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)


Saturday, May 08, 2021

Crumbled By Existence...

 Crust - Stoic (2021)

On the last album from this long-running Russian crew, the band operates at high quality in a blending of metal styles. Influences from black and death metal can be heard creeping into the base, which is largely a mix of doom and sludge. Unsurprisingly, the music is incredibly moody, and capable of shifting from aggression to withdrawn brooding on a dime.

Leading with the title track, the band establishes their MO in clear terms, and expands on it in intriguing ways through the album's remainder. From the melodic atmospherics of “Watching Emptiness” to the acoustic interlude of “Willow Forest”, threads of drone in “A Blind Man in Darkness”, and the sample/scream interplay of “Darkness Becomes Us”, Crust show themselves to be well-versed in ways of keeping the heavy music engaging and varied.

The production is well-suited to their work, letting the bass end swell into an encompassing presence, while the higher register has an interesting ceiling in the mix, providing the guitars and cymbals with a touch of compression. The gentler parts of the song-writing are integrated in natural ways, letting the band fade from one harsher section to another while keeping it impactful, and when they're in hard gear, it comes off as consistently genuine and earnestly delivered. Though it can be taken as just a wash of dark metal, there's more than enough small details worked into the song-writing to reward careful listening as well. Excellent from start to finish.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dead Existence, Fleshpress, Malsten, Mudbath, O.D.R.A.

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Crust - Desert (320 kbps)


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Waves And Depths...

Ascension Throne - Oceans (2021)

Well, here's something uncommon, at least to the genres we tend to focus on around here. It's a concept EP based on a videogame series (the Nier series, to be specific). Running three tracks long, it's also the debut release from the German group of Ascension Throne, put together during the dull days of pandemic lockdown.

Opening with “Warriors”, a nine-minute slice of slow-moving metal, the EP gets off to a gentle start with dreamy female vocals over thrumming bass-lines, with male counter-parting joining in before long. The contrasting vocal presences make for an interesting dynamic, and the music itself finds an uncommon blend of styles; there's some doom flavor to the big bass reverb, a general post-metal attitude, and a proggy nimbleness as it moves through its paces. The female singer (credited as Tetem) has a bit of a Julee Cruise thing going on, very tender and sweet in delivery, and to be honest, she kind of steals the spotlight.

Middle track “Kainé”, at six minutes, is the shortest song on the EP, and it shifts the focus to piano for its intro, backed by some heavy drum-work. When the guitar comes in, it's with a swerving bit of growl reminiscent of Yasunori Mitsuda's work on the Chrono Cross soundtrack, if we're looking for other video game comparisons. The sectional change-ups are more distinct in this track, possibly owing to the comparative compression of the song-writing against the lengthier track that preceded it, and it makes for an easier time of picking out the individual musicians' respective talents.

Lastly, the title track opens up with some moody synth textures, allowing for a meditative atmosphere before the rest of the instruments come crashing into action. Balancing melodic lightness with the bass' grinding weight, it adds to the band's defiance of easy categorization, while continuing to showcase their skills in layered song-writing. Altogether, an impressive debut, and one that should draw in even listeners who aren't familiar with the games that inspired it.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Crown Larks, Mamaleek, Symphony X, Ulver (Blood Inside era), Venus Sleeps

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Ascension Throne - Kainé (320 kbps)


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Weighing In Together...

Bongzilla / Tons - Doom Sessions Vol. 4 (2021)

Continuing a steady pace for their split albums in this series, this is the second Doom Sessions release from Heavy Psych Sounds this year. Bringing together the long-running Bongzilla with the Italian group Tons, this installment

The elder of the two bands gets the A-side, and Bongzilla leads with “Mother Flowers Little Helper”, and despite seeming a bit word salad, it makes a big impression. Plugging along on a main riff that does enough work for a stretch of nine and a half minutes, spiced with groaning vocals, hard beats, and a fair amount of high-hat clanging, the tune is a heaping helping of opener to get listeners in the stoner doom mood. “Cosmic Distillate, Nectar Collector” follows, picking up the pace (relatively speaking) with a hooky pull from guitarist Jeff Schultz. Some chuggy breakdown adds to the fun, gaining enough momentum to build a slow-swinging rhythm up and into the exit. “Cupcake” (I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's an ode to an edible) takes a similar tack, but brings in more feedback, spiking things up as the sludge gets consumptive, eventually crawling the tempo down to a seething end.

Tons' side is a single track split into three parts: “Chronic Morning Obesity”. As dismally heavy-sounding as the title suggests, the quartet gets down to semi-psychedelic sludginess, raw vocals and crunching chords complemented by the concessions to harmony which perk up the music. Highly in tune with the style of Bongzilla's contributions, the band thunders along in swampy style, crashing and crushing. A low-mixed sample of someone rambling through a list of all the food they want to cure their munchie cravings shows up in the last slice, making for an entertaining shaping of the mostly-instrumental grooves.

