Saturday, July 31, 2021

Honoring The Name...

Big Smile Revival - The Universal Veil (2021)


Coming at us from the Bristol region of the UK with this, their debut EP, the trio of Big Smile Revival balance retro psych rock leanings with some more modern rock rough 'n' tumble looseness.

Lead track “Sacred Mushroom” lays in a choice sample before sliding into a warm groove, which finds its way into bigger, faster, and rowdier forms as the group gets down with it. Staying instrumental, they keep the focus on the tones, rhythms, and interplay, and turn out a high-charged piece of cool exploration as a result. As the move into “Divided Kind”, a bit of a twist on pub rock rhythms sneaks its way in, spiked with enough grungy attitude to turn it on its ear. This song also brings in the vocals, which merge with the grumbly fuzz to great effect, dipping into and rising out of it as the harmony keeps moving. A tasty guitar solo gives it that much more kick, and keeps the energy up as the EP moves to its second half.

“Amhran Siog (Fairy Song)” gives a big nod to the group's regional roots, and while there is some starry-eyed folksiness to the acoustic guitar lead-in, and accompanying lightness of the vocals, BSR tap back into the straight-out rock before they lose momentum. That play with contrasts fuels the rest of the song, with the band taking alternating scoops from each, and the clearer sections put a bigger spotlight on the band's lyrical facility. Closing things out, “The Helm” indulges in some tonal lushness, riding the listener in on echoing guitar chords, with the same effect giving the vocals a spacy vibe. There's a wistful quality to the playing on this last track, pushing the band's emotional position out from the mass of the EP's rock-out approach. It's a nice show of their range, and the slowed tempo is given enough change-up in the breaks to keep it from turning into a closing lullaby. All together, great work from this group on their first outing, and enough quality across the songs to have me eagerly awaiting their next release.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Fossil, Frozen Planet....1969, The Heavy Co., Pale Grey Lore, Vanilla Trainwreck

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Big Smile Revival - Sacred Mushroom


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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Temporary Graveyard Holding...

Crypt Monarch - The Necronaut (2021)


Hailing from Costa Rica, the power trio of Crypt Monarch are making their debut with this three-song, thirty-six-minute album, recorded (according to the liner notes) “live in a cabin in the woods.” Thanks to their name and some woodcut cover art (especially that fine shade of purple), they've got a good sense of character from the start. That's especially welcome, since for the most part, the vocals aren't the focus on this album.

The evocatively titled “Morning Star Through Skull” opens things up, leaning into some heavy, hard-landing beats and long-sustain riffs to build up an atmosphere of rumbling aggression. As the song plays on, the violent aspects get more life, from bellowing vocals to fuller body on the guitar's ringing chords, and while the finishing moments don't quite pull out a solid conclusion, it still has enough appreciable moments before then to have stoner doom fans nodding along.  “Rex Meridionalis” (your guess is as good as mine on the meaning; 'King of the middle,' maybe?) picks up in a similar style once “Morning Star Through Skull” winds to a close. Once it hits its stride, though, it brings in some winding riffage alongside some metallic percussion for a nicely creepy serpentine vibe. As they lay in some heavy distortion and lean further into the riff, the rhythms hit fantastically, making for a real dark groove tune.

“Aglaophotis” keeps up the mystery titling, and finds the band taking more of a fuzz feedback tone for the guitar, feeling a bit like a lost B-side from Come... My Fanatics, at least instrumentally. The vocals get pushed way down in the mix, leaving the yells as muffled periphery. A late-song shift into more melodic focus helps put a nice capper on the album, with the circling low notes feeling like a sliding comedown. Throw in a distorted sample at the very end, and what you've got is a confident, well-realized album of deep-submersion stoner doom. Sure, there are rough spots here and there, and the length of the songs leads to some filler, but for the first album from the group, and one that was recorded live, it's more than satisfactory. Check this one out if you wish Demon Head had continued more in the vein of their original demo.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Candlemass, DoomLord, early Electric Wizard, Pilgrim, Reverend Bizarre

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Crypt Monarch - Rex Meridionalis (320 kbps)

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Saturday, July 17, 2021

Elusive Illumination...

Fell Harvest - Pale Light in a Dying World (2021)


Following up on their self-titled EP from last year, the power trio of Fell Harvest have made their return with a solid forty minutes of forceful doom metal. Peppering in a little bit of spoken word samples here and there, the main focus remains firmly on the strength of the instruments' impact, moods that lean more towards rage than sorrow, and pressing ever onwards.

With “Titanicide”, the opening track, the band sets a powerful first foot forward. Pounding percussion, strident vocals, and insistent strings come together in punchy chords and hooky riff arrangements. Some sharp guitar work gives those hooks all the more ability to lodge in the back of your brain, and the speed with which the band rams through their ideas makes the four-minutes-and-change practically zoom past. As the title track follows up on that initial salvo, expanding into an eight-minute rambler, the band finds more room for slow melodic focus. It should be noted that, in spite of the song names, there's fairly few moments of sorrowful calm to be found in the album; funeral doom, this is not. But the times when it does arrive (as with the extended bridge in the title track) are well-used, making the inevitable returns to thunderous pummeling feel more impactful.

