Saturday, November 16, 2019

Duality In Three...

Dionysian - Representations of the Id (2019)

Expanding our knowledge of one of the less-covered countries' metal landscape is always a pleasure, and it's that much easier to do when the bands share some link with one you already know. Consequently, when we found out that the bassist of this Malaysian sludge/doom group is none other than Trishay Trada (of Ksyatriya, whose every release we've covered), we were eager to check them out. Boasting four main songs, each around the quarter-hour mark, followed by a cover track to close, this debut album carries itself with intriguing style and confidence before the music even starts.
That confidence (and length) is reflected in the song titles, leading with “As Your Gentle Hands Were Bedding My Lifeless Body in a Dark-Blue Crenmore Seraphim”. After a few moments of rising background noise, light percussion and guitar twangs burst out into full life, meeting thick bass waves with bold drumming, and launching the guttural vocals and intricate guitar-work once the foundation is well set. Much of the remainder is instrumental, focusing on the twists and tangles found in deep-dive riff extrapolations, but the selective application of the vocals brings an extra punch and immediacy to their presence.
“Capitulation to the Word” follows, using a number of the same techniques, but also finding room in its bridges for more intense runs from the drummer, which the guitarist and bassist weave around compellingly. There's also some cleaner vocals introduced, which counter-point the overall increased aggression of the song when compared to the opener. And as with that first track, the band shows a remarkable skill in making these sizable songs run so smoothly that they almost feel shorter than they truly are. With “A Madman's Dream of a New God-Era to Become True”, they switch things up, moving to a jazzy fluidity on the drums while pluckings of an acoustic guitar ring out under the impacts. The heaviness inevitably resurrects, of course, but with that stretch of lighter tunefulness (which does get some return installments throughout the song), its crashing arrival comes that much harder. Amid the switching between those two modes, the song eventually fuses them, holding the intensity while moving faster and freer.
“Where the Statue Meets the Shore” is the last of the core songs, opening its run with a meditative exploration of echoing strings punctuated by the drummer's percussion. As the song continues, it revisits approaches from each of the other songs, combining them in new and intensified ways. Leading through those numerous turns and meldings, it builds to an impassioned climax, marking a fine finish to the band's first set of songs. With the original attributed to Aleksandar Sariesvki, a cover of “Uci Me Majko, Karaj Me” puts a cap on things. While it certainly sounds heavy, checking the digital liner notes shows it to have a humorous side, as it sings of a marriage with an absentee bride. Dionysian perform it with a strong sense of the character they'd established in the preceding songs, and while it serves as a ramp out of those songs' fervor, it also shows the band's capable handling of more compact material. A strong showing throughout, and an admirable first release.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Asilo, DoOoM, Dreamgrave, Odradek Room, Warrior Pope


Saturday, November 09, 2019

Holding Fractures Together...

Matte Black - Psyche (2019)

Almost half a decade after the release of their previous album, Dust of This Planet, the Brooklyn-based Matte Black band is back again, with right around half an hour of new material. Leading off with “Isolation Under Glass”, the band show themselves to be occupying an uncommon intersection of doom, alt rock, post-punk, and fuzzy heavy rock, with a bit o' grunge and desert rock for good measure.
Melodies are compelling, the weight is authentic, and psych-inclined tangents swell up smooth and cool. The retro vibes are unforced, and blended with modern vibes enough to neatly dodge any sense of retreading. It's arguably not even homaging, just the result of picking out flavors that work best for the songs. A light salting of samples throws further variety in the mix, and as brief as the overall album is, it gets great mileage out of the riff explorations and vocal escalations.
If my impressions seem a bit choppy, that's because this is one of those albums where once you put it on, you just want to ride along with it, and not pull away for other activities. All of the influences melt together in creative ways, and gliding along with their shifting currents is mildly hypnotic in its way. From the start all the way on to “Gone”, the final track, the band provides a damn fine experience, wowing while keeping their vibe casual and chilled. Take some time out of your day to check it out for yourself, and once you've found yourself putting it on a few more times, throw some cash to the band for a copy of your own.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Chronobot, Merlin, Pale Grey Lore, Terminal Cheesecake, Wolf Blood


Monday, November 04, 2019

United in Division...

