Monday, August 22, 2016

Season of the Blues...

Slow Season - Westing (2016)
Slow Season's third outing, Westing, kicks off with a frenetic blues rock jam that sounds like the bastard child of Clutch and Led Zeppelin.  Propulsive, energetic and impossible to dislike Y'Wanna fulfils the classic role of an opening track.  It grabs you where it hurts and it never lets go.
The thumping, hard hitting drum work may lack discretion but it does supply the sort of furious backing Bonham would be happy with whilst the stop start riffage of Flag owes a similarly large debt to Jimmy Page.  If the spirit of Led Zeppelin hangs heavy over Slow Season then it's no bad thing and nothing that a million doom bands haven't done with Black Sabbath.
In ways more than just their influences, Slow Season have a decidedly retro aesthetic.  The majority of the songs on Slow Season fade out, rather than lasting until their natural endings.  It might not seem a lot but it hasn't been the norm to fade rock songs out since the seventies.  The slow grinding blues rock of The Jackal summons to mind the dust drenched blues of the deltas as re-imagined through the sphere of scuzzy old school hard rock.
Slow Season may not be innovators as such but there is something paradoxically refreshing about their sound.  You can compare them to the old legends all you like but it doesn't diminish the fact that they're actually very good at what they do and Slow Season proves this as much here if not more than their previous efforts.
If criticism had to be meted it would lie for me with the production; on songs like Saurekonig there's a slightly murkiness to the sound - a lack of instrument clarity.  Perhaps this is intentional, but a drier more directly punchy production would have better suited these decidedly to-the-point songs.  It's a small fly in an otherwise very enticing jar of ointment though.
Make no mistake, those who like their rock heavy on the dirt and even heavier on the blues will find much to enjoy here.  Those who don’t like heavily influenced music might be best to move on, as it's not hard to identify the album’s roots if you're out to do so – but I see no reason to penalise them for that.  Slow Season have produced an excellent heavy blues rock record here and those enamoured with the genre's downtrodden charm should give this album a listen pronto.
~ Martin

For fans of; Led Zeppelin, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Wishbone Ash, Groundhogs, Kadavar

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Burning On And On...

Stone House On Fire - Neverending Cycle (2016)

Neverending Cycle is the second full album from this Brazilian group, and with it, they groove through eight tracks of solid heavy rock, seasoned with retro psychedelia and a more modern touch of hardness to their rock.  Savory guitar tones rolled in light fuzz, jazzy drum-work, a strong sense of atmosphere, and grooves crafted to sink firmly into memory are cooked into an impressively detailed album.
The care taken with building momentum across the songs is another strong point, with a swift rise through the first half, a breather in the form of ~2-minute "Pasaje", and a ramping up through the last three songs, ending with the ~7-minute rampage of the title track, which wraps things up with plenty of flourish.
It's an album that's easy to just let yourself get absorbed by, soaking up the powerful riffs and rhythms, but at the same time, it's one which rewards careful listening, picking out the nuances of those sweeping drives.  Pre-orders are up now for vinyl and cassette copies, so if you've got a taste for heavy rock that does more than just imitate the old ways, do yourself a favor and check in on SHOF.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Earth Drive, Gripe, Hijo de la Tormenta, Mondo Drag, Montaña Electrica


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Feel Them Twisting...

CEBO))) - GUTS (2016)

One-man sludge band CEBO))) is back with five more tracks on this new release, rolling on the momentum of Bloodwheel, which was released back in January.  Starting off with "Hill Country", a series of vocal samples from bluesmen and killers are threaded together with an undercurrent of bassy menace and understated humor, doing a great job of setting the mood while telling its own story.  The title track follows, launching into more dominant bass and bringing in the rest of the instruments, including the gruffly raw vocals, as a prickly riff develops into a craggy groove, leading listeners further in with the slow-bounce beats and thick tones.  "Sinkhole" makes for the last of the release's original tracks, getting further down in the swampy sidling rhythms before exiting on a keening note.
From there, a mean and gritty take on Cream's "Blue Condition" churns out the grime, switching between the vocals used on the previous two tracks and a cleaner (but synth-burbled) voice treatment, lending the interpretation a nice polish even while it swims in the muck.  Lastly, a cover of Willie Dixon's "Meet Me in the Bottom" cranks through it at high speed, making for a style that's like rockabilly filtered through sludge's sensibilities, and bouncing along like a pick-up with aging suspension.
The songs show a further growth of CEBO)))'s experimental nature, as well as the way the elements are assembled, and above all, he seems to be having fun with the material.  Check this one out if you want some sludge that recognizes its bluesy roots.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Church of Misery, Chronobot, Dopethrone, Groggy, Weedeater


Friday, August 19, 2016

Spilling New Blood...

