Sunday, May 01, 2016

From Deep In The Woods...

Birnam Wood - Warlord (2015)

With Warlord, Birnam Wood serve up a slight but sweet course of lysergic, adventurous doom that has roots in the same soil as most other doom bands (the spirit of Iommi is never far away here) but has branches reaching into more left-field territory.
The Warlord EP has an almost restless sense of exploratory wandering.  The 8-minute "Wizards Bleed" has sections with a compelling, melodic vocal line that sounds more in line with what you'd expect on a 1967 psych-rock album than a 2015 doom metal one.  The song continues ever onwards in search of some inexorable musical power through relentlessly heavy jamming.
The zonked-out blues doom of "Two Ravens" soon gives way to a frantic onslaught of cascading drums on a dual-guitar lead lines, that again defy expectations by sounding more like the work of a late '70s stadium rock band than that of a band of intrepid doom-mongers.
"The Forge" throws the band in an altogether sludgier light, or at least the first three minutes do.  Even though by this point the band have settled into a nice groove, they once again chop things up by breaking into a bout of vaguely spacey jamming before again transforming the song into a whirlwind of high octane solos and tripleted back-beats.
This seemingly compulsive need to throw everything but the kitchen sink into their songs is certainly to Birnman Wood's credit.  It shows a real willingness to explore the sonic possibilities of a traditional heavy rock configuration and - at the very least - it stops the songs from ever getting stuck in a rut.  At times, ideas can feel a little underdeveloped with certain sections of songs understaying their welcome, and others not being exploited to their full potential.  If anything though, this only serves to highlight what potential Birnam Wood have. 
In Warlord, Birnam Wood have given us a memorable and highly worthwhile EP that, in a genre where too many groups lack their own ideas, is never anything less than challenging to try to pigeonhole.
~ Martin

For fans of; Sleep, Black Sabbath, Ufomammut, Cough, Elder


Saturday, April 30, 2016

Sun-Cooked Psych Rock...

Red Scalp - Rituals (2016)

Following up on their 2014 debut EP, the Polish group of Red Scalp have now returned with their first full album, packed with six songs of rambling but tight-riffed stoner rock.  Quickly launching off after an introductory sample, the album soars off with massive-sounding strings swaddled in fuzzy blankets, soon joined by similarly-treated vocals and grounding percussion.  Spacy, expansively psychedelic tones and pedal effects drench the music, with phasing, wah-wah, and big-sky reverb just a few of the tricks in Red Scalp's bag, used to add some extra flash to the impressive base-line grooving conjured up by the band.
The vocals fit in just right, pulling the charismatic whole-heartedness quality from traditional '70s heavy rock, without picking up too much of the cheesiness that tends to stick to those when attempted by modern bands.  The playing by the individual musicians has some of that same magic to it, with each getting spots to show off their own fire, and all of them pulling together to swing out hard unified licks and beats.  The first four songs in this vein lead up to the title track, a ~20-minute monster of slow build and heaviness, followed by the quick closer of "Revelation", and all six come together to make a damn powerful first album, full of hooks and sweet technique.  If you've been on the search for some heavy rock with some real fire behind it, this should do you right.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Druglord, Eternal Elysium, Frozen Planet....1969, Merlin, Mother Mars


Friday, April 29, 2016

Lighting The Stage...

Cultist - Three Candles EP (2016)

With members of Skeletonwitch and Howl behind the formation of this heavy stoner rock band, Cultist has an unusual lineage lurking behind their debut EP.  With nearly a half-hour of material to it, the five songs of Three Candles balance tunefulness with thick fuzzy riffs for potent results.
The opening title track has something of a Blood Lust-era Uncle Acid vibe to it, with raw guitar tone cutting its way through the bountiful fuzz while the vocals wail on in obscurity.  The songs which follow use a comparable formula, though they veer further away from those psych touches and more towards regular modern heavy rock and traditional heavy metal worship in their execution, with doom influence bubbling up from the bass.  Strong rhythmic force and catchy riffs are a component of each one, some slammed harder than others, and there's a good sense of cohesion to the hot-amped chords and well-beaten drums.
As a first release, it's a firm start, likely to draw people's ears past the backgrounds of the band's members and on into the sounds they've crafted here.  Good hooks, lively playing, and buckets of fuzz add up to a set of tunes that should earn plenty of repeat plays from those who pick up a copy, and while the EP is currently digital-only, it's easy to imagine this popping up on vinyl in the near future.  Check it out now, though, so you can get started having fun with this Cultist.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Brume, Desert Crone, Fatso Jetson, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Uncle Acid


Thursday, April 28, 2016

Storm Meets Thunder...