Ksyatriya - The Womb of Ōmeyōcān (2019)

It's been a couple of years since we last heard from Ksyatriya (last time was their split with Animi Vultus), but they've made their return with a full album, hitting nearly an hour of instrumental doom. It's their first album since 2015's The Arduous Search for Freedom, and while the changes they adopted since then are intriguing, the continuity of their style is undeniable.
Leading with an atmospheric intro, expressively titled “And Thought was Born...and Duality Ensued...And the Universe was Lost”, Ksyatriya give a thorough crash course on their bass and drum-driven style, benefiting new listeners while ramping up into the album's body. Mood and tone are accentuated, with nuanced development of the central melody leading ears through the movements.
After that nine-minute opener is concluded, “The Flame That Illuminates our Hearts Burns for Eternity” picks up, bringing quick-moving guitar into the fold. The tendencies shown in the lead track are expanded, with the central riff put through its paces as the rhythms slowly shift around it. “To the Gates of Ōmeyōcān (Prelude I)” makes for a five-minute interlude after that, warming things up with an acoustic exploration solo before “Hypocrisy of 2” takes over.  That song, at about thirteen minutes run, finds the band working around alternation of styles in it. It begins by moving back into the realm of the electric for its first portion, before a moment of silence leads back into the acoustic melancholy; another momentary break, and the electric rises to merge with that acoustic line, wrapping the two together before taking dominance again.
“At the Gates of Ōmeyōcān (Prelude II)” follows, the shortest track of the album at just under two minutes, before the seventeen-minute “Peta Babkama Luruba Anaku (Open the Gate for Me So I Can Enter Here)” arrives to close things out. Intensified bass and bass drums lend this the heaviest vibes, and as with “Hypocrisy of 2”, there's some internal segmentation, culminating in a keening crescendo and coda.
While the album is largely absent of the vocal samples which have marked the band's previous releases, it's still quite distinctly one of their works, with thoughtful song-writing guiding the heaviness to measured purposes. Even with vocals at a minimum, there's plenty of character coming through in the songs, and the tiny little pauses they take before sweeping into a new mode help settle each one in memory. It's a pleasure to know that they're still exploring new ways of expressing their ideas, and to hear a different side of those reflections.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Ancient Lights, Bell Witch, Earthshine, Flight of the Seraphim, Ufomammut


Saturday, September 07, 2019

Tangles Of Beauty...

Esogenesi - Esogenesi (2019)

Releasing their debut album through the always-reliable Transcending Obscurity Records, the Italian group of Esogenesi pack a good forty minutes into the five songs of their self-titled LP, with their chosen combo of death metal and doom staggeringly well-blended this early in their career. “Abominio” is the first of the five, and with a sturdy central riff, the band is free to spin off into a number of elaborations and tangents without losing the core impetus. Some powerful break-downs and fiery bridges lend the song further flavorful variety, While the guitar and bass provide beautiful textures and dark atmosphere, the drummer may be the one who gets to shine the most in this opener.
From there, “Decadimento Astrale” picks up, with a harder riding beat leading the way to brooding but powerful progressions, with the development of a secondary riff providing the majority of the song's intensity. “...Oltregenesi...” follows, serving as a comparatively brief interlude at just under four minutes, with the guitarist brandishing his solo chops in a meditative instrumental piece with light backing from the other players. It's one of the album's most luminous moments, and transitions into the darker vibes of “Esilio Nell'Extramondo” extremely well. Rising from a slow, dirge-like groove into harsher and more strident form, the almost ten-minute run of this track is put to good use, with plenty of involved exploration taking the foundational riffs to new heights.
Lastly, “Incarnazione Della Conoscenza”, another ~10-minute piece, shows the band balancing the intensities of their two metal styles against each other, with a shift from slow passion to fast power shaping the song. It makes for a strong finish to the album, and all around, they demonstrate very impressive creativity and restraint for a band on their first release. Fans of this fusion, and of doom metal with some extra punch, do yourself a favor and check this crew out.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dreamgrave, Heavydeath, HellLight, Illimitable Dolor, Murk Rider


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Light Leaks Through...

Howling Giant - The Space Between Worlds (2019)

