Sunday, August 28, 2016

Thunder And Destruction...

- Tuho (2016)

After warming up with a couple of EPs over the past couple of years, Finnish group Dö have released their first full-length album, and the six tracks held within it present their sludgy doom in fine form, deploying gruff vocals, pounding drums, and low-growling strings in a swampy mass of beats and anger.  "Born Under Black Wings" opens things up with a roar, pursuing that initial burst of power with dogged determination, throwing chunky chords and snarls around without fear.  "Everblast II (The Aftermath)" follows, switching in some higher pitch for the guitar and bringing some earworm melodies with it, riding the riffs through thundering drum-work and the lower strings' rumble. From there, "Ex Oblivione" shows more of that melodic side, with an instrumental ride through uneasy atmosphere and increasingly pressurized measures swelling to monstrous slamming.  "Kylmä" rides a rugged groove in to pick up where "Ex Oblivione" leaves off, working its main riff with focus and wonderful grime to the tones.  "Hail the Fire", the shortest track by far at a little under two and a half minutes, provides a calm interlude on acoustic guitar, with vocals toned down to match its quiet contrast.
But then "Forsaken Be Thy Name" rips into life, with its ~12-minute runtime to bring things to an end, and those moments of softness are gone, stomped out by a colossus of pain, savagery, and regret.  Sometimes using the full instrument set, and paring it down for aching power at other moments, the song makes for an excellent close-out to the album, showing even more variety to Dö's expansive style.  For a first album, the presentation by the band should have them winning over the ears of heavy music fans around the world in short order, so be sure you give them a listen as soon as you can.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Attalla, Funeral Horse, Green Fiend, Oldd Wvrms, Wounded Giant


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Gorging On Ether...

Devourer of Heaven - When the Sky Fell EP (2016)

This first EP from the Los Angeles-based doom project Devourer of Heaven is the work of Alex Makuch, who wrote, performed, recorded, and mixed all of the songs.  "Rise" starts off the EP in a sedate tone, strings being gently warmed up, before the heavier elements filter into place.  Some nice grime to the guitar tone clears the way for the growled vocals, and as the guitar picks up into wilder life, the bass and drums swell out into a grander scope, fitting well with the track's title and laying a strong groundwork for what follows.
"Fire and Pain" takes it from there, with guest Sten Hasselquist contributing some extra guitar layers, as the mood shifts to more of a melodic doom sensibility, though the hard edges of the break-downs retain the kick of the first song.  A smooth shift carries on into "Empire Dead", showing some more overt funeral doom influences (balanced by some lively howls from guitar) as the weight of the chords intensifies and the bridging riffs slow.
Lastly, "Gallows Prayer" returns to the initial calm of "Rise", savoring some slow-picked notes before blooming into a lush arrangement working thick-nested drum-work against the slower strings, and finishing with a solid flourish and declension.  The variety put into the songs speaks well for the DoH project's future, as there's a sense of fruitful experimentation to each of the songs.  Far from being a one-note style worshipper, Makuch seems to be taking pleasure in finding ways of fusing non-obvious aspects of different doom strains together for something which challenges him, while not going overboard enough to lose grasp of the songs' main drives.  Good stuff all around, and a very promising start for the band.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Battle Path, Blind Samson, Crimson Altar, The Munsens, Pillar of Leviathan


Friday, August 26, 2016

Joyriding Meteoroids...

Stonecutter - Space Ride EP (2016)

Making their debut with this EP (which is titled as simply Stonecutter EP on their BandCamp), this duo from Poland introduce themselves to the world with five tracks focused on having fun with that mix of styles that Polish groups seem so adept with: namely, doom/stoner metal with a wide streak of psychedelia and some bluesy currents.
Opening track "Tombstone" draws listeners into the action with eight minutes of instrumental cruising, building momentum and craggy riffs with thick fuzzy bass to serve as their tarmac, before "Space Rock" activates the jets to break out of the atmosphere and head for outer space with plans of bleary-eyed mischief.  Alternating between deep, hard crunches and more open acoustic environments for the strings, the song keeps things burning along without staying too rooted in what came before it.
The band's self-titled track picks up from there, sprawling out over more than nine minutes, and slipping into a mellower ride (one which literally gave me goosebumps as the tones slid over each other), though it's not too long before the heaviness re-emerges, with pedal treatments of the strings producing something akin to gravity's pull in audio form.  "Stone Cold Blues" picks up after that, getting even crunchier and dirtier with the riffs, and finally, "Klint Westwood" provides a two-minute wrap-up with a spaced-out take on a familiar melody.
As a whole, the EP does a great job of showing off the duo's talents, covering a nice range of varying styles, heaviness, and techniques in execution, while leaving enough unsaid to build temptation for follow-ups.  Personally, I can't wait to hear more from this band, so I'll be hoping that they get the recognition and support from fans that they've earned with their work so far.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Acid Elephant, Dead Thunder, Frozen Planet....1969, Gallileous, Major Kong


Monday, August 22, 2016

Season of the Blues...

