Saturday, February 18, 2017

Psycho Foxy Killer...

Strato's - Lo Sbirro, La Liceale, Il Maniaco (2016)

Now here's a cool concept for an album. Recognizing how much awesome music was made for the '70s films of their home country, the Italian quintet of Strato's decided to make three tracks each for some of the biggest genres of that time.
First up is the “Lo Sbirro” trio, covering the style of poliziottesco, which can be roughly thought of as police-focused action/drama films. Hard-driving bass kicks, sharp piano accents, gnarly guitar, jazzy drums, and saucy keyboard come together in a brassy assault of funky rock that fires deep grooves and intricate twists into fantastic form, bringing the energy of the associated films with an undercurrent of their violence.
The second trilogy, “La Liceale”, handles sexy comedies, sounding both sultry and sweet with the mellower arrangements of the first track in this section, “Aperitivio”. The keyboardist, again, does a fantastic job emulating the sounds that inspired the project while bringing more than a few breaths of fresh life to the playing. As that's happening, the rest of the band is getting their groove on, something they get to pick up to wilder, summer-vibe heights with the following track, “Un Goffo Pretendente”, and send into lusty mod jazz territory with “Rossella” after that.
And lastly, “Il Maniaco” digs into the giallo/thriller vein. While there's a few big nods to Goblin, Strato's take things in much more of a melting pot direction, combining influences from a wide stretch of composers and films. For instance, there's the tense guitar-string tapping towards the start of “Delirio Paranoide” leading into a keyboard-charged bridge, back through the tapping, and on into sharp stabs from the keyboard, amped up to near-screaming power. Think murder mysteries, cannibal movies, slashers, invincible monster-men horror; if it was scary or gory, had great music, and came out of Italy in the '70s, you can probably find some tip of the hat to it in this section.
Taken all together, it shows amazing range, skill, style, and song-writing technique from this group. Even without the framework given by the movie homages, it's a great set of songs, but with that context in the mix, it makes for a fantastic concept album that meets and exceeds the ambition of that initial idea. Strato's deserve big recognition for what they've put together here, and even more so for this being their first album. I can't wait to hear what else they'll create, and to get my mitts on a physical copy of this LP.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Arti & Mestieri, Fabio Frizzi, The GTVs, The Rococo Bang, Riz Ortolani


Friday, February 17, 2017

Fire In The Altar...

Stone Angels - Patterns in the Ashes (2017)

Hailing from Christchurch, New Zealand, Stone Angels bring a brand of slow, steady, old-school sludge with a hint of progress, but never taking a hit in intensity.  Upon purchase, the record is available in three tracks or one long, continuous 20:54 piece.  A nice touch.  
“White Light, White Noise II” opens as an intro with a hail to Lucifer and a set of atmospheric echo from deep within a cavern.  Slow and steady, Stone Angels trudge along as another set of double-tracked guitar rolls in, giving off hints of post-rock without sacrificing intensity.  Stand-out track “Signed in Blood” takes a darker tone as we're brought back into the howling cavern that follows the album through its entirety.  Delicious C-tuned string bends abound throughout the intro, leading into a heavy deluge of great vocal work, heavy on that old school sludge echo.  Anybody longing for the days of '98-2004-era sludge is going to eat this up!  
Rolling right into “For The Glory Of None”, hail Lucifer and we’re dropped right into our heaviest track yet.  Heavy blasts on the ride with a heavy low end as guitars octave above the top of the track, dropping us right back into that blast.  The production throughout the entire record is top-notch, giving it that sound of something that walked out of 2004, but this can really be heard on the starts and stops of “For The Glory Of None”.  Great, dark, heavy, old-school sludge here.
~ Dan

For Fans Of; YOB, Hela, Saint Vitus, Pentagram


Thursday, February 16, 2017

Null and Void...

Frowning - Extinct (2017)

Swiss band Palmer come to us with their third release Surrounding the Void, a swaying, emotive growler.  Twinkling chords, noodling guitars, and reverb-heavy atmospherics find themselves paired with sludgy riffs and strident vocals as Palmer deftly weave through both light and dark territories with equal parts skill and passion.
The album opens with a snarl of downtuned guitars and heavy drumwork, with occasional dissonant chords disturbing the flow, spiking the riffs with just a dash of pique.  The second track, "Misery", takes things in a decidedly more affecting direction, redirecting the initial angry energy toward the mournful.  Another twist comes in "Artein"'s soft, downplayed moodiness, featuring clean reverb and driving snares.  This is Surrounding the Void's M.O.: overwhelm with heavy, solid songs, then relax and lift with atmosphere.  The two modes play well off each otherthe heavy songs will please any fan of sludge while being nicely melodic, and the atmospheric interludes lend texture to an eminently approachable album.  Fear not, the heaviness is emotive without being saccharine.  Everything in its place.
Every note, every chord, every scream feels distinct and intentionally placed, at odds with Palmer's self-ascribed 'Swiss jazz' influences.  My lack of familiarity with Swiss jazz may be showing here, but these structured songs do not evoke the improvisation that I typically associate with jazz.  If you squint really hard you can hear some of the jazz influences, primarily in the more free form songwriting of the middle portion of the album contrasted by the very tightly structured front and back ("Digital Individual" in particular features some jazz-like solo work) but by and large this is a post-metal release with clear nods to Isis and fellow Swiss group Knut.  Solid on all fronts, Surrounding the Void is not to be missed.

