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)


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)


Saturday, June 05, 2021

Weight Of A Heart...

Bong-Ra - Antediluvian (2021)

While Bong-Ra is best known for decades of work in the breakcore style, back in 2016, the one-man band experimented with doom metal, on the two-track Palestina release. Half a decade later, musician Jason Köhnen is taking a deeper run at the style, bringing together about half an hour's worth of material across four songs.

Opening with “Kheper – Pharoah's Serpent” (sic), the album's ten-minute opener operates with delicate female vocals over kicks of drums, long-reverbed waves of bass, crashes of cymbals, and squeals of feedback. Though most of the song takes a dirge-like tempo, there are outbreaks of drum frenetics, which add to the overall feel of churning currents moving deep beneath the surface. “Amun – Hidden Chambers” follows, taking its seven minutes to operate in much the same arrangement, but with some drifting piano and increased drum activity spurring things on, and the female vocals swapped out for some male groaning.

Precession of the Equinoxes” leads into the second half of the album, still more drum-driven than the preceding tracks, and more dramatic with the impacts and contrasts. The female vocals return, though they're all but drowned out by the crashing percussion, and we actually get something in the way of a riff from the down-tuned guitar presence. Lastly, “Aton – Mind Machine” follows up on that by working a distinct rhythm out of the elements in play, keeping the drums relatively concrete while the other instruments swirl around them.

Intriguingly atmospheric from start to finish, there's no denying that this album is the result of a musician wanting to push the boundaries, not just with their own talents, but also with the musical style they've chosen to play. Though there's a lot to remind listeners of Godflesh's industrial doom, the more abstracted nature of Bong-Ra's approach leans things hard into funeral doom territory, with the complementary Egyptian themes of the titles adding their own twist to things. One of those albums to put on for the purpose of letting yourself sink into the music.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dirge, Godflesh, Fleshpress, Mudslide, Ommadon


Bong-Ra - Aton - Mind Machine (320 kbps)


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Turning The Cards...

Hermit's Weedsom - As Above So Below (2021)

Making their return about half a year after the release of their first album, with a follow-up that's about twice as long as the debut, the French duo of Hermit's Weedsom are clearly aiming high and keeping their momentum up. Coming together at just over an hour across its eight tracks, the album works with an instrumental cocktail of heavy rock and prog metal, with some stoner dabs to keep things warmly casual.

Leading off with “Wheel of Fortune”, the band works a tight groove, spinning it out into elaborations, riding those out, and circling back to the original riff with some new twists to incorporate. Sharp guitar-work and tasty tones mesh well with the hold-it-down and flare-it-up styles of the drums, which pack plenty of punch in the mix. As the band continues through the album, each song gets its own focus and flavor, from the moody sorrow of “End of Cycle” to the inward-spiraling “Broken Chariot”, the craggy menace of “Emperor's Fall”, and on. Not a disappointment to be heard among them, and the band keeps things inventive from start to finish.

The track titles are all nice and evocative, and loaded with Tarot references, complementing the emotive performances of their songs while providing a sense of occult mystery to the whole package. While some may have issues with taking the whole album in one go (the shortest song is just two seconds short of seven minutes), if you've got a spare hour to sit and soak it in, you'll find the time spent to be well rewarded. Here's hoping that some savvy label signs them up for a vinyl release of these tunes; if they do, expect them to be snapped up fast. Even if this doesn't get a vinyl pressing anytime soon, get on over to the BandCamp page and grab yourself a CD or download of the album, and save it for a day when you've got time to savor some excellent music.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Rooster, Frozen Planet....1969, Necro (Brazil), Porcupine Tree, Weedpecker

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Hermit's Weedsom - Broken Chariot (320 kbps)


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Studies In Decomposition...

Coffin Lurker - Foul and Defiled (2021)

This is the first album from a two-man Dutch supergroup of dark music veterans. Bringing together Maurice De Jong (probably best known for Gnaw Their Tongues, though there's at least a dozen other projects to his name) and Rene Aquarius (likewise prolific, and half of Dead Neanderthals), this is billed as an experiment in pushing the qualities of doom metal to extremes. With the album coming together at just over half an hour in length, it's implicit that to meet that goal, these are going to be some dense songs.

Opening track “Crypt within a Crypt” gets things off to a suitable start, with an enveloping rumble of fuzzy bass joined by low, guttural vocals. The song operates mostly as an audio cocoon, shrouding the listener in morbid ambience, with shredding guitar lines mixed down to become another textural component in the murky din. “Of Suffering” continues in much the same vein, though with some of the textures changed up, and a different rhythm to the massive rumbling. The drums also get more play in this song, though they're suitably muffled, adding to the subterranean feel.

“Suspended Animation” carries on the oppressive atmosphere, with grinding guitar feedback elevated a bit in clarity, and the vocals groaning with more fervor. There's also a shift into what amounts to a bass solo, with clanging piano and drum counterpointing, for one of the more impactful passages in the album. “Sacrificial Chalice” turns up the tempo of the rumbling bass, making it a throbbing presence in the stereo field, and “Cadaverous Odor” brings things to a close with a big riff carrying it along.

While it's not quite as confrontational and unprecedented as the press releases might have it, there's still a lot to respect with the ends to which the duo have pushed this music. It's incredibly heavy, almost to a tangible degree (assuming you've got your speakers turned up loud enough), and the grime is virtually palpable. If you find yourself wanting to just sink into a pit of auditory doom, this should punch your ticket.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Cult Of Occult, Evaporated Sores, Heavydeath, Leechfeast, Meth Drinker


Coffin Lurker - Of Suffering (320 kbps)


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Anticipation And Dissolution...

Devastating Light - I Have Already Failed You (2021)

On the debut album from the Finnish band of Devastating Light, the group delivers a concept album mixing doom, sludge, and post-metal styles, built around the story of a man becoming a father, and struggling to exist in the world that surrounds him. Heavy concepts, but the band brings the music up to the level of quality to handle them. Split into three parts (titled, aptly, “Part One”, “Part Two”, and “Part Three”), the album flows with sorrowful grace and a direction to its anger.

“Part One” is almost entirely instrumental, moving from one slow and meditative riff to the next while keeping production and instrumentation pared down to a sharp and chilly minimalism. There's a bit of blackened lo-fi quality to things, with the buzzy strumming of the guitar over the sound of burning leaves, for instance. Despite the apparent simplicity of the melodies, they're emotionally affecting, with subtle twists to their progressions which slip them in even further. As “Part Two” takes over, the vocals arrive in the form of a down-mixed howl, evoking the sense of the singer being buried beneath the weight of the instruments. It works on a narrative level, too, adding another quality by which to be impressed to this debut release. On top of that, it's worth noting here that this is a one-man band, with everything “played, recorded, mixed and mastered by” musician Teemu Toikka.

Following the emotional turns and curves of the music, with its shifts through a wide range of dynamics and techniques, makes this a compelling and harrowing journey, if you're willing to sink yourself into the experience and listen along closely. Fantastic stuff, and an amazing start for the band.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dead Existence, Dirge, Endless Floods, Odradek Room, Stonerror


Devastating Light - Part Two (320 kbps)