Saturday, May 23, 2020

Cracked And Cadaverous...

Eremit - Desert of Ghouls (2020)

Wasting no time in following up on their debut album from last year, the German trio of Eremit have unleashed this two-track EP, released (as was their LP) by the prolific Transcending Obscurity Records.
Leading with the nine-minute “Beheading the Innumerous”, the band rapidly rumbles up to action speed, pulled upwards by a growler of a riff and stabs of guitar feedback. As the rasping vocals make their way in, the tune congeals into a firmer groove, still working that central riff and showing how durable it is. Some tempo adjustment about midway through leads to more of a groove rider, but the original heaviness and raw vibes remain intact. Things ramp back up to higher speeds for the finish, with a grinding last minute leading to the next track.
The B-side is “City of Râsh-il-nûm”, and while the song doesn't quite deliver the Tolkien-ish mood suggested by that title, it does take its time at the start to build up a gentle atmosphere. Some slow string action, quiet percussion to guide it along, and some echoing bells or chimes glide along for about three of the song's twelve minutes. After that point, some amped guitar enters the mix, perking things up and providing enough dissonance that you may get a few goosebumps prickles while listening. Gradual increases on the general heaviness follow, making the song something of a study in the band's ability to pace itself while pushing onward. Slightly before the mid-point, they kick into hard gear, bumping up the volume on everything along with their intensity, and continue to cruise while finding additional elements to introduce along the way. All around, a good showing from this band, with some fun clues as to where they'll be going from here.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Deuil, Mudbath, Plaguewielder, Slabdragger, Zaraza


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Dreams And Delirium...

Slowbot - Sleepwalker (2020)

It's been almost five years since Slowbot's last release, with their sophomore EP, Pacifier for the Mind.  Following just a year after their self-titled debut EP (which we covered here), their second effort found the band solidifying their stoner rock flavors into a heavier form, and stepping up their cover art as well.  Both trends continue with this LP, which comes as a welcome return from their hiatus, and brings with it six tracks of the French group's heavy rock explorations.
First of the tunes is “Sleepwalker (Part 1)” (its second half closes out the album, fittingly), a creeping crusher which finds the band delving into doomier territory than they've shown on either of the earlier releases.  Once the mood is firmly set, the vocals arrive, ringing out over the swampiness of the guitar and bass, and muffled clangs of the cymbals, with a goosebump-raising ghostliness to the timbre and intonation.  Some deft soloing directs a bridge into more pronounced restatement of the original riffage, with a brief drop before surging even higher for the finish.
With that powerful opening, there would be a lot of options for how to follow it up, and Slowbot go with a shift towards more of a hard rock route in “Strange Fish”.  The drums are allowed to come through more clearly, the guitar riff rides faster and more intently, and the vocals, while still echoing with some distortion, feel more earthly in their delivery.  As if to balance that out, the breakdown is much more psychedelic, with some serious flourishes on the strings.  “Inside” steps back into the big shoes, coming together at just under nine minutes, and bringing its heavy rock base on a versatile trip.  The vocals come through cleaner still, and some lush atmospheric bridges rise up, but with the guitar and bass slamming their chords down as hard as they do, not an ounce of heaviness is sacrificed.
Opening the B-side (assuming this album gets the vinyl release it absolutely deserves) is “Ride”, which brings a rollicking rhythm to bear, and a pounding chorus to get lodged in your head.  Dropping down to just seven minutes, it really evokes the sun-baked feel of rolling down a highway with no particular destination, and practically demands to be played at high volume.  Penultimate track “Here Comes the Fire”, far from being a toss-off warm-up for the finish, changes to a rawer guitar tone to help it stand out (as the LP's shortest song, it kind of needs that feature).  Some droning warbling from the singer helps lend further garage psych flavoring, and the guitarist really seems to be having fun with the solo on this one.
Lastly, “Sleepwalker (Part 2)” brings a close with its nearly eleven-minute run.  Pulling together vibes from all the preceding songs, it unfurls a lengthy instrumental wandering, building up energy before the vocals break in, pulling it into the doom-tuned mood.  Flowing from there through assorted other twists and mutations, the band eventually ties it all back into the original order, giving a fine showcasing of their chops in the process.  It's a pleasure to hear Slowbot back again, and rising to the occasion with such verve and creativity.  Here's hoping that (in addition to this getting a vinyl pressing) their next release doesn't have such a time gap in making its way to us.  Even if it should, though, this one is loaded with enough variety and life to hold up to playing all that while.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Canopy, Fatso Jetson, Greenthumb, Keef Mountain, Pale Grey Lore


