This ‘Sweatlodge’ article was written by Liam Thomas, a GIGsoup contributor
With ‘Talismana’, Sweatlodge have solidified their heavy rock image. Frontman Cody Lee Johnston’s soulful howl evokes a century of Texas bluesmen while the band’s tight rhythm section of bassist Austin Shockley and drummer Caleb Dawson demands Dusty Hill-Frank Beard comparisons.
For years, Sweatlodge remained a guitarless trio. Alongside acts like The Well, they helped forge Austin’s now thriving metal/stoner rock scene. Though their minimal, bass-heavy approach was novel, the songwriting begged for additional layers of guitars – riffs, solos – and Javier Gardea and Dustin Anderson eventually joined to complete Sweatlodge’s current line-up. ‘Talismana’, the band’s first album, is the finished piece of that development and a true testament to their growth as a band, both in numbers and as craftsmen of heavy melodies.
This finished piece is most evident on ‘Slow Burn’, a track that originally appeared on their EP released in 2012. The song’s structure hasn’t change, but the squall of string bends and shredding fills out the sonic field, creating a massive build up as the track moves between hazy Saint Vitus doom riffs and a galloping garage-punk climax. Tracks like the ferocious ‘Bed of Ashes’ and multi-movement progressions of ‘Boogie Bride’ tout dynamics that would have sounded empty and very much incomplete in the vocal/bass/drum format.
Sweatlodge has augmented its core sound with the additions of Gardea and Anderson’s interwoven riffs. It’s the kind of fateful joining of forces – the original trio, already tight and gig-ready, plus two incredible guitarists who seem perfectly suited for Sweatlodge – that takes a band from regional success to national recognition.
Unlike so many niche heavy records, ‘Talismana’ has that potential that seeks to appeal to fans of rock, not just a small contingent of stoners and doom heads. The R&B chorus of ‘Black Horizon’, which touts a world-class vocal performance from Johnston, combined with delightful Zeppelin riffing, is, simply put, something you don’t hear every day. Its individuality is the stuff of scene transcendence, record sales and sold out tours, to which Sweatlodge seems well on its way.