Friday, July 31, 2015

Reciting The Rituals...

THVS - Everyday Hexes EP (2015)

Hailing from Northern Ireland, THVS' arrival with this debut EP comes in a storm-cloud of aggressive heavy rock, lashing out with gruff vocals, thumping drums, and a guitar/bass combo that tears away at the strings.  The violent tendencies give things a sludgy sheen, but the bedrock riffs of the songs and the taste for dirty grooves keep the trio with their feet planted in rocky earthiness as they unload their heavy rumble.  Effective spikes hidden between the steadier riffs provides a punkish energy (turned highest on the closer "Herman") without losing the low-end focus, and when they do pare things down to give all the attention to a given bridge or refrain, it's to show off something which earns that spot-lighting.  The EP's biggest track, "Hudson", is probably the best for showing the various song twists the band can capably link together, but the concentrated crunch of the shorter stuff feels truer to the band's projected attitude.  A more than decent start for the band, with the roughness laid down confidently and the heaviness landing solid.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Crowskin, Dopethrone, modern EyeHateGod, Funeral Horse, Wolf Blood


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Landing Face Up...

Witchtripper - Tardus Mortem EP (2015)

Witchtripper make their debut on this EP with a succinct description of their musical approach, worded on their BandCamp page as "HEAVY // FUCKING // METAL".  True to their word, the group delivers doom metal with some deathly vocals and guitar liveliness, slipping in a well-chosen film sample to start things off and accentuate the stoner patina fuzzing up their bass and riff-style.  They bring the attitude of sludge (especially on the second track, "Agony"), but with most of the griminess confined to the vocals as they're rasped and spat out over the beats and feedback.  Imagine an angrier version of Electric Wizard's more nihilistically-inclined lyrics as the animating force, and you're in the right county.
There's friction between these Frankensteined genre elements, but the EP generally runs without too many bumps in the wrong spots.  There's a classic modern doom feel to the bass' parts of the songs, but its riffs run a bit too repetitive with the need to defend its musical territory against the invading guitar and vocals; respect goes to the drummer, who plays to each of the sides with a well-rounded presence.  The closing title track feels like the most natural fusion of the music's pieces, but there's the caveat of it being an instrumental piece.  While it feels less crowded without the vocals, the singer had put so much honest passion into his work that I felt somewhat put-out by his absence.  There's lots of promising possibilities to be heard in the songs, though, and whichever side(s) they decide to emphasize in future recordings, it seems likely to be some similarly strong stuff (probably with haunting artwork to boot).
~ Gabriel


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Keep It Sludgy...

Boar Worship - Boar Worship EP (2015)

In case you couldn't guess from the cover art, Boar Worship's newest EP is a shot of tarry sludge, with four tracks of tortured strings, slow beats, and guttural vocals to coat your ears with dangerous stickiness.  Helpfully, the songs are simply titled "one", "two", "three", and "four", so as long as you don't lose consciousness in the middle of the EP, it's easy to recall which particular piece of grimy reverb caught your ear.  Long and gnarled stretches of bass underscore most of the music, with the vocals mixed to match a muffled distance, and while the drummer doesn't have much opportunity to stand out, the percussion's persistence does an important job in keeping things somewhat structured as they gradually dissolve.  Richly dirty and well-schooled in how to handle massive buzz, this is one for those who want amp worship and down-tuned venom in equal measure.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Coffin Torture, Corpse Light, Dead Existence, Heavydeath, Hypnochron


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Darkest Psych From Down Under...

Comacozer ~ Deloun / Sessions LP (2015)

 Combining the two previous EPs from Comacozer into a single vinyl release, Headspin Records is giving you a little taste of what's to come from the Australians. Who already have the plans in place for recording and releasing a brand new LP. If you've never heard the spaced out, dark psychedelia that this band exudes, then this is the perfect starting point. The band puts down mellow and heavy grooves that always incorporates a sweeping undertow at some point in the track. Like with "Nebula Dawn", the song starts off cool and relaxed, within a couple of minutes the listener is drowning in swirling guitar fuzz tones and the crashing waves of drum rhythms. After opening up with an airy guitar line that floats along for a couple of minutes is joined by the rest of the band, filling the depth of the sound with mass amounts of fuzz and distortion, backed with a rumbling yet subtle bass line, and strong, steady drum parts. It adds a heavier dimension to the song while still retaining the spacey ether vibe that dominated the first minutes of it. The final five minutes drive forward in that same way, seemingly drawn by the gravity of an immense celestial object. Now, if all of this sounds intriguing to you, you're not alone by any means. With vinyl pre-orders going on there are only a few of each variant remaining, so if you have plans on getting one it wouldn't be the best plan to wait until the September 1st release date.


