Saturday, September 04, 2021

Upon This Earth...

Caged Wolves - Act of Nature Beyond Control (2021)

Coming to us from the cultural hub of Vienna, this is the third release from Caged Wolves, following their back-to-back studio and live EPs in 2019. This time around, the band brings three songs to the table, each settling in the eight to ten minute range, working a mix of desert rock, doom metal, and alternative approaches to each.

First of the tunes is “Cosmic Rage”, which kicks off on a psychedelic groove with some phasing guitar over heavy rolling drums. Settling into a slow-moving but powerful groove which hangs around for much of the song's remainder, the band counterpoints it with bursts of glowering energy, punching up the vocals right alongside the strings and drums. The vocalist is gracious enough to bow out for a stretch, letting the listener soak in some instrumental interactions as they gradually build to a crescendo, leading to a real banger of a climax. “Chronos” follows, leading with an interesting intro finger-picking and rim percussion before sliding to an almost wistful arrangement. They put the high-energy bursts of the opening track to work again here, but raise the time spent in those outbursts each time, making for a cool study in alternation of their intensity. Thankfully, there's enough emotion put into the slower portions that they don't lose the thread, though the momentum does get stretched pretty far. Again, the climax delivers on the build-up, and the band shows some striking chemistry in the way they riff off of each other in this one's release.

Lastly, “Through the Rainbow Valley” introduces itself by pulling out a blanket of fuzz for the strings, which, along with the fatness of the ensuing riffs, shifts things deep into Kyuss territory. As the band shifts their way back out along the course of the song, the psychedelic and prog elements get turned way up, culminating in a fantastically shagged-out roar. Oh, and then you get all three songs again, in instrumental form. The persistent quality of the songs is a testament to the work that this crew has been putting in since their last releases, and it certainly pays off nicely. Great song-writing and powerful playing, well worth checking out for anyone in the mood for something with some heavy music to take them away for a while.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Rooster, Broughton's Rules, Don Caballero, Fatso Jetson, Frozen Planet....1969

FacebookOfficial WebsiteInstagram SoundCloudYoutubeBandCamp

Caged Wolves - Chronos (320 kbps)


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Burning Fields Forsaken...

The Slow Death - Siege (2021)

Hailing from Australia, this death/doom quintet has some common ground leading up to their current incarnation. Not only is this the fourth non-split album to come from The Slow Death, but three of the members are also in Horrisonous and Illimitable Dolor, with the two vocalists (one of whom also handles keyboards) having been plucked from Muskrat and Oracle of the Void. With the shared history between the main instrumental members, you'd expect to find this project approached with a strong sense of purpose, and just from glancing at the track times, that suspicion seems borne out. Totaling just over an hour, split between four songs, it's clear that the band has their ambitions set high,

Opening track “Tyranny” leads into its body with a lush intro, strings and keys drifting over each other in a dreamlike softness. Of course, it's not too long before a harder edge shows itself, as the bassist steps in with a staunch riff and gliding resonance, eventually joined by faster guitar and one of the vocalists (Mandy Andresen), who provides an earthy vibe not dissimilar from early Windhand or Jess And The Ancient Ones. That warm vibe is counter-balanced by the deeper growls from second vocalist Gamaliel, allowing the band to give a more human than usual manifestation of the death/doom contrast. Where Andresen's vocals might be put against chugging guitar, Gamaliel's might find some lightly plucked acoustic string backing, and so on. It's a clever and compelling approach to the music, but even beyond that clear hook, the songs are structured with care. Lengthy as they are, the numerous sections within the songs manage to avoid dragging. Instead, there's both emotion to savor in the moment, and the anticipation of the next shift, with the assorted movements flowing smoothly into one another.

