Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Fruited Rosary...

Caustic Casanova - Pantheon: Volume 3 (2018)

Continuing a series they've been running since 2014, Caustic Casanova pack the A-side of Pantheon: Volume 3 with three songs of their own devising to complement the cover of Weedeater's “God Luck and Good Speed” on the B-side. Leading with “Clown Butter”, the three-piece D.C. group blur together a number of styles, with punk, groove metal, stoner rock, and more evident in the twitchy riffs, funked-out bass-lines, and bumping drum-work. Keeping the track instrumental, the band twists and dips through enough nuttiness to pass as a lost Frank Zappa tune, while continually revving up the energy and pressure.
Carrying on from there with “Everyone's Goddamn Business”, CC shift into a heavier gear, something akin to a proggier cut from Kyuss' Welcome to Sky Valley, though the arrival of the dual vocals put my mind in the neighborhood of Acid King and general-purpose grunge. Carrying plenty of melodic jumps and fake-outs, the song runs through its duration before you can fully grasp everything it's doing, and dives from there right into the last of the EP's originals, “Stampede”. True to its name, the song rides up with a galloping riff and rising speed, pulling you along for the trip with an assortment of hooks and groove mutations.
A bit of banjo and fuzzy bass rumbling sets a suitable opening for the Weedeater cover, and despite the absence of Dixie's distinctive voice, CC do a great job of paying homage to the original while giving it their own coat of style. It's a little friendlier in mood and tone, and not just because of the cleaner vocals (though the growls are certainly present). The strings are a little warmer, the feedback less abrasive, and the guitar less choppy, but it all feels in line with the weird fun of the A-side's contents. Though it all comes together at just about twenty minutes of material, there's a lot to take in across the four tracks, and the band comes out sounding enthusiastic, inventive, and cool. Snag a copy on vinyl or digital; or, if you've got to have things on tape or CD, you can grab a collection of all three Pantheon releases (with an alternate version of “God Luck”) on either of those formats. In any event, do yourself a favor and check this crew out.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Kola Turbo, Crown Larks, Frank Sabbath, Queen Crescent, Zombie Picnic


Saturday, February 09, 2019

Bizarre Parables and Spooky Psalms...

Sacred Monster - Worship the Weird (2019)

We last heard from Sacred Monster back in the days of 2015, with the two tracks of their sophomore EP, Monster Double Feature. Nearly a decade into the band's tenure, they're releasing their first full album, bearing eight tracks fusing groovy heavy metal with a broad range of horror influences and black/death metal-styled vocals. The riffs are fun and lively, the spikes of embellishment done with high style (check out the harmonized peaking in “The Wraith” when you get a chance), the rhythms both solid and fluid, and it's clear that the band had fun devising the assorted ways of communicating horror flavors and occurrences in musical form.
The melodic flavor of “Waverly Hills” (one of the tracks based on a horror story of the band's own devising) brings Ghost to mind, to an extent, but for the most part, it's hard to pull comparisons to other bands for the songs. You might think 'Oh, there's some Motorhead,' or 'That feels kind of Quiet Riot-ish,' but outside of the band leaning more towards '80s heavy metal than the more occult-flavored '70s groups, their influences seem too diverse to pin down. The guitar-work leads most of the songs, and the guitarist does a great job of coming up with ways to keep the character and approaches of his role fresh, going from bluesy to thrashy to old-school heavy metal on a dime. The rest of the band meshes into it superbly, ramping up and toning down as the tone demands, and the band as a whole does a great job of keeping consistent character going without tiring it out by riding one atmosphere through the full album. The full thing drops on March 1st, with digital, CD, and T-shirt versions available, so be sure to check it out if you've been looking for some hard-rocking metal with a nice splash of variety to it.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Below, Dr. Living Dead!, Lordi, Merlin, Pilgrim


Saturday, February 02, 2019

Shivers And Stairways...

