Salem’s Pot were born from horror films, bong hits, and boredom — quite literally. “That’s exactly how we started the band, just watching horror movies,” frontman/guitarist Knate explained in our recent interview. “I was the only guy playing music, so we just started as a concept … 50 percent music, 50 percent horror movies.” That was years ago, and Salem’s Pot have since become a cultish stoner doom institution. They were the first release on pervasive ’70s-worship label RidingEasy Records, and now Salem’s Pot patches adorn the battle jackets of fringe-dwelling stoner rockers the world over.
Pronounce This! is their turning point. It’s a record beyond anything the band’s ever attempted, imaginative in its composition and ambitious in its playing. Gone is the muddy lo-fi recording quality of past records and with it some of that homespun freakiness Salem’s Pot so perfectly captured in its early days. But the tracks here demanded proper recording, and the album is better for it. No more fucking around: This is a new, evolved Salem’s Pot that’s serious about what they’re doing. What was once a baked idea has become a career choice, and the band have stepped up to claim their rightful place among the genre’s elite.
The sheer range of sound the band emits is wild and weird, space synths swirling beneath chugging guitar riffs, Thin Lizzy licks, and Knate’s cracked vocal delivery. In this way, Salem’s Pot have become a sort of stoner rock Brian Jonestown Massacre. Tracks like opener “Tranny Takes a Trip” and “The Vampire Strikes Back” wander between free-form psych jams and more structured pop arrangements without being too predictable or erratic.
The band’s love of strange film bleeds into its songwriting, as catchy melodies, hooks, and phrases are arranged into cinematically paced multi-movement epics. On “The Vampire Strikes Back” — a straight-up hard-rocker and the album’s obvious lead single — the music builds (a la a film’s rising action) before dropping into a vat of crawling John Carpenter synths (suspense) and then reaching a climactic drum solo outro. The instrumental “Coal Mind” takes this concept even further, evoking the kaleidoscopic moods and textural prog of Goblin, Amon Düül II, and late ’60s Pink Floyd. The songs, however lengthy, never tire or grow stale, giving Pronounce This! a brisk speed that’s inherently uncommon for three-sided stoner doom LPs. As it winds down, the country rock aside “So Gone So Dead” eases the record into its dark closer, “Desire”, which sounds like Dead Moon playing Sabbath. Like an eerie cliffhanger, it looms and lingers in your mind after the album ends.
And to think this band only had one member who could even play an instrument when it formed. Salem’s Pot have crafted a record of startling competence and listenability. Pronounce This! is their breakthrough — the record that positions them as one of the genre’s elite. On the other hand, Salem’s Pot is probably more than happy to remain in the shadows of cult stardom like the classic horror they love. They won’t have a choice, though, if they keep cutting tracks this strong.
Essential Tracks: “The Vampire Strikes Back”, “Coal Mind”, and “Desire”