There’s plenty to talk about when it comes to Seum, the Montreal-based Doom band, but the most intriguing topic is the insistence on shunning the electric guitar and relying 100% on the bass to deliver massive low-end grooves.
That’s unusual in any genre, and it’s especially so in the Stoner/Doom/Sludge space—where low ends are critical, but most of the textures and melodies are managed by the ol’ six-string.
With all of that heavy bass ripping through the speakers, the band’s name makes sense: “seum” is Arabic for “venom” and French slang for “frustration.” Both of these definitions are excellent descriptions of Seum’s sound: a mixture of growling vocals, massive bass, and pounding drums. The band also notes, however, that “seum” is a chemical process in the cannabis industry. How fitting.
Their latest album, Winterized (released on June 11, 2021), is an incredible example of what’s truly possible with a rabid rhythm section and a frenetic vocalist. Bassist Piotr rips through mammoth riffs to give each song shape, often employing only a single bass track fuzzed up to mountainous size. From there, the rest of the band rallies around him, producing a rib-crushing dropkick of an album.
Seum is composed of Doom veterans. They are:
- Fred – Drums
- Gaspard – Vocals
- Piotr – Bass
All French expats now residing in Montreal, the band members formerly played in Lord Humungus (Gaspard – vocals), Mlah! (Piotr – bass), and Uluun (Fred – drums).
Winterized is a follow-up to their Summer of Seum EP, which they released one song a week during the summer of 2020.
Winterization Album Review
Track One – Sea Sick Six
“Sea Sick Six” was the song that initially hooked us and convinced us that a full album review was a good idea. The beauty of “Sea Sick Six” rides on the primary riff, one where the thump of the bass strings balances out the low-end fury. “Sea Sick Six” is powerful and frenetic, thanks in part to Gaspard wailing like a banshee into the microphone.
As quickly as the song starts, it transitions into the slow and low side of Doom and Sludge—before heading into an intoxicating breakdown riff that left us hungry for more.
Track Two – Life Grinder
Fans of the 1997 movie Boogie Nights might recall a scene in an AV store where Don Cheadle’s Buck Swope character talks to a customer. “I don’t know,” the customer says, “I don’t really know if I really need all that bass.”
“Oh,” Buck Swope says, “I think you need all that bass.”
Those are the two quotes “Life Grinder” opens on—right before ripping into a powerful, bass-driven riff that sounds a good deal like early Sasquatch (think of their debut album from 2004). It’s a funny way to start a song that relies so heavily on the bass guitar—and it’s indicative of the type of humor we’ll find in the following songs.
As with “Sea Sick Six,” “Life Grinder” alternates between Doom/Sludge and Stoner, moving seamlessly from slow jams to quick riffs.
Track Three – Winter of Seum
The humor inside “Winter of Seum” is best appreciated while holding the lyrics in your hand (unless you can make out Gaspard’s growled vocals).
On the surface, “Winter of Seum” is an angry song about the Canadian winter. “Legs break and car crash / You will need a hand,” the band juxtaposes. And then, later, “Cold, weather is cold / Winter is fucking back.”
Surprisingly, “Winter of Seum” holds a shimmering conclusion that defies the deadly, mammoth bass lines within the majority of the song.
Track Four – Broken Bones
Although vocalist Gaspard prefers growling into the microphone, “Broken Bones” features a variety of vocal techniques. In fact, the chorus even feels like a sea shanty after three tracks of his guttural technique. And even though “Broken Bones” is, at times, the slowest song on the album, it’s frequently accented by Piotr’s punchy bass.
Track Five – 666
If it wasn’t for “666” (the song is spelled out as “Six Six Six” on the Spotify version), Winterized wouldn’t be nearly as dynamic. This brief instrumental track is slightly psychedelic, thanks to a dose of reverb that gives the bass a softer, rounder feel. After the intensity of the last few songs, “666” is a nice reprieve before the album’s conclusion.
Track Six – Black Snail Volcano
Chaotic and heavy, “Black Snail Volcano” sounds like Seum’s take on Electric Wizard. “Black Snail Volcano” plods along at a slower pace than the rest of Winterized, and it’s perfect for true Doom fans, especially with its haunting tones.
Track Seven – Red Sematary
Although “Red Sematary” is the band’s play on the Ramones’ “Pet Sematary,” don’t expect anything resembling a close cover. The melody and delivery are quite different, and the only true ties to the original are the similarities in the chorus lyrics.
That said, “Red Sematary” offers a unique layered vocal delivery and big, sustained bass lines—as well as TV chatter to help provide additional context at the end of the track.
Disclaimer: Winterized is really the first Sludge Metal-adjacent review we’ve done at Monster Riff. Please take my comments for what they are: an evaluation from someone who likes Kyuss more than Sleep, Clutch more than Electric Wizard, and Paranoid over Black Sabbath.
Score: We usually score albums based on a combination of qualities like songwriting, complexity, and infectiousness, but Winterized was a tad outside of our typical comfort zone.
Seum’s tracks are complex affairs, and there are definitely catchy riffs throughout the album. While I personally didn’t dig every turn into Sludge territory, I do respect that musical choice—and acknowledge that there are some people who will absolutely love this album.
The final Monster Riff score: 8/10
Standout Tracks: “Sea Sick Six” and “Life Grinder”
Pros: The use of humor balances the rougher edges of Winterized, offering non-fans of the Sludge/Doom scenes something to enjoy.
The Seum formula also works for the band’s goals: Without the guitar as a distraction, the band quickly transitions from infectious riffs to slow, deathly chords. That dichotomy proves to be relatively straightforward without arranging the six-string.
Finally, Seum does manage to mix in a dash of treble despite the focus on the bass guitar. In songs like “Winter of Seum,” you’ll catch a few higher notes here and there—all of which are meant as accent pieces.
Bottom line: Winterized is an electrifying album packed with infectious low-end carnage.
Cons: With this being all bass, I initially struggled to find a comfortable listening volume. Turn it up, and I was pummeled by the low ends. Turn it down, and I couldn’t properly hear the song. Up. Down. Up. Down. If this was intentional on the band’s part—I can appreciate it to an extent (since it’s a little like standing up close at a live show). From a music journalist standpoint, reviewing Winterized was occasionally physically painful until I found the correct combination of volume and headphones.
Seum does have a little bit of everything. Sludge, Doom, Stoner—it’s all here in different pieces. And while that means there are different access points for different types of metalheads, the subgenre-agnostic approach could mean alienating some people in the process.