Saturday, January 25, 2020

Seething Beneath Solemnity...

Tethra - Empire of the Void (2020)

With two albums and an EP to their catalog since forming in 2008, the Italian quintet of Tethra has made consistently strong impressions, with the quality of their individual performances and overall crafting resulting in great releases.
Now, with their third album, Tethra stride confidently through an hour's worth of their death/doom metal mixture, working overall atmosphere and individual moments to great effect. Generally speaking, the vocals and drums handle the aggression of the death metal side, while the guitar and bass provide the melancholic doom. But there are also times when the vocals slide into deep wells of longing and regret, or the guitar will burst into raging assault, for example. Throughout the album, the band continually experiments and keeps things from growing predictable or stale, which is a needful concern with both sides of their stylistic heritage.
Whether engaging in slow-paced mood studies (like the title track, for example) or cutting loose with high-action expressiveness, Tethra's work on this album shows the group always focused on making their music come to life. The inclusion of a David Bowie cover (“Space Oddity”) is a surprising touch, but the heavy tenderness the band brings to their treatment of it makes for a memorable twist on the original material. On the whole, it's another strong showing from Tethra, and one that sees them continuing to expand their horizons.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Apothecary, Esogenesi, Illimitable Dolor, Matalobos, Towards Atlantis Lights


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Completion In Consumption...

Black Royal - Firebride (2020)

Riding high off the release of their first LP in 2018, following a single and a pair of EPs, the Finnish group of Black Royal are back to strike while the iron's hot with their second LP. Running right at forty minutes total, the album features nine tracks, blending together a number of styles, but always coming through with a strong sense of the band's character.
Opening with a melancholy, almost dirge-like bit of tenderness in the intro to “Coven”, the band shows an impressive way with understated melodies, before jumping into the hard and sludgy metal that makes up the meat of the LP's music. A chorus of “Please forgive me Satan / For I have not sinned” highlights a warped sense of humor, while an interjection of symphonic strings before the final minute gives an indication of the band's willingness to get weird for the sake of keeping things interesting.
From there, the group keeps things unpredictable but engaging, leavening the hard metal with streaks of moody melodics and psych inclinations put through strange filters. Strong riffs and the self-discipline to leave listeners wanting more serve the band well, and as firmly rooted in metal as the music is, they find ways to keep it up and moving that bring a touch of hard rock energy to the proceedings. Additionally, the riffs tend to be so firmly structured that they lean more into death metal than sludge, though the mix of styles keeps either from being a firm designation.
One of the biggest points of commendation for the band is how much distinct flavor and attitude they give each song (a personal favorite being “All Them Witches”). Though they operate with mostly the same tools from track to track, Black Royal show a high degree of creativity in how they deploy those tools, always incorporating at least a few change-ups to avoid getting bogged down in repetition. At the same time, they keep a recognizable spirit and energy going through all of it, and the momentum through the album is a persistent force.
Though the forty-minute run is likely to leave listeners wishing it had another couple of tracks tagged on, each song on the album is solid, and it makes for a stimulating and energetic showing of the band's capabilities. Check it out if you're looking for some powerful metal that can't be pinned down by easy description.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Criminal, Dead Hand, Deuil, Plaguewielder, Slush


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Toads In Trouble...

Goblinsmoker - A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (2020)

On their third release (already sold out of physical copies about a month before the actual release date), the UK trio of Goblinsmoker bring about half an hour of stony, sludgy doom to bear in the form of three tracks.
Leading with “Smoked in Darkness”, the band builds up a smoky, tarry atmosphere, rumbling along on bass resonance and slow-beat percussion, occasional growls of ragged vocals penetrating the densely fuzzy haze. Grinding along on a heavy-duty riff, beating away with gradually growing fervor, and ramping up the vocal presence, the song rolls on with heavy momentum, hitting its end with a solid thump.
“Let Them Rot” takes over from there, riding a buzzy guitar line into the body of the song, where it's joined by reinforcing bass and punctuating drums. Fleshing out the riff, the band cruises on from there in low gear, seeming mainly concerned with building up the atmosphere of hazardous heaviness. It works well enough, but the trudging pace, combined with relatively little variation over the course of the ten-minute track, brings things down to more of an endurance test than a good doom wallowing. The kick into active drumming in the last minute or so is a nice change, but it's also too little, too late.
Lastly, “The Forest Mourns” turns up the sludge flavoring with some amped-up feedback, though much of the rest of the approach remains the same. Tempo, tuning, rhythms, and instrumental interactions stick with the settings of the previous songs (or close enough that it's effectively the same), which may come as a treat to those who are fully in-line with things by this point, but will likely be something of a let-down to the others who've stuck it out. The band does show a good grasp of the moodiness and vibes that they want to put across, so here's hoping that they bring in a bit more range for whenever their first full-length emerges.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Flood Peak, Lowered, The Sleer, Trees, Tons


Saturday, December 14, 2019

Examining Further Emanations...