OLDD WVRMS - Codex Tenebris (2019)

It's been a couple of years since OLDD WVRMS' last release, the EP-compiling Ritae, and in the time since that reorienting, they've worked up about an hour's worth of new material. Said hour is split into five tracks on Codex Tenebris, opening with “Ténèbres”, a mournful but hard-edged cruiser of a tune which neatly establishes the vibes of the album. Brooding bass, flexible drumming, and gnashing guitar are twisted through tempos ranging from moderate to swampy slow, and the riffs shimmer despite the grimy tonality that surrounds them. “A l'or, aux ombres et aux abîmes” follows, bringing a stiffer attitude and heavier crushing, but also a spookier atmosphere in the reverb-drenched melodies. The powerful riffs get a good workout here, bringing more of both tension and emotive regret, and making a nicely low-key nest for itself before “Misère & Corde” comes slamming in.
The midway track pushes harder into standard metal territory than the preceding tracks, but handles that shift with excellent poise, balancing the near-shredding portions with retreats into echoing doom-lit corridors of honed menace. With the next track, “La vallée des tombes”, there's a shift back into the slower morbidity, with a funeral doom-ish sort of tone study and permeating sadness, though it does raise a little prog flavor with a mutating rhythm passage, and kicks into hard gear towards the end.
Lastly, “Fléau est son âme” drifts even further into the murky melancholy, taking a couple of minutes to quietly meander before emerging into a solid melody. From there, it's a ~10-minute ride through rising pressures and unsettling atmosphere, with the band's handling of both serving to impress. There's not a weak song in the bunch, and the variety offers something for different listeners with different tastes. Pretty damn impressive, and well worth snagging once it drops on Cursed Monk Records come February 15th.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Hesperian Death Horse, Jupiterian, Lifeless Gaze, Sunwolf, Trees


Friday, February 01, 2019

Tar Pit Interview

Having just released their debut album, Tomb of Doom, the Portland-based group of Tar Pit specialize in doom metal with influences both modern and old-school, and the band's way with riffs, atmosphere, and flow made a great impression on us (you can check out our review right here).  The band was kind enough to give us some time and indulge our questions, letting us know the details behind the band's beginnings and where they plan to go from here.

The Burning Beard: Hi there, and thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us!  Why don't we start with a rundown of who's currently in the band? And what are the musical backgrounds for each of you?

Brandon: As of right now, there are just four of us in the band including myself on rhythm guitar, Mathew on vocals, Stephen on lead guitar, and Derek on drums.

As far as my own background in music, I’ve bounced around from multiple bands playing bass and guitar for various projects for the past 10 years. Oddly enough, I don't really listen to a whole lot of doom metal. I tend to listen to a lot of punk/hardcore, “grunge”, and old timey blues along with whatever else I picked up from my dad, step-dad and grandpas.

Mat: My only musical history I have is that I have played alto sax for about eight years, specializing in blues. I only started singing seriously like 4 years ago for this band. But I too tend to listen to more 'grunge' and '70s rock and roll.

Derek: I mainly listen to old school death metal and thrash.

Stephen: I’ve mostly played sludge and doom with a bit of punk/hardcore in high school.

TBB: Hayden Johnson amicably departed his position as bassist back in January. What are you looking for in the search to refill that role?

Brandon: Right now we are not in a hurry to find a replacement. It's unfortunate that Hayden ended up leaving the band, especially before the album dropped. All of us are on good terms, though, and Derek and I actually play in another band with Hayden, so we still get to make music together.

I think when the time comes to start searching for a new bassist for this band, we are going to look for someone who is passionate about the style and sound of the band and is able to contribute to the writing process as far as riffs and moving lines. Being able to put up with me is also a plus, haha.

TBB: What was the original 2014 line-up of Tar Pit like? Did that incarnation make it past song-writing/jam sessions to do any live shows?

Brandon: The original version of the band (at least from my point of view) consisted of Derek, Mathew and original guitarist Alex Stanley. I took part in the first few sessions as well, and that's when "Bruja" was written. I ended up leaving to pursue another band and after I left, Hayden joined the band as bassist. The band ended up dissolving shortly after due to secondary bands, and the fact that Tar Pit was originally a side project for various members. No live shows ever happened with that line-up.