Slow Season - Westing (2016)
Slow Season's third outing, Westing, kicks off with a frenetic blues rock jam that sounds like the bastard child of Clutch and Led Zeppelin.  Propulsive, energetic and impossible to dislike Y'Wanna fulfils the classic role of an opening track.  It grabs you where it hurts and it never lets go.
The thumping, hard hitting drum work may lack discretion but it does supply the sort of furious backing Bonham would be happy with whilst the stop start riffage of Flag owes a similarly large debt to Jimmy Page.  If the spirit of Led Zeppelin hangs heavy over Slow Season then it's no bad thing and nothing that a million doom bands haven't done with Black Sabbath.
In ways more than just their influences, Slow Season have a decidedly retro aesthetic.  The majority of the songs on Slow Season fade out, rather than lasting until their natural endings.  It might not seem a lot but it hasn't been the norm to fade rock songs out since the seventies.  The slow grinding blues rock of The Jackal summons to mind the dust drenched blues of the deltas as re-imagined through the sphere of scuzzy old school hard rock.
Slow Season may not be innovators as such but there is something paradoxically refreshing about their sound.  You can compare them to the old legends all you like but it doesn't diminish the fact that they're actually very good at what they do and Slow Season proves this as much here if not more than their previous efforts.
If criticism had to be meted it would lie for me with the production; on songs like Saurekonig there's a slightly murkiness to the sound - a lack of instrument clarity.  Perhaps this is intentional, but a drier more directly punchy production would have better suited these decidedly to-the-point songs.  It's a small fly in an otherwise very enticing jar of ointment though.
Make no mistake, those who like their rock heavy on the dirt and even heavier on the blues will find much to enjoy here.  Those who don’t like heavily influenced music might be best to move on, as it's not hard to identify the album’s roots if you're out to do so – but I see no reason to penalise them for that.  Slow Season have produced an excellent heavy blues rock record here and those enamoured with the genre's downtrodden charm should give this album a listen pronto.
~ Martin

For fans of; Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Wishbone Ash, Groundhogs, Kadavar

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Burning On And On...

Stone House On Fire - Neverending Cycle (2016)

Neverending Cycle is the second full album from this Brazilian group, and with it, they groove through eight tracks of solid heavy rock, seasoned with retro psychedelia and a more modern touch of hardness to their rock.  Savory guitar tones rolled in light fuzz, jazzy drum-work, a strong sense of atmosphere, and grooves crafted to sink firmly into memory are cooked into an impressively detailed album.
The care taken with building momentum across the songs is another strong point, with a swift rise through the first half, a breather in the form of ~2-minute "Pasaje", and a ramping up through the last three songs, ending with the ~7-minute rampage of the title track, which wraps things up with plenty of flourish.
It's an album that's easy to just let yourself get absorbed by, soaking up the powerful riffs and rhythms, but at the same time, it's one which rewards careful listening, picking out the nuances of those sweeping drives.  Pre-orders are up now for vinyl and cassette copies, so if you've got a taste for heavy rock that does more than just imitate the old ways, do yourself a favor and check in on SHOF.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Earth Drive, Gripe, Hijo de la Tormenta, Mondo Drag, Montaña Electrica


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Feel Them Twisting...

CEBO))) - GUTS (2016)

One-man sludge band CEBO))) is back with five more tracks on this new release, rolling on the momentum of Bloodwheel, which was released back in January.  Starting off with "Hill Country", a series of vocal samples from bluesmen and killers are threaded together with an undercurrent of bassy menace and understated humor, doing a great job of setting the mood while telling its own story.  The title track follows, launching into more dominant bass and bringing in the rest of the instruments, including the gruffly raw vocals, as a prickly riff develops into a craggy groove, leading listeners further in with the slow-bounce beats and thick tones.  "Sinkhole" makes for the last of the release's original tracks, getting further down in the swampy sidling rhythms before exiting on a keening note.
From there, a mean and gritty take on Cream's "Blue Condition" churns out the grime, switching between the vocals used on the previous two tracks and a cleaner (but synth-burbled) voice treatment, lending the interpretation a nice polish even while it swims in the muck.  Lastly, a cover of Willie Dixon's "Meet Me in the Bottom" cranks through it at high speed, making for a style that's like rockabilly filtered through sludge's sensibilities, and bouncing along like a pick-up with aging suspension.
The songs show a further growth of CEBO)))'s experimental nature, as well as the way the elements are assembled, and above all, he seems to be having fun with the material.  Check this one out if you want some sludge that recognizes its bluesy roots.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Church of Misery, Chronobot, Dopethrone, Groggy, Weedeater