Saturday, August 12, 2017

Roots Buried Deep...

Warrior Pope - Anchorite (2017)


With their debut album a couple of years ago, Warrior Pope delivered one big track to serve as the whole of the LP, a mammoth they steered through experimentation on a doom foundation. With this new release, the band has opted to split their efforts into four tracks, and with that reworking of the structuring comes a wider range of styles drawn into the making of the music. The doom is still there, and strong, but there's also touches of desert rock, prog, post-rock, and psychedelic, all woven together in ways that neatly avoid feeling forced or heavy-handed.
And the development of those chords and riffs? Damn tasty. The group has quite a way with building tension and subtle layers while grinding down on a heavy progression, allowing their instruments to do all the singing and howling. The title track almost feels like an album unto itself, between the ~17-minute duration and the labyrinth of twists it follows. But by surrounding it with distinctly separate (and excellent) songs, Warrior Pope have side-stepped that semi-problem from their first album, where the waves of song growing through their changes made it difficult to recall the original forms or particular passages with clarity. Here, they take a trek that's easier to trace, without compromising the depth of the songs. And it is good. Hell, it's pretty damn great.
The biggest strike against it would be the clip-off endings for the songs. They reach satisfying endings, but then cut the track before the tones finish trailing off, generating a little amp pop in the speakers. It's not a big fault, since it fits somewhat with the organic atmosphere, but as the one thing I'd pick out against them, it does stand out. On the whole, it's hard not to recommend; the album is epic without being ostentatious, experimental without losing its way, and the savagery the music sometimes generates makes for a great contrast with their song-writing techniques. Keep your fingers crossed for this one getting physical release.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, Broughton's Rules, Dead Hand, Reptensol, Venus Sleeps




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Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Great Enchainment...

Earthling - Spinning in the Void (2017)


I first heard Earthling when Forcefield Records was kind enough to include a promo CD copy of their first album, Dark Path, with one of my orders. I eventually listened to it, and shortly after that, ordered the vinyl. That first album has continued to grow on me with every listen, and I've been waiting for this follow-up to emerge for quite a while. Now that it's here (four years after that debut), I'm thrilled to hear the band still going strong, with some adjustments and experimentation finding their way into the band's blend of black/death/thrash/doom (and just a touch of well-handled power metal).
Leading with “Clay in the Hands of Evil”, Earthling load the bases with touchstones of the full album, including sharp guitar shredding, ragged growling howls, quick shifts of rhythm and tempo, and some deviously gnarly riffs. From there, they build up more and more venom with the songs, carving away, laying down hard beats, hammering and smashing when needed, and gradually reducing the amount of breathing room listeners are given. That control of intensity is a welcome retainer piece from the first album, and while the group doesn't follow the same arc of rising abandon for this set of six songs, they do bring more power to the music with each successive track. It's not just in the escalations of speed, fury, drum-pounding, and general volume, but (perhaps) most effectively in the way the instruments join together to hit a commanding, keening focus of tone and style.
I could go on about the other great parts of the album (like that suspension tension to the intro of “The Helm” – oof!), but taken out of the actual experience, the words just wouldn't be doing it justice. To make it simple, if you dig on high-power metal fierceness that doesn't feel the need to restrict itself to just one of the style's sub-groupings, grab yourself a copy of this album (and the first, while you're at it). High quality, showing signs of good growth while retaining the essential character, this is a sophomore album to inspire envy in similar bands and solid replays for fans.
~ Gabriel


For Fans Of; Atrocity, Battle Path, Lesbian, Necrophobic, Weapon




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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Melting The Desert...

El Jefazo - El Jefazo (2017)



With their first studio album, the Peruvian group of El Jefazo come out packing some mean heavy rock with a psychedelic strain, letting their strings snarl while the drums lay down some hard grooves. Twists into pedal effects add some extra panache, and while they're fun little bursts, the music is solid enough (and the band's confident enough) that they're not allowed to rob focus from the powerful riffs, only to kick things up when they need that boost into wilder riding.
The group keeps things instrumental for this batch of six songs, freeing them from having to stretch measures out to cover verses, and a lot of that freedom is used to focus on ramping up from a base riff to a more intense form of it (my favorite example of this being “Rio Tinto”). But the psychedelic element is more than just some flange on the guitar; while things are certainly heavy, they're also pretty damn spacy at times. Stuff like the double-down grind of “Megalodonte” shifting into slow-melt sustain shows how adept the group is at bridging those two sides, but they use that play sparingly enough to keep it fresh when it does arise. The expansive close-out of “El Cañón de la Eternidad” simmers it down to a fine finish, and all around, the band's first full LP is a satisfyingly diverse and ambitious effort, with plenty of raw energy evidenced in the playing. Here's hoping a follow-up emerges before too long, as I'm really curious to hear what other ideas this group has rattling about in their strings and skulls.
~ Gabriel


For Fans Of; Frozen Planet....1969, Gripe, Groggy, Humbaba, Persona




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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ripping Back Out...