Following a string of EPs and a single for their cover of BOC's “Godzilla”, the Nashville-based group of Howling Giant are releasing their first full album, and taking their spacy stoner van art vibes to the next level by making it a concept album. Built around the idea of dreams creating alternate realities, the songs of The Space Between Worlds take form with a bit more lightness to their tone and attitude than the cover art and title might imply, but the abundance of riffage and
Moving faster than the stoner metal style usually does, opening track “Comet Rider” gets things off to a groove-packed start, with rushing bridges and barrages of drumming creating an atmosphere of '70s hard rock blurred into '90s desert rock, feeling something like a time-warped Kyuss at the end of the blend. “Nomad” carries on from there in similar fashion, setting up a comfortable run, before “Ghosts in the Well” shifts to a more stripped-down, acoustic bit of sober regret, accented with piano to really highlight the band's flexibility.
The River Guide” switches the clutch back into heaviness, with a throbbing main bass riff that carries the listener right into another soft breakdown, this time with a bit of glimmering synth to give things that ethereal touch. Riding that slow mood through a few measures before slipping the drums back into to resolidify, the heavier tendencies get to really take hold again in the follow-up, “Ice Castle”, which might be my favorite tune on the album, due to its blending of all the album's elements while balancing them out to a satisfying and memorable chunk of earworming. It's a little unfortunate that it gets buried in the album's mid-section, but hopefully it'll come out as a strong enough hook to linger in most listeners' memories.
Boasting the oddest title of the songs, “Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express” swings to a lighter tone while maintaining the hookiness, and with the line “It's better to explode than fade away,” the ensuing bit of soloing seems a little underwhelming, though the drum flourish for the finish salves that to a degree. As “Everlight” stretches out to nearly eight minutes, the band shows their more leisurely side, along with some proggish focus on overt meter antics. It's fluid and fun enough to make the length a non-issue, but at the same time, it doesn't feel like the length is really being put to any use other than distinguishing it on that length alone. Penultimate track “The Orb” does a better job of that, with numerous change-ups in rhythm and pacing, as well as a shot of bass reinforcement in its latter half, and at just a minute shorter than the preceding song, it shows how much sharper the band can be when they put their minds to it.
Finally, “Stone Giant” delivers a tasty closer, with some high-action guitar-work and malleable song-shaping resulting in a pleasing finish to the dream-based tale. Those who go into the album after seeing the “stoner metal spacelords” moniker found in the press release may be taken aback by the lightness of it, but there's fun and grooves to be had, so give it a go if you're looking for a way to extend the summer warmth.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Molly Hatchet, Night Horse, Sheavy, Shepherd (India), Van Halen


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Three Suns Rising...

Acid Rooster - Acid Rooster (2019)

Coming to us from Leipzig in Germany, while the three-piece of Acid Rooster are releasing their first LP this year, they've been playing together for a couple of decades or so, and have been friends since even before that. Such familiarity seems almost essential to the nature of their songs, which on this release are partially pre-written and part improvisational. As you might guess just from that description and their locale, there's a lot of psychedelic and krautrock flavors swirling about in the music of Acid Rooster,
Leading with the evocatively titled “Oculatus Abyss”, which, like all of the songs on the LP, is instrumental, AR immediately lay down a hooky bass and drums groove before quickly adding in some twisting guitar gnarls. Letting that groove foundation ride for a while to set the stage, they then take off in a variety of exploratory interpolations, bringing in pedal effects and switching them out as strikes their fancy. Despite running over five minutes, it feels much quicker than that as soon as they drop into silence with its end, which makes the eleven-minute-plus status of follow-up “Moon Loop” seem less intimidating. Taking a slow, almost drone-like start, the song audibly charges itself up as it rides along, and as sprawling as it gets, the band does an excellent job of keeping a grounding rhythmic pull going underneath the starry-minded expansiveness. It gets almost hypnotic at points, just working its magic to impressive effect, and just like the opening track, the way it draws you in makes it hard to believe that it runs as long as it does.
With “Sulfur”, the following track, things pick up into a harder groove, with some truly tasty guitar soloing laced throughout its cosmic rock-out. This is probably the track most likely to get your head knocking back and forth, and the pop-up saxophone wailing helps that impulse right along. Things cool back down with “Time Lapse”, which roams a lush soundscape of warm vibes and quavering string reverb. It's a very friendly atmosphere, particularly coming off of the somewhat spiky “Sulfur”, and as the opener of the B-side, it makes for a great transition, with some surprising poignancy tucked into its sustained measures.
“Focus” continues the chillness, just cruising along on echoing guitar lines and firm but laid-back drum pacing, but finds some extra fuel about halfway through, and starts setting off towards the sky. Guitar, bass, drums, and synths all find extra speed and sparkle, twisting into a dazzling fireworks display before coming back down to Earth. “Äther” closes out the album, with a nice bit of reflectiveness in its run-time being just a few seconds off from the first track. Unlike “Oculatus Abyss”, it takes a dark tone to its psychedelic grooving, and while it's a bit of a sharp shift from the mood of the rest of the LP, it's also a strong showing of how well the band can handle heavier and angrier flavors while maintaining their high-octane performances and sense of character. All in all, it's a fantastic album, and a thoroughly impressive first LP. If you dig on psychedelic rock, do not let this one slip past you unheard. And if you check that box and also like to get your music on vinyl, move fast, as I expect the three hundred copies pressed on that format to move fast. Here's to Acid Rooster!
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Camel, Frozen Planet....1969, Hawkwind, Mondo Drag, Zombie Picnic