Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fusion Of Fears...

Ksyatriya & Animi Vultus - Discrimination (2017)

It's been too damn long since we heard from either Ksyatriya or Animi Vultus (three years and change since the former's most recent release, and over five years for the latter), so it comes as not just a delight, but a relief to get word from the groups that this split had been put together and was ready to be shared with the world.
Ksyatriya lead the way on the digital A-side, opening with the ~10-minute “(R).egimented (A).utocratic (C).ontrol (I).n the (S).ubdivision of (M).ankind”, a slabby mountain on which the band puts to work samples of diatribes by Malcolm X over craggy riffs and shuddering, thickly-reverbed tones. “Rise of the Femme Order: Bigot Cleansing” makes up the second section of the duo's record half, retaining the heavy bass presence while introducing the words of Emmeline Pankhurst for the ideological component. Both tracks feature careful development of the instrumental shaping, taking the droning thrum and directing it with nudges and anglings of the pulse, and there's a feel not unlike a sociologically-minded take on Bell Witch's “Beneath the Mask”, though the brothers of Ksyatriya give it much more distinction than that simple description suggests.
Animi Vultus' 'B-side' consists of just one track, the sprawling “Joy of Existence”, which clocks in at just over half an hour. In that space, the band grows their titan from quiet beginnings to deep snarls of doomy resonance, on through interludes of quiet menace, and into some violently energized rampages. There's a lot of discrete sectioning, with moments like their defiant digging deeper and deeper into a vein of sustained riffage that gets spikier and meaner with each pass, or the frenetic drumming so fast it's (almost) certainly programmed, or the nasty rumble that sinks, and sinks, and sinks still more. There's some real power and direction behind the voiceless doom they provide, and it finishes the split off on a decisive drop into the void.
It's been a while since I've heard an album, even a single-artist affair, that managed the kind of focus and completion of purpose that this one achieves. The two groups complement each other damn nicely, leaving listeners to guess at how much communication between them went on behind the music's construction, and the tension stretch of the last few minutes comes at a time when the musical handling should have attentive ears dangling on its string. Expect this one on the year's best releases list.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, Bongripper, Major Kong, Sunken, White Darkness


Friday, August 25, 2017

Orbits And Outgrowth...

Frozen Planet.... 1969 - From the Centre of a Parallel Universe (2017)

It should be no secret that we're big fans of FP69 here at TBB, as they always bring excellence with their heavy psych rock.  With this latest record, the Australian crew have again brought the magic thunder to bear, funking around on thick jammy grooves and swirling up their guitar tones with savory finesse.  Oozing bass waves and snaky drum patterns keep the songs driving forward, and while the tunes take some rambling routes, they rarely lose the momentum and undulating pulse that the band's chemistry and amped-up weight generate.
At only five tracks (and one of those an intro that lasts about a minute), it does feel like a shorter album than the band's usual fare.  But part of that is down to the smooth flow of the music, as they still hit nearly three-quarters of an hour between the other four tracks.  It's hefty stuff, but also disarmingly frisky, carrying a jazzy feel of improv and interplay between the musicians, and doing a stunning job of sweeping listeners up in that energy.  And with the last track, “Ancient Wings Taking Flight”, FP69 really capitalizes on that captivation, churning up and smoothing out their riffs until you've gotta just float along on the waves.   It's the sound of a band in their prime not settling for the familiar, and the pay-off is fantastic.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, JPT Scare Band, Mondo Drag, Reptensol, Ten Years After


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


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


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


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