Zaraza - Spasms of Rebirth (2017)


It's been a while since Zaraza's last album. Almost a decade and a half, actually. But with the two-piece's return, they show themselves to be firmly on top of the filthy sludge/doom (with a few industrial slams) style as it lived in the mid-'90s days of the band's birth, when Godflesh, Fudge Tunnel, and others were slogging away at the height of their powers. The blear of feedback from bass, the clang and punch of the drums and cymbals, and the snarling gutturality of the vocals come together in a nasty piece of work that's pretty damn compelling in its slow-moving roil of dissonance and dirtiness.
The slow-burn dredging of the instruments gets a lot of focus over the course of the album, and accordingly, the sustain on the strings is matched by a wide impact from the drums. It feels big even while building up to the outbursts, and the weighty crashes from both sides do a great job of hammering down listeners who've got it turned up to suitable volume. There's shades of early black metal to the seriousness of the lyrics' promises of violence (not to mention the buzz-saw grinding), most pronounced in “Blood.ov.Psychiatrists” and its nasty gnashing. Over the whole of the album, there's a grimness that tends to be lacking from most of the modern sludge emulators, and the songs practically drip with miserable abandon, so while there's not much range to the tempos, the heavy oppression of the music draws in enough variation in other aspects to squarely hit the mark. Mean, heavy, and almost unbearably slabby, Spasms of Rebirth firmly reestablishes Zaraza as a force to be reckoned with on the less amiable side of sludge.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dead Existence, Fleshpress, Fudge Tunnel, Mudbath, Skin Chamber




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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Filling The Skies...

Crown Larks - Population (2017)


Having established themselves with a debut EP in 2013 and their first LP two years later, Crown Larks are back after another two years to further adapt their flexible musical style. Where Blood Dancer was a funky fusion of dream pop, space rock, and jazz (with a few more odds and ends stirred in), Population bends things further by ramping up the psychedelia into echoing outbursts and roiling riffs, letting things flow from there as the other influences settle in where they can.
This leads to bouts of prog meshing with world music, heavy psych dovetailing into orchestral shoegaze, and hot jazz brass bursting out of drone-underscored drum solos. But with the dream-like atmosphere that coats the music, they somehow stitch it all together in a way that not only works, but flows from one section to the next with unpredictable impulses that always seem just on the verge of losing balance. It's a strange ride, but one with a lot of appeal, whether you're digging the ambitious combos, bobbing along with the wild beats, or just zoning out to the stream of sound. Check it out if you're down with music that blurs the lines and expectations, but be prepared to invest more than a few sessions with the album before you can really pick out everything that's going on within it.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Daisy Chainsaw, Knifeworld, Terminal Cheesecake, Vanilla Trainwreck, Witchcraft (Sweden)




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Monday, July 10, 2017

You Aint In Kansas Now...


Youngblood Supercult ~ The Great American Death Rattle (2017)


I've been sat on this record for a good couple of weeks now. Staring at it in my iTunes, patiently waiting for the first of this year's batch of shrooms to mature so I could give it the full psychonaut experience I reckon it truly deserves... So, while it maybe the psilocybin talking now, I can say with little trepidation, it was well worth the wait!

For those of you living under a rock for the couple of years or so, Youngblood Supercult suddenly appeared on the radar in 2014 with their first stellar album, Season Of The Witch - as strong a debut as ever you'll hear. Followed up in 2016 with their release High Plain's, which was picked up by the great DHU Records and given a fantastic vinyl treatment, as is the label's style.
One year on and DHU have once again backed the Topeka (now) quartet, to offer up yet another blistering release, this time handing over art direction to Joshua over at The Company, who's done nothing short of a superb job. 

Right from the get go, YBSC reveal their intentions and instantly begin to bathe your ears with a heavily blues influenced dirty psych tone thats absolutely second to none - easily one of the best I've heard in recent memory. The title track really paves the way for the rest of the album. As if Kadavar had resurrected the spirit of Cream and come back from the dead just play an Aleister Crowley tribute concert. It's so dark and sombre, yet eerily beautiful and haunting in the way it's put together and mastered. No album this year, at least to my knowledge, as really encapsulated the retro feel like this does. Not only managing to pay homage to the classics like Sabbath and Sir Lord Baltimore but also Graveyard and Serpent Throne - all while successfully carving out their own unique niche.
With LoFi fuzzy riff's by the bucket load, topped off with a subtle acid rock foreboding, The Great American Death Rattle really shapes up to be one of the best psych albums of the year. Easily holding their own against the likes of Elder's 'Reflections Of A Floating World' and All Them Witches 'Sleeping Through The War'. That's some going too, as both of those releases have garnered some remarkable reviews.
If you're looking for a new album so smoke to, look no further!
~ Jay
For Fans Of; Black Sabbath, Moon Curse, Wicked Lady, Black Pyramid, Asteroid





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