Saturday, January 23, 2021

Pieces Come Apart...

Runtuh - Dissolution (2021)

From our friends in StoneDulu Productions (home of Ksyatriya and Mind Reader) comes this debut album from a new project of theirs, the duo of Runtuh. With StoneDulu stalwart Trishay J. Trada on guitars and vocals, and Shahab Faisal on the drums, the two have tackled not just a concept album for their first release, but one which is formed as a single piece split into quarters.

The first of those, “Dissolution I – Alienation”, comes into being with some echoing strums of the guitar, soon shaped into chords and overlaid tones, though the pacing is kept slow and steady for a good while. As the drums roll in, along with some light cymbal work, the song soon shifts into full heavy gear, amping up its volume, layers, and intensity. Clean and rough vocals both get put to use in the building of the song's structure, putting the harmony and dissonance to work not just there, but in the rumble of amp fuzz and the harmonics as well. Hard beats from the drums go right up against the shredding guitar, getting things wild just by the midpoint (did I mention that the opening track is 20 minutes long?).

“Dissolution II – Transformation” brings things back down from that rowdy release, spending a couple of minutes on somber, clearly-voiced grief in the lyrics, while the instruments are pared down to match. The downcast mood is maintained through the song, though the bass and reverb focus return, and it stands strong as perhaps the most 'single-like' track on the album. “Dissolutions III – Revolution” opens with an audio sample from the TV series Sacred Games, before launching into a mournful drift on heavy doom pulses. As “Dissolution IV – Reprise (Unplugged)” comes around, the allegedly acoustic nature of the track does nothing to diminish its assertive gloom, with drummer and guitarist taking a meditative route to the finish.

The album is impressive, and consistently enjoyable, in that special sort of enjoyment earnest doom metal has. The jumbo-sized songs are used to keep growing and exploring the songs, and never seem to find the band caught in a non-purposeful retread. As one of the numerous projects TJT has his hand in, it's a mystery when we'll see the next release from this group, but this first release has more than enough meat on its bones to keep listeners occupied until part two rolls around.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Alltar, Goya, HellLight, Sepulcros, Ufomammut


Runtuh - Dissolution II - Transformation (320 kbps)


Sunday, January 17, 2021

Paving The Way...

Cavaran - Bulldozer (2020)



Though they've been putting in work on demos and live shows since 2014, this is the first studio release from the Belgian power trio of Cavaran, and it shines bright enough to warrant the wait. If the energy shown here is anything like their live shows, it'll give you an extra reason to resent the pandemic. And, while it did come out last year, it's finally receiving a physical release on CD, thanks to Polderrecords.

Leading off with “Walter”, the group immediately shows a stylish approach to instrumental stoner metal, blending tasty noodling with hard riffs, and swinging between the two grooves as the mood takes them. Some melodic nods here and there could be an indication of the band's roots, or just a quick goof – where would you place a couple bars of “Careless Whisper”?

As they continue, with “Dino” cranking up the guitar acrobatics, the rhythmic compulsions rise to greater heights, and the drummer gets to shine in the breakdowns. Things go higher still with “Holy Grail”, ripping through progressions, playing with feedback, and working a tight and deft central rhythm that'll be hooked in your head for days. “Wörner” takes penultimate placement, settling back down into more of a bluesy mode, and putting its status as the EP's longest track to good service as it turns out some truly sweet melodic maneuvering. Lastly, “Bigfoot” brings it home with a percussion-driven trip into prog-seasoned delight, twisting and flexing the song in a new way virtually every measure.

Unlike a lot of instrumental stoner groups, whether their feet are planted more in rock or metal territory, Cavaran resist the impulse to drop in audio samples. As much fun as those can be, the omission does let them stand in a more professional light, without having to worry about weird sample clearance coming back to bite them. And, thankfully, their song-crafting is more than strong enough to make up for it, coming off fantastically no matter which mood, tempo, or style they tackle. Plug this one into your ears ASAP, and let's hope a vinyl version isn't too far off!

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Rooster, Alltar, Bomg, Major Kong, Stonerror

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Cavaran - Holy Grail (320 kbps)


Saturday, January 09, 2021

Blunt-Tip Force...

Space Weed - Sorry We're Stoned (2021)

Hailing from the metal-storied region of Florida, this group's debut demo runs quick but effectively, with three tracks coming together at a little under a quarter-hour of music; given their proud theming, and the title of the last track, a quarter seems just right. With a title and cover art suggesting that they're fond followers of record label The Company, and their respective stable of artists, the demo cranks up to a ripping start with “Muskrat”, a track which practically throbs with bass reverb over the percussion. Their Bandcamp citing of Melvins, Electric Wizard, EHG, and Weedeater as influences feels honest enough, as the track follows one big main riff through its turns, letting the tone and vibes set the flow.

Production is rough, as you might expect from a demo, sounding authentically garage-y and raw, but as they follow that intro up with “Laser Rust Animation” the tone and clarity pep up considerably, with a snarly guitar line balancing out the broad-waved bass fuzz, the drums kicking up the tempo, and crashing cymbals spiking through the rumble. Some chunky breakdowns show an instrumental sense of humor with the push and retraction of the chords, while a slowed-down nod to Slayer's “Raining Blood” gives a brush of menace to the affair. Throughout, they show chops with pulling listeners into headbang mode, and while the playing threatens to tip over in a couple spots, they keep it just this side of upright.