Crimson Altar - Clairvoyance EP (2016)

Coming to us from Portland, Oregon, the quartet of Crimson Altar are making their debut with this release, sporting four tracks of doom to make their first impressions on fans of heavy music.  The music has a little fuzz to it, and some nice emphasis on melody (particularly with the control shown in the vocals), but the band's main focus is on melding traditional doom with modern touches, not afraid to break out of the slow crush tempo for a lively bit of guitar noodling or some unexpected sweetness in the form of flute (handled by vocalist Alexis Kralicek).
On the whole, the band's efforts to tinker with the staples of doom while keeping its essence firmly intact are quite successful, though there are times where trying to find a balance feels like it would be better suited by diving more fully into the heavy end before coming back up with a lighter touch.  Aside from that, and a slight need for more rhythmic variations, Crimson Altar are in fine form, with songs that have a more than fair chance at getting lodged in memory until you find yourself humming out a few bars.  Good stuff all around, be sure to check this crew out; and if you're in the north-west region of the USA, you've got a chance to catch them live over the next few days, just check their BandCamp page for the dates.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Blind Samson, Brume, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Mist, Wolf Blood


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Splash It On...

chainsaw rainbow - art brut (2016)

With his latest album, Chainsaw Rainbow's mastermind Dominic Massaro offers up ten new tracks of effects-laden guitar and dreamy drifting, including a new version of "Love is a Vapor".  Covering a range from soft-ringing chords to blaring feedback (and regularly layering the two extremes over each other), the songs play with contrasts of aggression and introspection, spooling out hypnotic loops but ratcheting the tension up to prevent getting drawn into drowsiness.  Punkish raucousness and shoegaze's pedal play are blended in interesting ways throughout the tracks, whether pushing into harder territory or slowing down to calmer cruising, as the swirling tones and heavy resonance bleed together in well-handled waves.
The album also shows some changes in the way Massaro is approaching the songs, though picking out particulars is a bit tricky due to the idiosyncrasies of each individual Chainsaw Rainbow release.  Where photorealistic had a focused, almost tunnel-vision-like push through channels of single-minded drone and pedal drive, Art Brut shows more diversity within the bounds of the tracks, wandering about and taking in some changes instead of blasting away.  While both approaches have their merits, it's a little too easy to imagine the musician getting worn out on the latter in quick order, so the signs of alteration are reassuring, while also giving listeners who aren't directly in tune with the fuzz-drone experience something more to latch onto if it's their first time hearing the band.  As usual with Chainsaw Rainbow, check it out when you're in the mood for some good-humored heavy psychedelic material with a wide streak of shoegaze and drone influences, and you should be well satisfied.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Mind, Skullflower, Spacemen 3, Telstar Sound Drone, Terminal Cheesecake


Saturday, August 13, 2016

Lit By Burning Corpses...

Wizard City - Wizard City EP (2016)

Starting off with a film sample worked well into a building atmosphere of dread before launching into low-toned strings, grinding bass, and raw vocals, "Filthy Disease" starts off this debut from England's own Wizard City with a fusion of doom and sludge, roiling sickly between the weight of the former and mental grime of the latter.  It makes for a striking mix, one executed quite well by the quintet, with further exploration shown in "Eternal Realm of Hate", which brings in a stinging sharpness for the guitar while the vocals belch out that old chestnut of "Where is your god now?".
"Jail Cage" churns up some fuzz while handling a bit of a throwback-flavored main riff, the proto-doom of it soon savaged by the sludgy rawness and aggression, though it rises back up to take its own before the finish.  Lastly, "Abyss" sinks into an instrumental pit of nasty growls and heavy resonance, making for a stylish finale which show-cases the group's abilities in constructing a layered monster of a track.  An excellent first release, and one which should have listeners looking forward to further output from this crew.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    The Air Turned To Acid, Coffin Torture, Dopethrone, The Hyle, Verdun