Thulsa Doom

Seats Are Soft but the Helmet Is Way Too Tight

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A widespread critical favorite for best stoner/doom album of 2001, Thulsa Doom's remarkable The Seats Are Soft but the Helmet Is Way Too Tight is quite simply one of the best hard rock/heavy metal debuts in many a year. Assembled from the spare parts (i.e., musicians) of numerous other Norwegian underground bands (Black Debbath, the Cumshots, etc.), Thulsa Doom's "fun side-project" origins are greatly responsible for the loose, spontaneous vibe which makes this album so damn special. For, though it often indulges in positively thunderous guitar riffs and hell-bent aggression, Seats repeatedly shatters any expectations suggested by the band's name with its thrillingly diverse songwriting and upbeat, swinging style -- not at all like your typical, sluggish, lead-footed doom metal outfit. The entire band rocks with abandon, but singer El Doom is clearly the star of the show, wailing and shrieking like a mad dog foaming at the mouth, while delivering some of the funniest, most depraved lyrics recently committed to such a furious metal barrage. Packed with demented harmonica work courtesy of one Ingus Doom, pounding opener "Centerfold Blues" provides a great first impression; but it's actually a decoy, an oddball, after which the harp is put away for good and the band gets busy alternately laying into punk-inflected two-minute moshers or six-minute-plus, turbo-grooving excursions. There's not a weak track in sight, but among the highlights, one is drawn to the swirling vortex unleashed by "Definition of What Made Me," the semi-surf rock of "Clean Your Plate," and the colossal seven-minute nod epic "Ambulance Ride." A true original, the latter song accompanies Papa Doom on a delirious, drug-induced trip to the emergency room while he spews incoherent ravings along the way, and culminates in reciting the words to his "theme song" (a hysterically fierce Alanis Morissette lyrical dis: "F*ck you India/F*ck you consequence/F*ck you silence," etc.). Then, on "Ride the Pony" (arguably the album's best all-around track), he outdoes himself yet again, launching into a raging tantrum and crying, "Don't want no pool table/Don't want no light-saber/I want my birthday pony, yeah!" Built upon a highly distinctive riff, the track quickly builds into a doom masterpiece, and, hot-damn, if Papa Doom doesn't just ride that pony in the end like he said he would. And if this wasn't amusing enough, next up is the storming post-Seattle anthem "21st Century, Where Can I Get Me a Fuckable Little Grungette?" (complete with perfectly ironic "War Pigs"-inspired guitar solo), after which "He's the Head" delivers the album's most vicious, thrashing onslaught. By the time the slow-building, almost beautiful title track wraps it all up with yet another thundering climax, Seats has transcended exalted recommendation to essential heavy metal status.

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