Saturday, August 08, 2020

Transcending Ignoble Impulses...

Sumokem - Prajnaparadha (2020)

Following up on their advance single for “Fakir” at the start of this year, the Little Rock-based group of Sumokem have released their latest LP, their third since kicking off with The Madness of Lu Shen Ti, Vol. 1 back in 2015. Running slightly under an hour across its six tracks, Prajnaparadha shows the band in great form, putting deep consideration into not just the individual song composition, but also how they fit into and build off of each other.

Leading off with “Prologue” (easily the album's shortest song, at three minutes and change), Sumokem set up a base-line atmosphere of muted choral voices, brooding piano melodics, and deceptively complex percussion. Working through its progressions, the group establishes a sense of deliberation and craftsmanship, which they temper by introducing some rough-edged guitar and bass in the following track, “Nihang”. There's some understated noodling going on here from the guitar, which helps cut the serious tone and keep it from feeling overwrought. Vocals are used with care, tending to a rumbling growl when they appear (though some clean contrast does crop up), and the instruments generally dominate the track. Gnarled and twisting as the song-writing is inclined to be, the hooks bite deep, and pull listeners along with the momentum and beats.

“Parak-Dar” picks up from there, tracing out a similar groove as the end of the preceding song for a bit, before switching to more of a roll-and-stop rhythm, and a number of others after that. A stripped-down break again highlights the group's facility with morose melody foundations, gradually building back up into tension and a bit of a duel between the guitar and bass. The high/low opposition is held onto and developed intriguingly, with the guitar going higher still as the vocals growl deeper, and another twisting passage leads the way to the second half of the album.

With “Sadhu”, Sumokem turn up the headbanging energy, while holding on to their doom/prog cocktail dynamics. They also find room for some lush harmonic interludes, balanced out by some heavy-crunching bass lead runs. “Fakir” (which we've linked below) follows, with some echo pedal lending things further mystic vibes, while the sense of deliberation gets a resurgence in the careful beat deployment. It's a strong pick for the album's lead single, as it gets across a lot of their character, showcases their song-writing skills, and gives a wide range of emotional evocation. Lastly, “Khizer” rides in with a hard riff to keep listeners' heart-rates up 'til the end. It also features more vocal interplay than any of the preceding tracks, and the song's shifting structure makes the final crescendo strike incredibly hard.

All in all, it's an excellent album, putting Sumokem's talents in clear relief with excellent execution. It's also impressive for how cleanly they've set aside the usual metal album preoccupation with finding a particular sub-genre (e.g., stoner doom, tech death, etc.) and diving headlong into it. Instead, Sumokem pull from a wide variety of styles, blending them into their open-eared metal foundation in whatever way will serve the song's growth. It's a song-writing approach that's sadly too infrequently undertaken, but Prajnaparadha is a fantastic demonstration of how well it can pay off. Seekers of ambitious metal, put this one on your list, and pick up a copy when it lands on digital September 4th, and with a vinyl release from Cursed Tongue Records in November.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Abstracter, Ancient Lights, Flight of the Seraphim, Funerary, Hijo de la Tormenta

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Sumokem - Fakir (320 kbps)

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Saturday, August 01, 2020

Fumes And Sparks...

BongBongBeerWizards - Albong (2020)


