Bongzilla Credit: Chrissy Bocan

It’s hard to believe it’s been 16 years since Madison stoner giants Bongzilla dropped a studio album—surely at least a few people rocking out to their brand-new Weedsconsin LP were in diapers back then. The band, formed as a four-piece in 1995, had a lengthy run as one of the midwest’s finest purveyors of slow, sludgy metal before going on hiatus in 2009. They reemerged as a trio in 2015 and have put out a few compilations and a self-titled box set of their previous albums—but Weedsconsin is their first new recording since then. The album is dedicated to sound engineer John Hopkins, who worked with Sleep, the Melvins, High on Fire, Neurosis, Boris, and many other heavy bands; he passed away in November 2020, a month after recording and mixing Weedsconsin. I imagine its title may be a response to the fact that the Badger State has yet to join neighboring Illinois and Michigan in allowing residents to purchase and enjoy the sweet leaf legally, but no matter the inspiration, Weedsconsin is a satisfying follow-up to 2005’s Amerijuanican. Lead single “Sundae Driver” is raw and gnarly, and “Free the Weed” introduces the longer, spacier themes that course through the rest of the tracks. The aptly named “Space Rock” (what, no weed pun?) settles into its ten-minute-plus length with lovely cyclical blues-tinged guitar licks chasing each other about, then returns to Bongzilla’s signature heaviness. The 15-minute medley “Earth Bong / Smoked / Mags Bags” opens with a coy, playful intro before revealing its sludgy intentions with killer, snaking riffs that ease you in for the long haul. Bongzilla have always played to their strengths and celebrated metal’s roots in electric blues, and on Weedsconsin that’s most apparent on “Gummies.” Its crisp guitar playing and sampled ghostly laughter perfectly echo the experience of realizing that your edible just kicked in way harder than you expected—though I hesitate to imagine how big a dose you’d need to knock down Bongzilla!   v