Desert Storm / Suns of Thunder - Split 7" (2016)

H42 Records have long been in the habit of supplying solid 7" split records, and I'm happy to say that this latest one continues that trend of quality and heavy tunes.  On the A-side, we've got Desert Storm playing "Signals From Beyond", a groove-focused piece of desert rock (surprising, right?).  Husky vocals and pedal-treated guitar tone mesh with some thumping drums to get the job done, rolling along on the main riff's rhythm while throwing in a few twists, with a crunchy break-down or two lying in wait.
Over on the B-side, "Earn Your Stripes" is performed by Suns of Thunder, playing in a similar style, but with a little more alternative rock in their DNA, sort of a down-tuned Soundgarden or Audioslave, with clearer vocals and sharper string tones.  The 7" is available in a traffic light set (100 each on translucent green, yellow, or red, plus 50 on clear), with the official release date popping tomorrow (that's the 29th of April, just to be clear).  If you want some alt-ish hard rock with a stoner rock dip, be sure to check it out.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Acid Western, Bones of Mary, DATURA4, Father Sky, Mangoo


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Filling The Sky...

Hexenjäger - Black Titan (2016)

Last year, we heard from Hexenjäger with their demo, and now they're back with their first full-length album.  The unorthodox doom metal of that demo has matured into something with the same rough outline, but more muscle and riffage behind its heavy churning doom.  Each of the tracks have a nice length to them, leading up to a reworked version of the 20-minute song from their demo (now sadly without the torturous samples that once opened it) renamed to be the album's closing title track, and they get their main melodic thrusts across while luxuriating in the roominess by way of off-shoots, solos, and expanded tune-twisting.
Along the way, they manage to subtly fold in stylistic elements from psych rock, traditional heavy metal, blues rock, and a few other sources, stirring them into the doomy base to excellent effect.  The riffs are of that special variety where they just sink right into your brain, lodge themselves in, and feel as if they've always been there.  As a continuation of the band's demo, it shows them expanding their musical palette while honing their main focus, with clear indications of further goodness waiting to be released.  With a layout that's practically begging to be put out on vinyl by some savvy label (three on the A-side, the big'un on the B), keep your ears up and fingers crossed for this to make its way onto physical format.  But in the meantime, throw some money to the band and pick up a digital copy on their BandCamp, then play it loud and let it get deep into your system.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Black Rainbows, Church of Misery, Disenchanter, Dopelord, Eternal Elysium


Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sludge, Fuzz, And Crust...

Slush - American Demons (2016)

American Demons is the latest and longest release from the NYC band of Slush, who've been kicking around for a few years now, and are now bringing eight tracks of fuzzy, sludgy, punky, doomy rock (plus a shot of blues every now and then) into action with a rough but stylish form.  Keeping things generally quick and concise, but letting riffs and tunes have the room needed to grow, the band uses thick-fuzzed bass, flexible percussion, and gnarly guitar to build multi-hooked runs and lines of memorable sway-inducing grooves.
While there's a trust-bringing crustiness to the music, pulling yourself away from the impulse to just slow-bang your head along and focusing on the playing will give a sense of hard refinement put into getting all the pieces to come together just right.  Even when blearily shredding along, or bringing out a swampy growl of mad bass (both of which come into excellent use in "Iron Mountain", which you can find below), the band keeps a... well, polished isn't the right word for it, so let's call it well-worn, as though they've played through everything enough to be able to bend it and twist it around without losing the essence.  While I can't call myself a big fan of NYC, the music of this album does have me regretting that I can't catch Slush doing their thing live.  Check it out on their BandCamp, and when you find yourself trying to hum out whichever track ended up lodged in your brain, go ahead and buy a copy to help show they're doing things right (you can even snag a mercury silver cassette version, with art for each song, if that's your thing).  Strong stuff with a good sense of humor and powerful chops.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Black Pyramid, The Heavy Co., Merlin, Satan's Satyrs, Special People