Saturday, May 09, 2020

Acrid Fume Exhalation...

Church of Destiny - Black Smoke Eats Out (2020)

Following up on their debut album from last year, the Bulgaria-based Church of Destiny have resurfaced with this five-track EP, delivering a quick shot of dirty sludge on the lo-fi side. Launching off with the muddy thrashing of “Fixation”, the band wallows about in low-end reverb, growling vocals, and hard-beaten percussion, rolling it together in coat of rough production that fits the attitude on display.
After that pleasant introduction, it's on into “Ghetto Hope”, which brings a bit of rolling rhythm to the beats, building the tune up over its run into something that glides along on heavy bass hum, before breaking back into the rougher handling. Despite some odd structuring, it's one of the hookiest riffs on the EP. A spoken-word sample (an extended cut of one used on Meth Drinker's OIL album) leads into “Shooting Whores”, which bumps along on more of a guitar-riven crunch. Bass breakdowns give it some grounding in the heavier end, though, which makes for an effective balancing.
The last two tracks run in quick succession, adding up to about five and a half minutes between them. First of the closers is “Numbing Dose”, which drops in a druggy sample to set the tone before launching into a punchy up-and-down rhythm, and “A.C.A.B.” leans hard into the punk side of sludge's roots, bashing out a down-tuned blast of hardcore antagonism. Though the production can be kind of ragged at times, it does show off the band's authenticity in a way, and sludge is something that's never benefited from being too clean, anyway. Those looking for some under-the-radar metal, give it a go.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Hypnochron, Lifeless Gaze, Mudbath, O.D.R.A., Zeppheroin


Saturday, April 18, 2020

From Dark Valleys...

Wizards of Hazards - Blind Leads the Blind (2020)

What we have here is an EP from a band with a curious history. Having allegedly been founded in 1989 under the name Black Wizard, but changing their name to Wizards of Hazards about six years ago, Blind Leads the Blind is the first release listed on this Finnish group's BandCamp page. The Black Sabbath nods are obvious just from the titles, and the music echoes those impressions, riding a traditional heavy metal vibe to solid effect.
Leading off with “Children of the Damned”, the EP gets underway with clear riffs, theatrical vocals, easy-going rhythms, and some fun soloing from the guitar. It hits that '80s heavy metal style dead-on, handling the heavier and higher sides with equal capability. Production is clean, without being so glossy as to make it feel sanitized, and the musicians do a good job balancing focus between their instruments.
Stoning” follows, leaning into a slightly harder groove, and the drummer gets to lay out some punchier action on his end, with a steady-beat emphasis that nicely evokes the march to doom described by the lyrics. The bridge-work is deftly handled here as well, swaying you into another hook just long enough for the main one to return with renewed power. “Boots of Lead” (and if you don't get that reference, they re-emphasize it with the final chords) closes things out by bringing in a more somber mood, though it stays firmly in the traditional doom realm, rather than shifting into funeral doom or death doom. And the upbeat bridge featured in this track ends up balancing the mood out, anyway.
All together, it makes for a nice, well-rounded demonstration of the band's style and interests, and dishes it out quickly enough that you can jump back into it whenever you feel like. Personally, I'm hoping they show a wider emotional range whenever an LP comes about, but from what's on display here, there's a lot to enjoy, and very little to complain about.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Below, Dio-era Black Sabbath, Manowar, Pilgrim, Saint Vitus


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Don't Look Down...

