The Boston Molasses Disaster occurred in 1919 in the North End neighbourhood of Boston, Massachusetts, when a storage tank of the thick sugary liquid burst, unleashing a 25 ft wave through the streets. Buildings and railways were damaged, vehicles were upturned, and 21 people killed and 150 injured along with many dogs and horses. The clean-up operation took weeks, with some areas retaining physical traces of the flood for much longer. It’s this tragedy from which Morass of Molasses draw their name, and it’s pretty apt, as their music sounds very much like trudging through thick treacle. They might hail from Reading but their lurching stoner doom is straight from under the American sun, driven by hefty blues riffs as viscous in nature as the sweet liquid that clung to the streets of Boston.
Following up the promising So Flows Our Fate EP from 2015, These Paths We Tread is Morass of Molasses’ debut full-length album, and it shows much of that same promise. Sure, it’s a bit of an oversaturated genre and These Paths We Tread offers very little that is new to the mix, but across its runtime Morass of Molasses prove themselves to be more than competent at what they do. It helps that Morass of Molasses on These Paths We Tread immediately put their best foot forward, opener My Leviathan easily being the shining highlight of the track listing. The sound of rolling waves leads into the opening strains of the track’s towering main riff, living up to its mighty title. The grinding verses are genuinely abrasive, bringing to mind bands like Mastodon or even Will Haven, and it’s this brooding, dark intensity that elevates it above the songs that follow. From here, Morass of Molasses move into more typical swaggering stoner territory.
While they lose that slight edge they had to begin with though, they’re still skilled and to an extent compelling. The production and guitar tone especially compliments their sound perfectly, allowing each riff to really swing and make its presence felt. So They Walk’s three note groove is simplistic but approaching irresistible, while the following Serpentine brings things back with a more laidback but equally head-nodding approach. Centralia, named after the near abandoned mining ghost town in Pennsylvania and starting with a news sample on the topic, doesn’t carry the appropriate level of menace, but Maenads then crunches into full snail-paced doom evil before smashing into its final third. Unfortunately the vocals are frequently underwhelming, proving easily most effective when twisted into a harsh full-throated roar as opposed to the lethargic cleans that populate much of this record.
As a collection of lumbering, riff-driven doom tracks though These Paths We Tread is fully functional and perfectly serviceable, at its best like on the opening My Leviathan moving beyond that. There’s room for improvement here which should mark band Morass of Molasses as a band to keep tabs on going into future pieces of work, and as the kind of band you’d find on in the middle of the day at Desertfest, there are far, far worse bands to have a few beers and bob your head to. It’s just a little bit unexceptional.