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Bongzilla brings ripping stoner metal to Green Bay

The Wisconsin-founded, genre-sculpting band recently released their first studio album in over 16 years

By John McCracken

Bongzilla, founded in Madison, dwell in slow, pummeling riffs. The band has spent decades crafting finely toked stoner metal. Photo courtesy of Bongzilla

Wisconsin is home to a lot of unconventional firsts. Milwaukee had the first Socialist mayor. Green Bay held the first football game to gross over $1 million. Muskego had the first Norwegian newspaper.

Madison is home to one of the first bands to revitalize and contemporize the stoner metal genre, Bongzilla.

Madison’s Bongzilla released the stoner classic Apogee in 2000 after a round of sparsely released splits and demos. Soon after, the trio released two more studio albums until 2005 when the outfit took a hiatus. In 2015, the doom metal band started touring again and last year they released Weedsconsin, a highly sought-after follow-up and their first studio album in over 16 years.

Bongzilla is headed to Green Bay alongside Sturgeon Bay sludge metal trio Beetlegork and newly formed Milwaukee crypto-sludge outfit It Is Dead on Saturday, Jan 16 at the Lyric Room (233 N Broadway).

Stoner metal can trace its lineage back to the likes of Black Sabbath, Deep Purple and Blue Oyster Cult. In the 1990s, bands like Sleep—who deal in devastatingly long songs such as their hour-long, 2003 track “Dopesmoker”—Acid King and Eagles of Death Metal rise to the top of the genre’s mind.

Bongzilla dwells in a different space than some of the genre’s more rock-focused bands. Instead of ripping guitar solos filled with high melodics, the trio craft dark, rumbling waves of sound that swallow the listener whole. Bongzilla has toured the world spreading the ganja gospel.

On Weedconsin’s “Earth Bong, Smoked, Mags Bags,” Bongzilla combines slowly moving bass and guitar passages, booming yet driving drums, samples of smokers hacking up a lung, and gravelly, snarling vocals in a 15-minute opus that burns out with a frenzy of auxiliary percussion and world music inspired passages.

Bongzilla’s ‘Weedsconsin’, released in 2021, is the bands’ first studio album in 16 years. Photo courtesy of Bongzilla

The Wisconsin stoner metal band has (obviously) never shied away from their love of cannabis. In a state dragging behind on capitalizing on legalizing marijuana, compared to neighboring states like Illinois and Michigan, Bongzilla combined their admiration with a political call to action on Weedsconsin’s “Free the Weed.”

Founding vocalist/guitarist Mike “Muleboy” Makela kicks the song off with “We must vote to smoke, you see / Free my girl from the enemy / The time has come to rise like smoke / We must free the weed.”

In 2019, a Marquette University Law School poll found that 59% of Wisconsinites support fully legalized cannabis. Brown County voters turned out to a 2018 referendum and, by an overwhelming 3-to-1 split, asked elected officials to make medicinal marijuana legal. Recently, Green Bay City Council took up an item to reduce cannabis possession charges to $150 plus court fees. Green Bay alders referred the item back to committee—where it was previously passed with a 3-1 vote—and are likely to discuss the item again in the coming months.

Bongzilla will be joined by Beetlegork, a Wisconsin trio that mixes fast, black metal riff with pummeling drums. Beetlegork’s 2019 release Ascension is a concept album that follows the story of a voyaging space-exploration crew through other dimensions and time. On the song “Gorgoroth, Destroyer of Ground Bees,” Beetlegork crafts anthemic, head-banging riffs. The album also features the single “At the Gates of the Space Wizard,” a winding, six-minute ripper drenched in the influence of stoner metal.

Milwaukee’s It Is Dead released their first EP, A Place Of Darkness, in 2021. The two-song release veers near the 20-minute mark with droning, hellish, vocals and experimental samples seemingly ripped from the pages of the Necronomicon.

The show starts at 8:30 pm and is for stoners, err, guests 21 and up.

John McCracken is the Editor of Green Bay City Pages. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or on Twitter @jmcjmc451.

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