Thankfully, the interplay of the band members is reliably interesting and inventive, shifting focus around the trio's talents to strong effect, and keeping the songs feeling that much more vitalized as a result. In particular, when they unite around a main driving riff, things really kick into gear (see “The Lark at Morning” for a strong example). Similarly, when they give attention to grinding down a particular rhythm (as in “Thy Barren Fields”), the results are some of the album's heaviest. All in all, it's a very strong album from the band, and one with enough twists in the compositions to reward return visits. Here's hoping that their next album finds a little more time to spend in the melodics and sorrow, though.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Candlemass, The Fateful Hour, Heavydeath, Opeth, Pilgrim

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Fell Harvest - Thy Barren Fields (320 kbps)

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Saturday, July 03, 2021

Heavy Cosmic Tides...

Inner Missing - Deluge (2021)


On their first album since clearing the one-decade anniversary of their first release, the Russian group of Inner Missing have put together eight tracks of gothic doom metal, blending melancholic reflections with powerful rhythmic work and aching tones from their strings.

“In the Haze” gets things off to a strong start, showcasing the band's skill with nimbly sliding from one exploratory movement to the next, carrying listeners along through rousing action and somber focus. While that lush songwriting style persists throughout the album, as does the general mood of regretful introspection, the band has clearly taken pains to distinguish the tracks, to excellent effect. From the broad-buzzing guitar timbre affected for “Daybreak”, to the hard riffing of “Locusts” and the staggered beats of the title track, the songs find ways both immediate and more subtle to stand apart while cohering to a recognizably persistent musical personality.

The work put in by drummer Dmitry Kim deserve special mention, as it does a fantastic job of shaping the emotion and energy of the songs, even when just providing a backbeat to more elaborate guitar tonality. The band plays wonderfully together, building off of each other's heat to reach some blow-away crescendos, and accenting the more emotive parts of the songs without getting treacly. Ultimately, it's an excellently crafted set of songs, and one from which fans of textured, heartfelt doom will get plenty of enjoyment.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Below, Devastating Light, Earthling, Heavydeath, Pilgrim

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Inner Missing - Daybreak (320 kbps)

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Into The Cosmos...

Planet of the Dead - Pilgrims (2021)


Following up on their debut album from February of last year, the New Zealander quartet of Planet Of The Dead have made quick turn-around to bring us this sophomore LP. Filled with references to sci-fi hallmarks like Alien, Dune, and RoboCop in the track titles and lyrics, with asteroid-drifting art for the album cover, the band makes no bones about their inspirations and pop culture fondnesses.

Opening with “Gom Jabbar”, the band takes a few moments for spaceship engine noise feedback to set an atmosphere before crashing into full sludge banger mode. Confident guitar crunch and flavorful bass-lines join the cymbal-heavy percussion and deep growls from the vocalist, coming together as a tight sludge package. The rest of the album doesn't drift far from that initial MO, but each song does get some tweaks to help it stand out. For semi-title-track “Pilgrim”, for instance, there's more of a groove focus, while “Nostromo” gets some slowed breaks, “The Sprawl” lets in some tasty soloing, and so on.

For those looking for sludge with overt sci-fi flavoring, news of PotD's continued output should come as welcome news. The band's willingness to switch to doomier slowness for breakdowns serves the spacy settings well, and a scattering of opening samples from the referenced movies add an extra touch of fun. With all the color pressings of their previous album already sold out (and one of the special pressings for this one already in the same boat), you'll want to act fast if you prefer your sludge on wax. Whether the band keeps up their annual schedule, or spaces the next one out a bit more, they're certainly becoming big players in a niche sub-genre.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Gallileous, giant gutter from outer space, Space God Ritual, Tides of Sulfur, Voidlurker

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Planet of the Dead - Escape from Smith's Grove (320 kbps)

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Saturday, June 12, 2021

Stellar Travel Report...

SpaceMetal - Highness (2021)


It's been a while since we last heard from the NOLA-based group of SpaceMetal; their last LP, Shroud, dropped back in 2018, and it's been fairly quiet on their digital front since then. Now, thankfully, the group has returned with another batch of songs, this time in honestly-titled EP form, to reassure the world that their heaviness is alive and well.

First of the EP's four tracks is “Stare”, an eight-minute cruiser which plays around with acoustic guitar and spoken-word vocals for an intro before diving into the deep bass and big-body riffs which make up its majority. With a wizard standing at the center of the lyrics, the band keeps a friendly vibe going through the crunch of the tunes, and the strong flow makes the eight minutes fly by. “Cry” follows, working a twistier main riff loaded with earworm hooks. Playing with rhythm change-ups and brandishing big guitar chords, the band manages to make this song feel just as full (if not more so) as the eight-minute track, despite running three minutes shorter.

The title track opens up the EP's second half, ratcheting up the psychedelic traces with some echoing vocal effects and more sedate guitar work. The drums get to come out a bit more in this one, flexing on the cymbal emphasis and experimenting with the fills mid-measure. Lastly, “The Seed” holds on to the psych touches while bringing back the acoustic guitar from the very start of the EP, providing a nice cohering element while wrapping things up. All in all, while it runs just under half an hour, there's enough depth to the songs to let listeners dive right down while it plays, and come out feeling not just that their time and attention was well-spent, but that there's more to be heard next time they spin it. Grab it for yourself once it releases June 26th, or just head over to the BandCamp now to stream it ahead of time.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Attalla, Dead Hand, Tar Pit, Wizard Cult, Wizard Smoke

SpaceMetal - Cry (320 kbps)

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