng” is a departure from the more straightforward rhythm of “Hurt at Gone,” sounding much more open, much more patient, much more languid, bordering almost on something one might expect out of the European scene – lest we forget that Noche del Chupacabra was picked up for release by German psych purveyors Nasoni – than the burly Republic of Texas. Nonetheless, Wo Fat pull off the atmosphere with ease befitting the sound of the song itself, and it’s not until a full six minutes into the 12:36 of the track (it’s the longest on the record) that Stump, Wilson and Walter pick up the pace and begin the more structured verse and chorus, which – while begging for more than the two cycles through it gets – stands up to “The Black Code” and effectively switches the paradigm, putting the jam first and the song after as opposed to the other way around. It follows suit with the rest of The Black Code in this regard in that it is impeccably placed in terms of the overall, full-length flow. The last three minutes of the song are instrumental, another solo section leading to an irresistible building groove that, well, if they wanted to jam out on it for another six minutes, I probably wouldn’t complain. It works just as well riding the song out as it does, however, and 10-minute closer “Sleep of the Black Lotus” begins with a mounting noise of guitar chords and cymbal washes from which the central riff gradually emerges. The song is fully underway before two minutes in, but it’s almost a surprise when Stump’s vocals kick in with the first verse, mixed further back as they are and more timed to the progression. There’s little change into the chorus and there doesn’t need to be, as Wo Fat have long since established the course and if you’re on board with what The Black Code has to offer by now, it’s no struggle to go along with the finale’s heady vibing as Stump delivers the title line for a second time and then leads the band through an instrumental break, teasing a big rock finish at around five minutes in and eventually crashing back into solid riffing at 5:48.
That riff serves as the basis for a few final minutes of jamming – the solo that comes to top it is among the more improvised sounding on the album – and ultimately carries The Black Code to its conclusion, leaving only ringing ears behind and a few choruses that just can’t seem to quit. Their blend is still unquestionably under construction, but Wo Fat prove with their fourth album that they can both craft highly-structured material and lay back and ride out grooves whenever the situation might call for it. As their reputation continues to grow, the fact that they’re also still growing in terms of style only makes their songs more exciting to hear, and palpable though it is, the jump from Noche del Chupacabra to The Black Code feels organic as it comes through these songs, giving one the sense that, if Wo Fat have arrived, they won’t be staying in one place for too long before moving onto the next step wherever their path might take them. Still as being their Small Stone debut, The Black Code is undoubtedly going to serve as a landmark in their career, aligning them with the likes of labelmates Gozu, Lo-Pan and Freedom Hawk as some of the best up and coming fuzz the US has to offer. It would be easy to go on with various levels of fuzzly imagistic hyperbole about what an accomplishment The Black Code is, but what it basically boils down to is this: Recommended.
Speechless. I don’t use that word to often and when I do, it’s usually for something good. If I had to describe The Black Code by Wo Fat, their first for Small Stone Records, with one word, the album would get Speechless. I don’t know what it is about this band, they tend to do that to me a lot too. Their last album, Noche del Chupacabra, did that to me too. In fact, I don’t think I was ever not impressed with anything this band put out in the past.
As soon as The Black Code opens, You’re greeted by heavy as fuck monstrous riffs. The album just flows from start to finish, song to song in an almost seamless fashion. Riff after riff you’re taken back for a nice ride. The guitars in “The Shard of Leng” are just fantastic. They’re head pounding and ass kicking. The song seems like it’s half jam track half normal song. The song is about 12 minutes long and the first half is nothing but instrumental until the lyrics kick in halfway through.
I tell you, I’ve heard good albums, bad albums, and a lot in between. So far not much has stacked up to the level in which Wo Fat records. They get all heavy and doomy in a nice updated fashion. They’re not trying to sound retro like a lot of bands do. Instead, Wo Fat keeps it updated and fresh. The bluesy addition to both the lead and rhythm guitars through helps give it that great sound. The slight addition of some heavy psych mixed in here and there as well as the classic and southern rock help add to the greatness of this album. If you have a real good sound system or headphones, you’ll really be able to hear the full effect of the album. Make sure you crank up the volume too, this album demands to be played loud.
Guitarist and vocalist Kent Stump recorded the album and mixed it. The always excellent Chris Goosman did a beautiful job mastering this album. The Black Code is due out on CD on November 13th, 2012 (180gm vinyl sometime afterwards) from Small Stone Records. Stream “Lost Highway” below and hear for yourself what speechless is all about.
- Bill Goodman