Following up on a rehearsal track from 2017 and their debut EP from the start of last year, BongBongBeerWizards (you're already down just from the name, right?) are a German trio with plenty of fuzz to live up to their chosen moniker. With the time off to craft this return release, there's more thoughtfulness to the music's arrangements than the name might suggest, and they carry themselves well, pulling off a tough balance of garage-like cragginess and expansively spacy polish.
Leading off with “Melothrone” (which I'm guessing is an allusion to the classic Mellotron), the new EP gets off to an enjoyably grimy start. Riding deep feedback rumbles and pacing itself with the drummer's wary-sounding beats, the tune grinds through the grooves with a serrated sort of vibe, building momentum until the vocals arrive in an effects-laden entrance. Providing warping tension, mixed somewhat low against the rough riffage of the guitar and the rising punch of the drums, the wordless (or so I'd guess) singing lends things a spike of psychedelic vibrance to lift the heavy doom patterns. Running just over nine minutes, it's a clear guide to their style and character for those who might have missed the earlier efforts. They even pack in a break and bridge before the last couple of minutes, with an hooky rolling riff against cymbal clangs providing a bit of good-natured spookiness before the fuzz comes in like a tall tide.
“Journey” follows from there, easily the shortest track of the EP at just under three minutes, and it turns the atmospheric inclinations shown earlier into a short but haunting bit of tone exploration. It's a nice (and high-contrast) break with the weightiness of the opening track, and concisely demonstrates the band's facility with sparser song-writing, while keeping it both bare and forthright enough to bust any beliefs that they're getting by on the FX. The clean vocals, slight string echo, and restrained percussion all come together wonderfully, lulling the listener into a chill before the next song strikes.
“Meathead” rides an opening touch of drone into more somber territory, with the vocals shifting down to an ominous and thoroughly distorted call-and-response dynamic between the higher and lower singing. Riding the groove deeper and deeper, augmenting it with additional layers of instrumentation (or just more pedal activation, maybe), they pull some real Sleep vibes into action, providing what will likely be the high point for many listeners. Lastly, at more than ten minutes by itself, there's “Summoning”. I have to acknowledge that the opening of this had my cat spellbound. After its 'doom UFO' antics fade out, the heavier, more serious side of BongBongBeerWizards returns, prowling through a valley of semi-jammy but still powerful stoner doom flexes. It deflates the tension built by the preceding tracks, to a degree, but it also feels like a fitting finish, just kind of sprawling out into the smoke. All in all, there's a lot to dig into with this EP, so if stoner doom is one of your preferred styles, be sure to get a copy once it drops.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Atomic Trip, Electric Wizard, Hypnochron, Ladybird, Sleep




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Saturday, July 25, 2020

Breaking Old Molds...

Monolith Grows! - Interregnum EP (2020)


Running two tracks on vinyl, and three in digital form, this EP is the latest from Monolith Grows!, whom we last checked in on back in 2015. Back then, they were still going by just 'Monolith', and had released their Even More album. With this new release, the Italian group have assembled some deeply enjoyable and surprisingly hooky tunes to lift your spirits in the tumult of 2020, with All Right Riserva Recordz picking it up for release.
First up is “Nicolas Cage”, a rumbling cruiser working off of a solid riff, with a blend of heavy rock and stoner metal flavors keeping it fun while digging into gnarly grooves. The extensive cymbal-bashing helps with that lightening of the tone, while the vocals rock on in a nice fusion of modern and retro stylings. There's plenty of energy, and the twists taken by the melodic direction lift it above much of the output that's come through in comparable heavy music lately.
“Nicolas Kim Coppola”, the digital-exclusive track, can be heard as something of a reworking of the first, operating from a similar groove, but dropping the cymbal prominence somewhat, leading to a more grounded run that lets the guitar's tone come through better. It's also about a minute shorter overall, and ends on a fade-out, giving the impression of a 'radio edit', wherever there's radio stations cool enough to play this.
Lastly, “Shade and Sleep” fades back up into a cool drum-and-guitar exchange, before the guitar takes it solo to heat things into the main ride. The heavy rock takes a bit more of a turn into yesteryear's dynamics here, with the bass strings allowed to rattle just a bit, injecting some hang-loose cool into the vibrant head-banging energy they let loose. Loaded with still more twist-ups and break-downs, it brings the EP to a victorious close, pumping out enough energy to make listeners wanna cycle right back to the start for another go. The band describes the EP as being a shift into more acid rock territory, and judging by the quality they've put on display here, their upcoming album (currently scheduled for 2021) will be a true treat, packed with creativity and indelible hooks. As of this review's writing, there are still vinyl copies of the Interregnum EP available, but you'll need to move fast to snag one, as only fifteen are left.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Craneon, Lint, Monocluster, Mother Mars, RHINO (Italy)




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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Talisman Of Change...

Merlock - that which speaks... (2020)