For Fans Of; Cult of Luna, Knut, Neurosis, Isis, The Atlas Moth

Saturday, February 11, 2017

No Pallid Mask...

Goya - Harvester of Bongloads (2017)

Here at TBB, we've been digging on Goya's releases since the days of their demo, so to say that anticipation has been high for this new album would be a bit of an understatement.  Hearing them grow through their split with Wounded Giant, assorted singles and EPs, and the mammoth concept album of Obelisk (still hungering for a reissue of 777, guys!), I was curious to hear how they'd top previous efforts, and I was not disappointed.
Harvester of Bongloads opens with the three-part, twenty-minute “Omen” (which'll take up the whole A-side on vinyl copies), a shape-changing monster of doom, passing through raging assaults, withdrawn reflections, savory riffs, and flirtations with unhinged outpourings.  Trying to assign too many specifics to it would just be underselling the song, so I've got to resort to simply saying 'hear it on your own, then listen to it again.'  There's a real sense of Goya's song-writing maturation here; while they've capably wrangled big tracks before (go back and listen to “No Place in the Sky” again if it's managed to slip your memory), weaving the moods and sections together as they do here shows them driving to a new level, and imagining what it would be like to hear it played live has my head spinning in overload.
In the second half, “Germination” provides a brief set-up of doom in a more feedback-loaded vein, before “Misanthropy on High” swings in on a sustain transition to snarl and spit its back-broken sense of weight and pain.  It's like hearing sludge's rawest attitude channeled through doom metal arrangements, and the band makes that fusion fucking glow like a black-light poster seen through mushroomed eyes.  The slide into melancholy, almost poignant chording around the two-thirds mark only adds to the feeling that Goya are pushing themselves past the point of familiar comforts in crafting their songs, and if I ever wore a hat, it'd be snapped right off to them for that work.
With “Disease”, the last track of the album, they spin those efforts into some of the album's meanest-sounding material, embracing the sludge-via-doom dynamic in all its violent grandeur, and churning to its disintegrating finish with loads of style.   It's one Hell of an album, in short, with Goya utterly rejecting the impulse to rehash old territory that claims and drags down so many promising doom bands.  Their stars are burning bright and hot, and if doom that doesn't play it safe intrigues you, you need to get yourself a copy of this as soon as possible (official release date's March 3rd, so mark your calendar!).
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bitchcraft, Bomg, Dopelord, Ufomammut, Wounded Giant


Friday, February 10, 2017

Slugs In Dead Soil...

Heavy Baby Sea Slugs - Teenage Graveyard Party EP (2017)

Texas’ own Heavy Baby Sea Slugs offer a Japan / Taiwan tour EP, blending parts A.N.S. with parts Sabertooth Zombie as these guys do the hardcore-with-heavy-sludge-breakdowns thing right. Clocking in at just over sixteen minutes, Heavy Baby Sea Slugs bring the ruckus, starting out with a track titled “King Midas of Shit”, a fast-moving slide-guitar-fueled slice of hardcore with one of the best breakdowns this side of the Human Performance series of 7”s. Eponymous track “Teenage Graveyard Party” starts with a shambling, slow-spinning, smoked-out riff giving a taste of what’s to come later, before dropping out in a quick hardcore spurt.
“Pit Bait” brings the twists opening up as an In Defense-sounding circle pit anthem before dropping into darker territory sounding like black metal, and finally moving onto and expanding the sludgier grounds the Baby Sea Slugs are capable of. Finally, magnum opus “Zero-One” starts out HEAVY, harkening back to some of the early days of Boris and shambling along as heavy as possible before being swallowed up in a pit of feedback. Great stuff!
~ Dan

For Fans Of; Zen Lunatics, Dangers, Sabertooth Zombie, Ceremony, early Boris LPs


Thursday, February 09, 2017

A Crushing Weight...

Frowning - Extinct (2017)

Crushing depression and loneliness?  Frowning's got you covered.  Extinct is the latest offering from Val Atra Niteris, the German brain behind Frowning, and it is a plodding, lumbering beast of an album, heavy with atmosphere and foreboding.
Val says of the first track, "'Nocturnal Void' is musically inspired by Worship, lyric is taken from Edgar Allan Poe's 'Spirits Of The Dead', it features guest vocal from Stanislav Govorukha of Suffer Yourself. The idea was to create the atmosphere of a cold, mystical night, and I think I succeed."  And succeed he does.  High notes peal over low growls and ponderous guitars, all at the pace of a desperate crawl.  With a tempo this low, one can't help but make predictions about what comes next, and every time I expected the music to make a depressive turn, it surprised with something slightly more sinister.  It works for the entirety of the album, as cold whispers and lonesome guitars break up these musical monoliths, emboldening and giving context to the ever-present droning.
"Buried Deep" opens with dirge-ish organs and ethereal synth vocals, a stark but not unwelcome change from what's come before.  The vocals in this track remind me of Wolves in the Throne Room's Celestite, minus its prog leanings, and they lend the music a haunting aspect.
The organs make a return appearance along with tolling bells and the sound of falling rain for the closer, a cover of Chopin's "Marche Funèbre".  Appropriate?  Yes.  Too on-the-nose?  Perhaps.  Even so, I can't say I didn't enjoy the hell out of it.  It goes on for perhaps a couple minutes too long, but given the pace of the rest of the album, one should expect the final track of Extinct to take its time.
If you're familiar with funeral doom then there aren't a lot of surprises here, but overall this is a very solid release.
~ Chris

For Fans Of; Catacombs, Loss, Mournful Congregation, Worship