Night Goat - Burning Bridges to Light the Way (2020)

On Night Goat's third EP (following the simultaneous release of their Chicken and Egg records), the Australian group has put together just under half an hour of material, with a conceptual emphasis on the deteriorating state of the world.
Opening with “Simulacra”, the group works a slow and atmospheric groove between the bass and drums, with smokily sensuous vocals wrapping their way around the progressions. Restrained toothiness on the bass' riffs gets to come out and play in the bridges, with guitar-work and rougher singing joining in once that side's been uncovered. As things continue to develop, both sides entwine and branch off again, making for an opener that impresses with its technical panache as well as the emotiveness of the playing.
Negative Crepe” (presumably a play on the similarly-titled Nirvana track) picks up from that high note, shifting back to the slow and moody vibes for the most part, though they do find room for some heavy and hard hits on the up-shift. It's more of a tonal trip than a rocker, but they put in such good work, it hardly feels like they're taking it easy. “Anchorite” takes over from there with a broody, simmering lead-in that practically tingles with foreshadowing. And the song delivers, working its way back and forth on intensity escalation, teasing listeners deeper into its web, edging them on with ominous build-up and leaving them eager for whatever may come.
Finally, “The Last Human Sound...” brings a conclusion that builds from the mix of melancholy and anticipation preceding it, delivering the longest song on the EP. Working a rising tension and swelling guitar presence, the band unfurls a track that I have to imagine takes on a spirit of its own in live performances. Despite its length, it's maybe the easiest listener on the EP, thanks in large part to the careful handling of the main melody. All in all, a very respectable release from this crew, and one with some deceptively sharp hooks to get lodged in the back of your mind.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid King, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Stonerror, Wicked Lady, early Windhand


Saturday, April 04, 2020

Taste The Source...

Mind Reverse - Cosmic Flow (2020)

Following up on an EP and a pair of singles all released in 2017 (two years after forming the band), the Brazilian group of Mind Reverse have taken an intensive three years to assemble this, their first LP. With a hefty thirteen full songs to its run, Cosmic Flow shows the band's high-octane heavy rock, with healthy infusions of psychedelic and funk rock, and a few splashes of prog as well, all mixed together in top-notch form.
Starting off with the tasty grooves of “New Lands”, Mind Reverse get things cooking and pull the listener right on into the heat. The hooks, captivating arrangements, and permeating creativity are persistent qualities for the rest of the album as well, with quick-changing rhythms playing up the main beat, fills to get your spine bouncing, and always more room for a snazzy flourish or three. It's hard to pick out a favorite song, as the album flows so damn well through them all, and there's always new details to notice.
Fat but nimble bass-lines, deftly agile drumming, guitar-work that can switch on a dime between gritty and soaring, and vocals that wonderfully complement it all are joined by a number of other touches, with organ, flute, and keyboard embellishments making the music practically burst with enthusiasm and liveliness. There's not a false step among the songs, and the range covered by the band is made all the more impressive by how casually cool they make it seem. There's a bit of a Jane's Addiction vibe at times, but pulled off with much more sincerity, less deflective wryness, and a hell of a lot more psychedelic flair.
For the band's first album, it's put together astonishingly well. The energy is managed nicely, with a few slower groove tunes spaced out among the higher-tempo rides, letting listeners appreciate both sides without getting worn out on either. The stylistic range, as previously mentioned, is fantastic, and there's so many melodic hooks that you'll be spoiled for choice on which one to get stuck in your head. The care put into making the music is evident in every moment, though it never gets in the way of rocking out. Thoroughly impressive work, and some of the best heavy rock I've heard in a long while. Don't miss out on this one, if you have even a slight taste for heavy rock. Cheers to Mind Reverse!
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Craneón, Gripe, Manthrass, Necro (Brazil), Persona (Argentina)