Following up on a couple of advance singles between their 2018 debut EP/demo and this new one, the quartet of Merlock (named for the Christopher Lloyd villain from DuckTales, I'm hoping) bring a cool blend of heavy psych and doom metal to action over the course of the four songs on that which speaks....
Kicking off with “Idolon”, the band establishes a solid riff before reinforcing it with extra fuzz, bass, and treated vocals, lending things a gloomy, semi-mystical air. That continues for a couple of minutes, before picking up speed into a near-thrashy groove that brings the guitar out in greater relief. Tasty bridges and pedal effects draw listeners through the midway of the song before revisiting the earlier riffs with still more intensity, and the vocals rise to match it, before fading away in favor of distorted shredding.
An abrupt cut makes way for “Prolapse”, which picks up still more thrash flavoring with its rolling guitar progressions and steady cymbal clangs. Some fun noodling dominates most of the ride, with the vocalist hanging back and picking their break-out moments with care, and the main hook of the song is almost guaranteed to get lodged in your head long after you listen. “[Vessel]” follows, building a thick atmosphere around slow-moving measures and tonal sustains, with enough shifts throughout the song to keep things engaging and fun.
Lastly, “Condemnation” brings a bit of a death metal edge to the guitar and bass riffage, though the song grows slower and heavier as it progresses, finishing out the EP on a sinking moan. All together, it's a solid sophomore release, with a good showcasing of the band's abilities in a variety of approaches to their psych/doom blend. There's a limited run of cassettes (fifty copies) available for order through Merlock's BandCamp, or you can go with the digital version. Either way, you'll be getting some tunes that are quite easy to let yourself sink into and enjoy.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Demon Head, Goya, Pilgrim, Sleep, Venus Sleeps




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Saturday, July 11, 2020

No Time To Sit...

Guided Meditation Doomjazz - No Throne (2020)


Following up an EP, a live album, and a single, all released within the past year, the Austin-based trio of Guided Meditation Doomjazz are back with another four tracks. One of those was used for the aforementioned single (“Swamps of Sadness”, with another nod to The Neverending Story in its cover art), but the other three are fresh for this offering.
The release leads off with the title track, building from ominous words of nullification into a heavy but nuanced groove. With reminders to “breathe in, breathe out,” the song curls along on thick-toned bass-lines and a bowed instrument (which occasionally mimics an electric organ in timbre) providing the foundation over which the vocals drift. There's definitely a heavy psych vibe at play, but with some of that Austin fusion mentality in the works, things take an unpredictable course. “Swamps of Sadness” follows, with a poker-faced recitation of Atreyu's quest and loss of his horse. An interpretation of Giorgio Moroder's score for that section of the film accompanies the proceedings, but with the shift from synths to analog, there's an interesting adjustment of the mood to match.
Imagine Relief” provides a rise up from the despair of the preceding track, though it keeps the mood low and heavy. It builds into a slow-loping riff carrying itself and the vocals into rising intensity and action, until they burst loose from a drum crescendo back into the original take, though now counter-playing against echoes of itself. Lastly, “New Nostalgia” picks up into a comparatively brighter groove, noodling along on the bass while the cymbals get prominent deployment. It all comes together as an interesting experience, fitting the band's name while giving your ears quite a bit to chew on. If you've been looking for something distinct and different in the doom realm, this will certainly fit the bill.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Merlin, Morphine, The Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, Shadowmaster, Wyatt E.




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Saturday, July 04, 2020

See, Hear, Feel...

Sound of Origin - The All Seeing Eye (2020)


After popping up with their Seeds of the Past EP back in 2017, and making an appearance on last year's Doomed & Stoned in England compilation, the quartet of Sound of Origin have rolled back around with their first full album, boasting fifty minutes of stoner-tinged doom across nine songs.
First of the bunch is “Not Dead Yet”, with some lancing guitar and booming bass chords setting things up for a run of slow and heavy riffage. The title track pops out of that form, briefly, with a burst of higher-tempo drumming opening it up before sliding right back into regular stoner doom proceedings. Good mixing keeps the bass unmuddled, while the slight sinking of the vocals makes them a part of the crunches and fuzz. A mid-way break launches things back into the higher energy altitudes, before arcing back down into a bass riff that makes up for the interlude with extra weightiness.
And, for the most part, that MO carries the album. There's twists of sludge (as in “Dim Carcosa” and “Lockjaw”, their choice for lead single), and Sabbathy melodics (“Morning Bird”), but the grounding in that style established by the opening tracks is always evident, however tweaked. Luckily, the interplay between the bass and drums (like the opening cruise of “Stoned Messiah Blues”) keeps things fun enough to buoy the listener through the album. It's an easy one to let yourself let go and float along with, thanks to the solid riffs throughout each song, and the momentum rarely lets up.
Closing out with the nine-minutes-and-change of “Tempest Dunes”, the band stretches their riffs and scope out to monstrous sizing, working a call-and-return structure to fun effect. All together, it should be a nice treat for stoner doom fans who've been looking for a new group to add to their rotation. The All Seeing Eye goes up for sale on August 21st, through APF Records.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Attalla, Dopethrone, Godsleep, Tar Pit, Wizard Smoke




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