TBB: Riffs are a big part of Tomb of Doom's songs, but the solos make a big impression, too. How hard was it to settle on where to insert those, and what were some of the flavors Stephen Hoffman had in mind when he was constructing the solos?

Brandon: I can't speak for Stephen on behalf of constructing solos, but as far as the arrangement of riffs and where to put leads, I tend to be very vocal about the way I’m hearing the songs in my head and how I would like things to go. I can be pretty annoying to work with, but I’m very picky about how I want things to sound when it comes to the big picture.

Stephen: The reasoning behind where the solos ended up varies depending on the song. Some of the songs pre-dated my time with the band, so there was a certain element of trying to maintain some continuity with earlier demos. In general though, we placed the solos and leads where we thought it would most help break up a riff, and keep things lively, or to elaborate melodically on a particular riff that we wanted to draw out. As for the solos themselves, I try to keep things nice and bluesy, but the occasional minor-key melody or sloppy punk bit will come through.

TBB: What were the song-writing sessions like for Tomb of Doom? Were there any songs that changed significantly as a result of how they handled in live shows? And for those not in the Portland area, how many other songs does Tar Pit have that haven't yet made their way onto studio recordings?

Brandon: The sessions began in early March of 2017, when the band decided to regroup and I stepped in as the guitarist. The first song I wrote was what ended up being "Sauin". Mat and I would get in a room together and I would have him play drums. We would pretty much just drink and hash out ideas and then show them to Derek and Hayden. If they dug it, we worked it out. I used "Bruja" as the template for my writing style when I first joined, and tried to build our sound from there.

"Tomb of Doom" was written shortly after, and at this point we recruited Alex Huston as lead guitarist. We recorded the demo, played a show with Weedeater and Telekinetic Yeti, and then Huston left. We started looking for a new lead player after that, and Stephen filled that spot. Stephen had already written "Rune" for a solo project he was working on and we basically hijacked the song, made some tweaks to it, and made it flow with the other songs already written.

"Capra Nocturnus" was the first song Stephen and I had written together from various riffs he and I had lying around. That song started off a little rough, but I think it came out great once we figured out what direction to take it. We’ve written other songs, but most of those have been dissected and rewritten.

TBB: How would you say the revived line-up of Tar Pit has been received at live shows so far?

Brandon: Live has been great. This is the first band I have personally played with that has gotten to open for bigger acts and actually play in front of a bigger crowd. We don't really book too many shows. We just wait for something we really want to be a part of to come through and try and get an opening slot if so. It's been great and the turnouts are always packed.

TBB: I really dig the cover art for Tomb of Doom, the heavy texturing and use of light do a fantastic job of evoking that subterranean feel. Where did the art come from, and how did you settle on that as the fit for your first album?

Brandon: The art work came from my good friend Joey Rivera. He and I used to play in a grungy type band together and during the few years that we played, I had no idea the dude could paint. He posted some stuff online and Mat had a concept in mind for the album art, so I approached him about it. I think it came out great. The dude really nailed it.

TBB: How would you describe the atmosphere you aimed for with the album's songs?

Brandon: I always tell everyone that I want to write really dark, evil, sludgy sounding stuff with proto elements. So I hope that's what we captured, haha.

TBB: Do you feel like that same atmosphere will stick around for the next album, or are you thinking of going for something different at that point?

Brandon: I think that the next album will reflect the headspace we are in when it is written. It's hard to say, 'This is how it should be,' and then write something under those restrictions. I'm sure it will be similar in style to Tomb of Doom, but more polished, hopefully heavier, and as far as technicality and musicianship, better.

TBB: At this point in time, are you feeling like Tar Pit will head right into another album, or will there maybe be an EP and/or split release before then?

Brandon: I'm thinking a split is our next move, or a two to three song EP. There is definitely zero chance of us doing a full-length this year, especially with Derek and I preparing for our first full-length with our other band.

TBB: In the case of an eventual split or two, are there any particular bands, local or international, that you feel would be a good fit with Tar Pit?

Brandon: I can't seem to think of very many at the moment. Glasghote is a really cool sludge band from Portland, and I would like to do something with them down the road. I'm also a big fan of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth (Seattle), and I would shit myself if we were able to do something with them.