Both sides fit together extremely well, so if you've been in the mood for some fresh and dirty stoner doom, all splashed up with sludgy tendencies, then this double serving is right up your alley. The split officially releases April 23rd, but pre-sales are already up, and going fast, with an assortment of colorways for the vinyl. Cheers to HPS for another winner.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bomg, Cavity, Dead Existence, Dopethrone, Wizard Smoke

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Tons - Chronic Morning Obesity, Part 1 (320 kbps)


Saturday, April 03, 2021

Faces Behind Faces...

Planeetta 9 - Pirun Piiska (2021)

Following up on their single by the same name from earlier this year, the Finnish sextet of Planeetta 9 bring a concept EP to life across four tracks. Blending doom metal, rock, and folk music, the group delivers an undeniably distinctive style, and shows how deep the well of ideas they drew from in concocting these songs is.

The title track is the first of the four, working some tight-knit grooves with twisting rhythmic arrangements, earthy vocals, and a rich diversity to the instrumentation. The breakdowns are inventive with their heaviness, the switch-ups in band-member focus feel like natural flows to the song, and the escalating intensity is handled to very nice effect. A bit of guitar soloing, paired with deep-beat drums, gives the unpredictable path of the song a helpful anchor, and an extra hook to fix it in memory. Track two, “Sama hauta”, opens with a more traditional doom metal riff, bringing Saint Vitus, Candlemass, or Below to mind with the dramatically-delivered vocals alongside the melancholy string tones. The band hits a fine line between weight and melody in the mood, with the nimble handling of shifts and augmentations casting them in excellent light.

“Juoksuhiekka”, the third in the run, brings the somber tones used in the preceding songs to fuller life, employing bowed instruments and piano, along with a hushed vocal presence, to thoroughly evoke a regretful ache. Easily the most withdrawn of the EP's songs, it encourages a bit of introspection before “Vakuumilapset” leaps the energy back up. Returning the electric guitars and cymbals to the fore, this closing piece finds the band luxuriating in winding chord progressions, rich tones, and plenty of reverb. A frenzied crescendo ridden right into another one lets the band exit the EP with flying colors. Each of the songs has so much going on, and with such fine technique, that despite the four-song length, this is one that can easily be relistened to time and time again while still finding new details.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Crown Larks, Hukkunud Hinged, Monolith Grows!, Odradek Room, Stonerror

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Planeetta 9 - Sama hauta (320 kbps)


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Burnt By Starlight...

Gods of Space - Against the Falling Sky (2021)

Delivering their latest in a string of releases stemming back to 2014, the Pennsylvania-based trio of Gods of Space provide a concisely cosmic trip this time around. Packing five tracks and coming in a few minutes shy of half an hour, the band makes great use of their time, pushing ideas in a range of directions while keeping the hard psych flavors flowing continuously.

First of the tracks on the EP is “Against All Odds”, a soaring ignition piece with some hard bass-line riffs cranking it along. The gritty timbre of the strings contrasts nicely with the clear tones of the vocals, while the drummer's change-ups in intensity add a further layer of action. Pop in some tasty (though brief) guitar soloing, and it's a solid groover, not to mention an enjoyable wake-up tune if you play it early in your day. “Exit Point” follows, shifting to a darker tone; fitting with the EP's concept, this is presumably the point at which our intrepid crew of astronauts hits the point of no return, and the deep, quick-moving riffs fit the mood wonderfully.

“Falling Sky” picks up at the mid-point, employing a bit of retro stoner rock foundation before amping it up and skewing into full-blown '60s psych touchpoints. It's one of the easier tracks to let your mind glide along with, thanks to an extended breakdown section that really evokes the ship reaching its peak, and then beginning to collapse. “Sub Orbital” follows that up nicely with strains of melancholic melody contrasted against harder, engine-like chug riffs. The flow is good, the concept flavors are on-point, and the music is reliably solid.

Lastly, there's “Surf”, the EP's longest track, which opens on a stripped-down arrangement using string hammering for a chilly, desolate vibe. As it sprawls out into livelier tones, the band shows their facility with delicate arrangements, while the drummer keeps a reminder of the doom in store for the cosmonauts evident in his brooding beats. A fiery crescendo into an unwinding finish provides the perfect cap on the experience, and making for a truly impressive release from Gods of Space. The official release date is April 20th, so if you didn't already have that date circled on your calendar, go ahead and make a note to grab a copy of this that day. I promise you, it will not disappoint.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Elephant, Demonauta, Frozen Planet....1969, Giant Gutter From Outer Space, Tuber

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Gods of Space - Exit Point (320 kbps)