Headless Kross - Projections II (2019)

Following up on the 2016 release of Projections I, with a live album sandwiched between, Headless Kross have popped back up to deliver the second installment. As with the first one, they bring four tracks to bear, each of them hovering around the ten-minute mark, and their fusion of heaviness and melodic emphasis (as we encountered on their Volumes album, back in 2015) is still solid as hell.
Signed in Blood” is the first of the tracks, and it bursts into action with harsh yells and a riff that feels like it's looking for a fight. The drums lean into that vibe, punctuating measure round-outs with battering beats, and once the initial volley of aggression has been launched, the song settles into a slower groove while holding onto that opening roughness. The tone and fuzz are quite tasty, with the bass' reverb looming out over the higher-register components, and the almost scratchy timbre of the guitar gives its spidery chords a bit of spine-tingling eeriness.
One Hundred and Forty Four Mirrors” shakes up the flavor with some warbling flange on the bass, a shifty, near-jittery rhythm from the drums, and some striking soloing from the guitar. The vocals still feel like they're being punched out of the singer, but they make it work with the overall oppressive atmosphere, and once they settle into the main groove, they ride it hard to the finish. “Falls the Shadow” leads into the B-side, spotlighting some cool rhythm alternation between guitar and drums before shifting into more of a heavy grind mode. There's some enjoyable progressions, especially in their outro change-ups, and they give off the impression of this being one that can really lead to some fun experimentation in live sets.
Lastly, “The Obstacles Becomes the Path” takes listeners on an exploratory groove dive, feeling something like a structured jam session for much of its run. About halfway through, though, they tighten it up for a ramping up of tempo and intensity, pushing the central riff on until hitting the finishing disintegration. There's plenty of heaviness to let wash over you on this album, and once the riffs get planted in your head, it's a serious challenge to uproot them. So if you've been looking for some anger-soaked doom to round out your year, Headless Kross have got you covered.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Heavydeath, HellLight, Humbaba, Salem's Pot, Wounded Giant


Saturday, December 07, 2019

Blooming In Winter...

Sonic Moon - Usually I Don't Care for Flowers (2019)

Around this time last year, we got our first taste of the music made by the Danish group called Sonic Moon, and with its grungy twist on heavy rock, we definitely dug what we heard. Now they're back with their second EP, packing five tracks of further exploration into their character and ideas.
Leading with “All Things Evergreen”, which cycles through some warm-up noise before throwing its weight behind a big, bossy riff. Vocalist Oliver Lyngkilde slides his way into the song right on the back of that riff, and from there, the song builds up a groove-working punchiness, with some kicking bassy break-downs on the bridges. “Keep Bleeding” picks up from there with a more withdrawn and hurt vibe to Lyngskilde's singing, though the instruments build up from a matching quietness into a roar that pulls him up with it. “Epitaph”, fittingly, returns to the more somber sound for its start, and while the band can't entirely escape their energetic inclinations, it does show their serious side in a good light.
“Vultures Beak” (sic) flows right out of the last notes of “Epitaph”, picking away on the base melody while gradually regaining speed, finishing out on a bit of flange flash. Lastly, the title track comes in to set a slow grind rhythm and riffage, drawing listeners into a head-bob until the end.
The grunge flavoring is still there, in the toothy grit of the guitar tone and the tendency to set riffs, then repeat them at intensified heaviness and dirtiness, but the songs have, overall, taken on more of a doomy flavor than was evidenced on the first EP. “Keep Bleeding” and “Epitaph”, as their names suggest, are probably the best examples of this, but they also demonstrate the band's facility in meshing that heaviness with rock, and coming out with something distinct from standard heavy rock. There's more emotionality, inventiveness, and boundary-pushing to it, and it's a clear confirmation that Sonic Moon have been keeping busy since their first EP's release. There's development, but clear continuity of character, and hearing them grow is a treat. Hopefully it won't be too long before they put out an LP, so we can see them push things even further.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Alice in Chains, Deadeye Dick, For Love Not Lisa, Pale Grey Lore, Seed


Saturday, November 30, 2019

Running Ever Deeper...

Yawning Void - Streams Within (2019)

Following up on a couple of advance singles released last year, the Finnish group of Yawning Void have emerged with their first full album, and while it first popped up on a limited cassette run from Kuolema Records back in January, they've recently received a CD release from Weird Truth Productions, giving them some wider exposure.
The first of the album's five tracks (all of which run over seven minutes) is “Hearts Like Abyss”, which leads listeners into the band's black/death/doom cocktail with an enticing ear-worm of a lead riff. The vocalist (credited as K.T.K.) shows off a good rumbling growl and satisfyingly harsh roars, while the rest of the band brings in some tight support for that hooky riff, quickly digging down to that heavy reward. “Melaina Kholee” follows, broadening out the heaviness from the riff (though it does feature a solid one) to a more rounded song-writing approach. Things are kept slow and sloggy, but it moves with a deceptive swiftness for its length, and wraps its run up with surprising neatness for such a craggy piece.
“Ouroborean” takes central spot, contrasting the harsh vocals (taking overlay in the mix) against some almost gentle melodic highlighting, while the following “Kalmoranta” brings the harshness over to the instruments as well, with some organ-like keys providing the cleaner counter-point to the fuzzy feedback. Wrapping up with “Aequor Benthic Bodies”, Yawning Void push their way through a thick atmosphere of dread and regret, leaving an aftertaste of earnest and committed doom. Not too shabby for a first album, and considering the striking knack of the band for crafting memorable riffs, I can't wait to hear where they grow from here.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Deathbell, Heavydeath, Jupiterian, Major Kong, Shrine of the Serpent