The band also brings a pleasing variety of tonal and timbral qualities. Even within the opening track, the guitars shift their moody presences around from menacing, to meditative, to mournful, and more. While there's not the sort of overt time signature jumping and staggered rhythmic play that might make your mind jump to prog, there's certainly some progressive spirit animating the musicians' approach to the song-writing. Take “Famine”, for example, which alternates a rolling, almost Iron Maiden-ish rhythmic pull (down-shifted to doom gear, of course) with slower, more somber sections. Not a new trick for doom, but the band deploys it wonderfully, returning to the harder riff each time with increased ferocity, chewing right through the song's thirteen minutes. Even if you're not intent on picking apart the songcraft, it's easy to sink into their deep grooves and savor the work put into them. All together, it's an excellent and impressive piece of work. If you're in search of thoughtfully crafted doom, don't let this one go unheard.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, The Fateful Hour, Heavydeath, Ksyatriya, Ufomammut

Facebook BandCamp

The Slow Death - Famine


Saturday, August 07, 2021

Slime, Scabs, and Soil...

Black Wound - To the Endless Depths (2021)

On the physical release of their debut EP, the Swedish trio of Black Wound serve up a heady mix of death and doom metal. Despite their young ages (with a drummer who's currently 17), the band has a solid lock on the style and substance, delivering music with enough dark potency to shame groups twice their age.

Opening track “Absence of Will” jumps right into their swampy stew of deep bass riffs, growling vocals, and clanging percussion, with abrupt time signature and tempo change-ups meshing into the grim gurgles and noisome grooves. “From Eternity and Beyond” continues the intense outpouring, with the clangor of the cymbals rolling against the buzzy fuzz and submerged howls. All the while, they keep up some hooky rhythms, pulling listeners along through the surface-level chaos and into the sunken structuring. It also features one of their more memorable breaks, with a desolate-sounding solo taking advantage of the speed and separation contrasts.

“Unending Labyrinth” carries on with more of a classic death metal groove, though it's one which lets the drummer really flex and showcase his chops. Meanwhile, the guitarist goes hard in on his riffing, with a circling progression that suits the track title. “Lurker of the Threshold / Dweller of the Depths” brings a touch of Lovecraft to the imagery, though it doesn't alter the flavor of the music itself in any drastic way. Some extensive tone sustain fits with the monstrous depths and distance ideas of the title (at over seven minutes, this is also the EP's longest excursion). Then it's on into closing track “Traitor”, which shifts back into a more focused grind to match the succinct title. It's one of the cleaner-sounding tunes on the EP, with another stand-out solo freed from the ambient din that marks most of the songs found here. All together, it's a damn impressive first work from any band in the death/doom cross-pollination, with heaviness and brutality overflowing. Here's to the arrival of Black Wound, with hopes that their next release arrives soon.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Coffin Lurker, Fleshpress, Heavydeath, Leechfeast, Primitive Man

Dry Cough BandCampBandCamp

Black Wound - Unending Labyrinth (320 kbps)


Saturday, July 31, 2021

Honoring The Name...

Big Smile Revival - The Universal Veil (2021)

Coming at us from the Bristol region of the UK with this, their debut EP, the trio of Big Smile Revival balance retro psych rock leanings with some more modern rock rough 'n' tumble looseness.

Lead track “Sacred Mushroom” lays in a choice sample before sliding into a warm groove, which finds its way into bigger, faster, and rowdier forms as the group gets down with it. Staying instrumental, they keep the focus on the tones, rhythms, and interplay, and turn out a high-charged piece of cool exploration as a result. As the move into “Divided Kind”, a bit of a twist on pub rock rhythms sneaks its way in, spiked with enough grungy attitude to turn it on its ear. This song also brings in the vocals, which merge with the grumbly fuzz to great effect, dipping into and rising out of it as the harmony keeps moving. A tasty guitar solo gives it that much more kick, and keeps the energy up as the EP moves to its second half.

“Amhran Siog (Fairy Song)” gives a big nod to the group's regional roots, and while there is some starry-eyed folksiness to the acoustic guitar lead-in, and accompanying lightness of the vocals, BSR tap back into the straight-out rock before they lose momentum. That play with contrasts fuels the rest of the song, with the band taking alternating scoops from each, and the clearer sections put a bigger spotlight on the band's lyrical facility. Closing things out, “The Helm” indulges in some tonal lushness, riding the listener in on echoing guitar chords, with the same effect giving the vocals a spacy vibe. There's a wistful quality to the playing on this last track, pushing the band's emotional position out from the mass of the EP's rock-out approach. It's a nice show of their range, and the slowed tempo is given enough change-up in the breaks to keep it from turning into a closing lullaby. All together, great work from this group on their first outing, and enough quality across the songs to have me eagerly awaiting their next release.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Fossil, Frozen Planet....1969, The Heavy Co., Pale Grey Lore, Vanilla Trainwreck

Facebook Twitter Instagram SoundCloud Youtube Spotify

Big Smile Revival - Sacred Mushroom


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Temporary Graveyard Holding...

