Saturday, February 22, 2020

Early Signs Of Life...

Randy Holden - Population II (1970)


Originally released in 1970, the debut solo album from Blue Cheer guitarist Randy Holden featured a style that was unfamiliar at the time, but which has subsequently grown to a full genre. While the hard and psychedelic rock styles of the '60s are still quite evident, there's also the chunky riffs and fat bass-end of heavy metal peeking its head out into the world on this album.
Of course, back then, the record technicians who had a fix on how that style should be handled in the mastering process were few and far between, so now that half a century has passed, Riding Easy Records have unearthed it and given it proper audio treatment, letting the wide-spread grooves and sprawling solos shine out with greater body and fullness.
For such an early chunk of heavy metal exploration, the album goes down with surprising smoothness. Packing four full tracks, with a couple of shorties sandwiched between them, the album flows along in cool form, letting its melodies and hooks roll along without too much fuss about sticking to the standard practices. It's a fun and fascinating peek at some nearly-lost roots of the style, and with the ten-minute closer of “Keeper of My Flame”, it packs a big finish. Riding Easy's reissue is due out on February 28th, so if you're ready to dig on one of the pioneers of heavy metal, get ready to pick this one up and have it take you back.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Deep Purple, The Human Instinct, Iron Butterfly, MC5, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels




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Saturday, February 08, 2020

Waking Into Anguish...

Voidlurker - Industrial Nightmare (2020)


Following up on their 2018 demo, the three-piece of Voidlurker have returned with just under thirty minutes of material on their debut EP. Leading off with the ~7:30 title track, the band rolls out some thick and heavy sludge. Slow-grinding riffs, dirty vocals, and flexings of acerbic aggression give the song big flavor, with a ramp into higher tempos at the end helping it to break out of the swampy slog. “Jeffrey Doomer” follows, keeping some of that higher tempo in play while solidly sinking itself into the low-end. Craggy chord progressions and rolling break-downs inflect things with a bit of groove sensibility, while keeping a hazardous vibe well intact. A kick-out riff in the last minute of the song again punches things up, and paves the way for the third track, “Rotten Seed”.
After a bit of low-key intro fun, the song bursts out into wider and more reverberant presentation, growling away with a touch more feedback to the fuzz. The growing heaviness of the riff is emphasized by the gradual slowing of its playing, letting listeners really feel themselves getting dragged down along with it. Despite that, for an eight-minute song, it carries itself well and doesn't make you feel as though you're waiting it out. Lastly, “Bitchcraft and Misery” brings out the snarling attitude in stronger force, hitting some hard combos of drums and guitar for a nasty impression.
All together, the trio have put together a solid first studio effort, and show proficiency in a wide enough range of sludge forms that it'll be hard to predict just what their next one will sound like. Here's hoping it emerges before too long, and keeps up the quality they've put forth so far.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Deuil, Hypnochron, Leechfeast, Plaguewielder, Zaraza




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Saturday, February 01, 2020

Ready And Yearning...

Canopy - Humanity Loss (2020)


About a decade in the making, Canopy's first album follows a demo and a pair of EPs (which we covered here and here), and capably demonstrates that the band has been honing their material over all that time. Delivering just under fifty minutes of material across the six tracks (with the two-minute intro track, “Intrusion”, easing listeners into the experience), doom and sludge are stirred together for a heavy dose of suffering, and the results are superb.
The two-part “Hostile Architecture” follows the intro, operating in a largely instrumental fashion, though some screams and howls are used to punctuate the chilly vibes. Strong bass riffs and drums to match are contrasted with the scratchy highness of the guitar's tone, and a couple of spoken samples appear in distorted form to give things extra flavor.
Once that first chunk is concluded, it's on into “Exigent Weight”, which lines up a slow-grind ride with some surprisingly poignant strains from the guitar slid into the agonized atmosphere. The vocals take a more forward and distinct role with this song, but step back again to let the climax rise and strike in full power before rejoining the instruments. Sharp song-writing keeps things intense and stimulating, while the production hits a nice balance between clear and swampy presentation.
“No Cure” picks up from there, going deeper and heavier, and delivering a strong sense of immersion with the coiling echoes of the guitar-work. The vocals ride the swell and fall of the instrumental momentum with very effective poise, snaking in with a howl there or injecting a rasping scream there, always punching the energy higher. Lastly, “Adrenochrome” steps in with a slow-building ramp into action, escalating to hard-slamming rhythms and a final burst of expression. Excellent work throughout, and though it's a digital-only release for now, here's hoping that they find a label savvy enough to put them out on physical media in the near future.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dead Existence, Leechfeast, Mudbath, Primitive Man, Slabdragger




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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




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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




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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


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