Article By: Leanne Ridgeway
RIFFLORD was founded in 2007, by vocalist and guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett and crew after discovering a love affair they had with vintage tube amps, Hammond organs, and tinnitus-inducing volume. Over the course of a decade, the band’s location, priorities, and lineup changed many times. One thing, however, remained constant: the love of the all mighty RIFF.
Today RIFFLORD is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reanimated by Bronc and a wall of Orange amps. Bronc says of the band’s music and journey:
“Some things are the result of calculated decision making. Other things drag you face down through the dirt by virtue of their own momenta. RIFFLORD, for me, has been a combination of both. The album 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation is a visceral product of struggle, mottled with the fingerprints of both terrible and glorious human beings. It is the sound of countless trips across rural South Dakota and hours of refinement in one studio session after another. The album was mixed five separate times, and remastered three. It is the true and living testament of the Riff. Thank you for waiting.”
‘7 Cremation Ground / Meditation‘ was released digitally on Bandcamp and through various streaming outlets on November 27th, 2018, but a variety of limited vinyl options were launched on December 1st (yesterday) via STB Records. It’s already become another one of my obsessive-listening releases since it was let loose. Place your bets, click play on the first song “7“, and let it ride…
Per the official announcement, this follow-up to their self-released 2010 début ‘26 Mean and Heavy‘ is the product of “mushroom-induced brawls, dashed expectations, and a band that’s coming back stronger than it ever was before.” After listening to the album, as well as having experienced all three of these criteria at least once in the span of my lifetime (minus a ‘band’), I most assuredly vouch for that statement as an accurate claim. This album has so much going on within each individual song that it caused an internal struggle within the space between my ears that damned near bordered on atomic piling.
Ever listen to an album for the first time and then just sort of sit there, dazed with eyes wide and subconsciously shaking your head as you directly ask your speakers “what the fuck just happened?” No? Well, you’ve been a goddamned deprived music listener. It happens to me maybe four times a year. ‘7 Cremation Ground / Meditation‘ made it my number five for 2018.
This album had me grinding my teeth with a need, waiting impatiently for the next song, the next moment of this beautifully systemic destruction of my cynical attitude toward the past years’ pilgrimage of genre-bandwagon-hoppers hoping to bewilder us and find fame with their tired, commonplace Sabbath worship. RIFFLORD wrecked my lack of wonder. In simpler terms, ‘7 Cremation Ground / Meditation‘ returned me to a musical innocence I haven’t seen in a while.
Don’t mistake my intent as if Sabbath worship is a negative, quite the opposite. They didn’t become a legendary influence for no reason, but too many bands have been concerned with tossing out their next ‘big thing’ every year and forgetting they need to take the time to be sure they created what deserves that ‘big’ title. RIFFLORD unquestionably kneels at the altar of Sabbath, but what Rifflord does remarkably well is to combine that worship and take it back further in history to bring forth that church’s ancient origin. While they went so bold as to outright cover excerpts of the pure Sabbath, it isn’t a false idol displayed. They take great care to alter that altar and introduce what I’m coining as a “Spirituality of the Riff.” They bring in southern gothic, folk Americana, traditional doom and heavy metal, acid blues rock, then wrap it all up in a vehement bow of stoner metal.
Opening track “7” is a warning, like its old southern sadness is marching you on toward the ending of Shirley Jackson’s ‘The Lottery.‘ It segues into the song “Dead Flower Child” and takes it to tale by mixing the finest, modernized Lordly homage into their own song-crafting, and then proceeds to rip you to aural shreds. “The Other Side” leads you to a church-tent revival on an acid carousel, with a thorough mind-bender possessing the smoothness of a snake-charmer. (The new official video is below.)
For all of Bronc’s almost apologetic explanation of the five mixes and three masterings for ‘7 Cremation Ground / Meditation‘, those potentially agonizing decisions were chosen wisely, and not a moment is wasted during any of these songs. Primarily clean male vocals comfortable in his natural range, it blends seamlessly from track to track with certain background harmonies and one song featuring softly strong female vocals. I didn’t expect the switch in lead voice, but there’s no distraction with the changes in tonal gender, it fits like it’s meant to.
For a total of 40 minutes, with no song over 4.5 minutes, no song sits still long enough to allow your mind to drift. I find the entire album to be disturbingly gorgeous. “Transcendental Medication” is the stand out for me, but I have no truly solid explanation why except for that… fucking… tone… in the riff and bass kicking in right at the 0.50 mark. It bounces on my skull like a stone hammer.
RIFFLORD is a cartel of demonic carnies, and ‘7 Cremation Ground / Meditation‘ is the taste-master-general for comparing sonic powders offered. They used everything in their black poppy fields of talent – as well as an abundance of soul, grit, atmosphere, tone, ruffian sonic sex appeal, skill, purity, and grace. Before chopping it up and cutting you out 13 thick lines of fuzzened heart killers, they painstakingly honed their product to near perfection and every one of those 13 is its own selling point to your need for ear candy.
My only complaint is that I’ve yet to witness their live show. In due time, maybe I’ll have their stones thrown at my head until I’ve “…screamed, and then they were upon her.”
Wyatt Bronc Bartlett – Guitars, Vocals
Matthew McFarland – Bass
Tory Jean Stoddard – Organ, Flute, Vocals
Paul Pinos – Guitars
Douglas Jennings Barrett – Drums
On November 20th, Electric Beard Of Doom aired Episode 106 of his podcast. During this episode, Pat Harrington had an in-depth interview with Wyatt Bronc Bartlett and I’d advise you to check it out if you’d like to learn some more about Rifflord and his take on what went into ‘7 Cremation Ground / Meditation‘. The Beard also happened to premiere my favorite track from the album that day.
Grab a copy of Rifflord‘s new album via STB Records Bandcamp.