TBB: How do your families feel about Tar Pit?

Brandon: I don't think my family gives a shit. I'm sure they don't understand it and think I need to grow up, haha. Derek's parents, on the other hand, are super supportive, his whole family [is], actually. I don't think they've missed a show yet.

Mat: My family doesn’t really agree with what I’m singing about, haha, but my brother has been really supportive. He’s been to every show and has become our official unofficial photographer.

TBB: You've got cassette copies up for order, digital is a go, and CDs are in the works; any hopes for a vinyl release of Tomb of Doom at this point?

Brandon: If we can find a label to finance it or cough up the cash ourselves, then yes, we will put it out on vinyl.

TBB: Will we be seeing any other Tar Pit merch in the near future?

Brandon: In the very near future.

TBB: Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?

Brandon: Snag a copy of the tape while we still have them, and thanks for all the support and positive feedback!

TBB: Thanks for your time and music, and be sure to let us know when your next release is ready to be heard!

~ Gabriel

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Beginning The Rites...

Tripping Haze Ceremony - Demo 2018 (2018)

Coming to us from Malaysia, the trio of Tripping Haze Ceremony (you know, good ol' THC) have assembled a three-track demo to introduce themselves to the world. Starting off with the intro track of “Sativa's Trip”, they lay down an atmosphere of psychedelic doom, thick on the sustain and reverb, running up one riff for the length of its minute and change. From there, it's on into the considerably larger “Panhead Dream”, sparked off with a nice conversational sample. The flavors of the intro are brought back for expansion, with a firm central riff anchoring the slow-moving grooves. Vocals are effects-treated and pushed to a distant sound, merging well with the fuzzy groans of the bass, while the drums beat out the slow pace while finding time for some extra spice in the fills. A chill but snazzy guitar solo helps lead things to the song's finish, and then it's on into the last tune, “Night of the Damned”.
The third track again makes use of a solid spoken sample, then delves its way into another thick riff, picking up steam as it rolls into action. The vocals return with their echoing evaporated feel, giving things a nice brain-tingling haze, and the bass keeps on rocking its thing. Though understandably short, being a demo, it still does a good job of setting out the band's style and skills, and there's enough psych doom goodness for fans of that flavor to sink their teeth into and chew a few times. Check it out for yourself, groove on it, and if you happen to handle a label, go ahead and get in touch with these guys if you like what you hear.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Cough, Eternal Elysium, Groggy, Humbaba, Hypnochron


Saturday, January 19, 2019

Emerging From Cold Depths...

Tar Pit - Tomb of Doom (2019)

Following a few line-up adjustments and a hard-to-find demo, the Portland-based quintet of Tar Pit have emerged with their debut album, boasting about forty minutes of hot-blooded doom metal across its five tracks. Drawing from the late-'70s/early-'80s vibes of basements, dungeons, and caverns, along with the inclination to build expansive narratives, the group tempers the quirks of yesteryear with some firm structuring, focused production handling, and a meaner demeanor. The tracks flow into each other with fine style, the grooves are deep and dirty, and the guitar solos, when they arise, are both vivacious and suitably downcast.
As the album goes on, it really gets its hooks into you, aided by the clever positioning of the tracks; they start out with the longest song, then gradually shorten them down to the middle, then grow them back out on the way to the end. It's a neat way of accelerating the pace without sacrificing any of the weight, and seeing it put to use on a first album impresses further how much potential this band has. There's nothing to detract from Tomb of Doom's power as an album in its own right, though, with no sign of the fumbles or self-conscious second-guessing that so regularly pop up to pull down early works. If anything, my complaint would be that it feels a little short, but at the same time, that helps them keep it trim and punchy.
While I'll be sour that I won't have a chance to see these guys live anytime soon, that's somewhat salved by the knowledge that a copy of the album is on its way. Check them out for yourself, snag a copy of the cassette pressing if that's a format you rock (only 100 copies made), and keep your ears perked for more to come from Tar Pit. In the musical world, at least, 2019 is starting off on a good note.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Below, Blood Farmers, Goya, Merlin, Saint Vitus