Crypt Monarch - The Necronaut (2021)

Hailing from Costa Rica, the power trio of Crypt Monarch are making their debut with this three-song, thirty-six-minute album, recorded (according to the liner notes) “live in a cabin in the woods.” Thanks to their name and some woodcut cover art (especially that fine shade of purple), they've got a good sense of character from the start. That's especially welcome, since for the most part, the vocals aren't the focus on this album.

The evocatively titled “Morning Star Through Skull” opens things up, leaning into some heavy, hard-landing beats and long-sustain riffs to build up an atmosphere of rumbling aggression. As the song plays on, the violent aspects get more life, from bellowing vocals to fuller body on the guitar's ringing chords, and while the finishing moments don't quite pull out a solid conclusion, it still has enough appreciable moments before then to have stoner doom fans nodding along.  “Rex Meridionalis” (your guess is as good as mine on the meaning; 'King of the middle,' maybe?) picks up in a similar style once “Morning Star Through Skull” winds to a close. Once it hits its stride, though, it brings in some winding riffage alongside some metallic percussion for a nicely creepy serpentine vibe. As they lay in some heavy distortion and lean further into the riff, the rhythms hit fantastically, making for a real dark groove tune.

“Aglaophotis” keeps up the mystery titling, and finds the band taking more of a fuzz feedback tone for the guitar, feeling a bit like a lost B-side from Come... My Fanatics, at least instrumentally. The vocals get pushed way down in the mix, leaving the yells as muffled periphery. A late-song shift into more melodic focus helps put a nice capper on the album, with the circling low notes feeling like a sliding comedown. Throw in a distorted sample at the very end, and what you've got is a confident, well-realized album of deep-submersion stoner doom. Sure, there are rough spots here and there, and the length of the songs leads to some filler, but for the first album from the group, and one that was recorded live, it's more than satisfactory. Check this one out if you wish Demon Head had continued more in the vein of their original demo.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Candlemass, DoomLord, early Electric Wizard, Pilgrim, Reverend Bizarre

Facebook Instagram BandCamp

Crypt Monarch - Rex Meridionalis (320 kbps)


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Elusive Illumination...

Fell Harvest - Pale Light in a Dying World (2021)

Following up on their self-titled EP from last year, the power trio of Fell Harvest have made their return with a solid forty minutes of forceful doom metal. Peppering in a little bit of spoken word samples here and there, the main focus remains firmly on the strength of the instruments' impact, moods that lean more towards rage than sorrow, and pressing ever onwards.

With “Titanicide”, the opening track, the band sets a powerful first foot forward. Pounding percussion, strident vocals, and insistent strings come together in punchy chords and hooky riff arrangements. Some sharp guitar work gives those hooks all the more ability to lodge in the back of your brain, and the speed with which the band rams through their ideas makes the four-minutes-and-change practically zoom past. As the title track follows up on that initial salvo, expanding into an eight-minute rambler, the band finds more room for slow melodic focus. It should be noted that, in spite of the song names, there's fairly few moments of sorrowful calm to be found in the album; funeral doom, this is not. But the times when it does arrive (as with the extended bridge in the title track) are well-used, making the inevitable returns to thunderous pummeling feel more impactful.

Thankfully, the interplay of the band members is reliably interesting and inventive, shifting focus around the trio's talents to strong effect, and keeping the songs feeling that much more vitalized as a result. In particular, when they unite around a main driving riff, things really kick into gear (see “The Lark at Morning” for a strong example). Similarly, when they give attention to grinding down a particular rhythm (as in “Thy Barren Fields”), the results are some of the album's heaviest. All in all, it's a very strong album from the band, and one with enough twists in the compositions to reward return visits. Here's hoping that their next album finds a little more time to spend in the melodics and sorrow, though.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Candlemass, The Fateful Hour, Heavydeath, Opeth, Pilgrim


Fell Harvest - Thy Barren Fields (320 kbps)