Lastly, “Quarter Pounder” slows things back down, while keeping most of the energy of the preceding track intact. It's a bit sludgy, a bit doomy, but then their sample kicks in (and if you're not grinning upon hearing it, you need to brush up on your cinema classics), and the grooves take over indiscriminately. Altogether, a promising taste of things to come from this crew, with a nice dose of the fun we could use to recover from 2020.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of: Corpse Light, Dopethrone, Hypnochron, Lifeless Gaze, Tar Pit

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Space Weed - Quarter Pounder (320 kbps)



Saturday, September 26, 2020

Sumokem Interview

 On September 4th, Sumokem released Prajnaparadha. Following their 2015 debut The Madness of Lu Shen Ti, Vol. 1, and 2017's The Guardian of Yosemite, the new release finds the Little Rock-based band shifting their musical approach once again, but also turns out to be something of a larger turning point for the group.  We spoke with Sumokem about their history, the making of the new album, and what they see in their future.

The Burning Beard: Hi there, congratulations on the new album, and thanks very much for sharing some of your time with us. To start with, could you give new listeners a run-down on the band's current line-up?

Sumokem: Yeah, so it's always been myself, Jacob Sawrie, on vocals and rhythm guitar, and Drew Skarda on drums. Since 2015 we've had Tyler Weaver on lead guitar and Dustin Weddle on bass. Now myself and Dustin play synths, as well, on every song on the new album, actually.

TBB: Who was in the band's original line-up, and how did it come together?

Sumokem: Originally it was myself, Drew, and Josh Ingram on lead guitar. We played for a few months with no bassist, and I'm surprised people liked it, haha. We were fortunate enough to add local legend Alan Wells on bass, and that was SMKM for the first couple of years. We recorded our first EP in Alan's basement. Josh died in May of 2015, and Alan left at the same time to take care of his family and his health. Tyler and Dustin came in and we found some new life.

TBB: How did the writing and recording of Prajnaparadha differ from your previous albums?

Sumokem: Really the only thing that was different about the process was that everyone incorporated riffs. It really opened things up and made this album what it is. We also took things a little more seriously in the studio, and that definitely made a difference.

TBB: What were some notable inspirations for its themes, and what led the band to settle on the final overall concept for the album?

Sumokem: This album is definitely a reflection of the four of us and our separate tastes shining through and meeting in the middle somewhere. We were all able to contribute to the writing process on this one since we’ve settled into the lineup, so I think that’s a reason it sounds much different. Our drummer, Drew, even wrote quite a few guitar riffs for this one.

TBB: Were the songs mostly put together before the concept was decided, or did the concept come first and direct the song-writing?

Sumokem: Honestly, my stories kind of write themselves. I start with a time and place, do a lot of research, write an outline of the story, and go from there - but as soon as I learned the word "Prajnaparadha," I knew that "sins against wisdom" had to be the theme.

TBB: Were there any other memorable ideas on which direction to go with this album?

Sumokem: The concept for the albums, and the lyrics, have always existed before the music, per record. We've just always kind of written the songs based on what we feel from the lyrics - but this is the last album we'll write that way, at least for a while.

We wanted this album to be our most progressive, most dynamic album yet, but let things play out naturally, and it worked out.

TBB: If there is one, what's the usual process for Sumokem to build a song?

Sumokem: The writing process was pretty organic, we brought riffs in and arranged them together and somehow it all worked out without sounding too juxtaposed or odd.

TBB: Given Sumokem's tendency to change atmospheres or presentation with each album (Chinese vibes for Lu Shen Ti, First Peoples for Yosemite, and Indian for this one), are there any influences on the band which you feel have stuck around from the start?

Sumokem: The only real influence that has stuck around is the use of cannabis or other psychoactive drugs in ancient cultures; be it for a character's benefit, or to their detriment, as in the new album.

TBB: If it wouldn't be giving away too much, does the band have any thoughts on which culture the next album might visit?

Sumokem: Actually, this is the last we'll be doing the "concept album" thing, at least for a while. We have started writing for another EP that is going to go in a more philosophical direction, lyrically.

TBB: What are some of the challenges you've faced as a metal band in/from Arkansas?

Sumokem: It's hard to say we have struggles any different than bands from anywhere else. You could say that the Little Rock/Arkansas scene is more underground than other major cities, but with bands like Rwake, Deadbird, Pallbearer, and Terminal Nation bringing attention to it, we can't really complain. It's a slow burn at worst.

It has its ups and downs being from a small city, we luckily have a history of killer bands here. It’s also harder it seems to get attention outside of Arkansas sometimes, but locally the reception here has always been great and we are grateful for it.

TBB: Are there any bands with whom you've shared a stage that you feel have helped sharpen your sense of who you are as a band?

Sumokem: Ha! Most of them. We've gotten to play with so many bands we admire, or even worship. We couldn't list all the bands we've played with that showed us how much better we could be. I think the biggest blessing was spending a week on the road with our friends in Pallbearer and Spotlights. Seeing them just kill it every single night was truly inspiring.

TBB: Are there any current bands with whom you'd be especially interested in putting out a split, or otherwise collaborating?

Sumokem: There's also a ton of bands we'd love to collaborate with. Personally, I'd love to do something with Pinkish Black or Kayo Dot, but we've also thought (if in passing) that an ultra-Arkansas collab could be cool.

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

Sumokem: Hey, we just hope people like the record - and a lot of people deserve a lot of thanks. We hope to see people on the road sooner than later.

~ Interview by Gabriel

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)


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