(Ok, a small pretext - I hadn't realised Skip had already covered these guys and having had the LP just turn up I felt compelled to put my two cents in, so heres an update)

It's been a while since I've discovered some good old space rock, which lets face it, is a bloody sacrilege. Having recently rediscovered both Dozer's and Nebula's back catalog I've had an unquenchable yearning for more. So Australia's Comacozer couldn't have really appeared at a better time for me. Having to wait for the infernal snail mail to deliver me this album on delightful green wax was truly a trial. Alas, it has appeared and I can finally give this thing the maiden outing it deserves.
The album itself is split into two, Deloun and Sessions, with nearly a whole year between the two recordings. Amazingly enough, with prior knowledge you'd never really guess. More importantly, the pace remains consistent and the album plays through flawlessly. Something even some of the most seasoned bands would be album to pull off. I don't know whether or not the recording was especially mastered for vinyl, but goddamn it sounds fantastic! Comacozer's mix of classic space rock and dark instrumental psych create an atmosphere that you could physically bathe in. Sure, you could just sit in front of your computer and let iTunes go through the motions, but that really wouldn't do Deloun justice. No, for the full physical effect, knock all the lights off, spark up a fat one and lie on the floor between your speakers. Now, if you can also swing by Ikea and pick some of those colour changing led lights then you'll really be in for a treat. I've no doubt a skylight at night would be even better, or hell, just being outside. Unfortunately I don't have the first, and as for the latter - it's currently November in England, you do the math. But if you can get most of these elements in place I've no doubt that you'll have a dopey smile on your face before the opening track Cosmic Hypnosis begins to fades out. The thick bass lines and psychedelic licks really do draw you into a hypnotic like state and proceed to crash over you like waves of psilocybin.
~ Jay

For Fans Of; Frozen Planet....1969, Gallileous, Oceans of Titan, Dozer, Nebula


Monday, July 27, 2015

Treading on Saturn's Rings

Prophets of Saturn ~ Retronaut (2015)

 Mixing equal parts stoner doom metal and gritty retro 70's heaviness, you get this UK trio called Prophets of Saturn. Coming off a highly acclaimed self-titled album a couple of years ago, they've continued to solidify their sound with this LP released on Heavisike Records. "Retronauts" kicks off with the nearly nine minute title track, blending monstrous doom riffs with fuzzed out psychedelia. After opening up with a fuzz saturated riff, it takes a few moments for the rest of the band to drop in. The drums kick up a storm, pounding out crisp drum rhythms behind everything. The vocals join in with the rest of 'em, adding its own reverb drenched melody to the mix of things. The song takes a couple of different forms over it's entire run time, but never leaving behind the formula that makes their grooves so contagious. After tapering off around the halfway point, it comes roaring back after the short lull, giving the listener a second dose of their stoned psych doom. Between this and the other three songs, including the massive, almost twenty minute closer "Damavand", there's a lot of replayability and you're going to use up every bit of it. You can grab your physical copies directly from Heavisike Records Store, and your digital of cd versions from the group's bandcamp if that's more your style.

For Fans Of; Electric Wizard, Salem's Pot, Black Sabbath

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Grace and Greens...

Funeral Horse - Divinity for the Wicked (2015)

Armed with a new drummer for their third album, Funeral Horse return to their stoner/punk/doom buzz with confident thrashery from the get-go.  "There Shall Be Vultures" establishes the base for listeners who are new to the band, with the three-piece's dynamic of bass/drums/guitar and distorted vocals laid out in relatively simple fashion.  After the ground-work is done, the band moves from there to more elaborate constructions, beginning their rambling trek with the expansive acoustics of "Underneath All That Ever Was" at cruising speed as the various mechanics of the song get their inspection underway.  "A Bit of Weed", playing as a possible nod to Weedeater, cools down even more as an acoustic guitar-driven intermission before turning up the dials for size and attitude in the four remaining songs.
"Gods of Savages" is the first of these tracks, which have enough craggy grandeur to put me in mind of crumbling desert temples, thanks to flesh-ripping edges hidden in the rock arrangements and a sense of buried but dangerous mysticism to the moody alternations of fierce and floaty.  "Yigael's Wall" feels like the song most suited to the band's older Heavy Metal-styled logo, with a "Planet Caravan"-like world-weariness and fondness for just coaxing sweetness out of the strings offering soothing licks when the song's not jolting into its circle-pit roll-riffs and vocalist Paul Bearer's yells of encouragement.  A ramp up to head-banging guitar freak-out closes out the song with a burst, and "Cities of the Red Night" picks up as a hybrid of the previous song's space desert vibes with the easy-going exploration of "A Bit of Weed" as dusk falls on the album.
"Gifts of Opium and Myrrh" brings that end sooner than I imagine many listeners will want, as the album feels like just a quick tour of the wild animals and wide vistas available to be put on display by the band at just a handful of minutes past half an hour.  Of course, that will keep those ears eager for the next release, and busy soaking up the fuzz and grit from this one in the mean-time, so it's hard to feel too put-off by the brevity.  A twisting feedback stretch to bridge the way (laid to rest with a burst of instrumentation that works best as a surprise) helps ease the journey's end, leaving first-timers to sit back and reflect on what an unusual one it was.
The album benefits from being played at higher-than-high volume, as there's what feels like a bit of under-play to the mixing, like a full-on rejection of the volume & compression wars; while that's great for the fidelity and depth of the band's characteristic analog crunch, it can also lead to things sounding tinny if not cranked to an appropriate level.  The band plays around enough with the sound of each instrument for a long-endurance run from their three-man arrangement, and though the times when the guitar goes on the attack certainly spot-light it, the bass and drums get their fair share of time and attention as well.  One to let grow on you over repeated listens, though the first time should have you hooked fast.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Frozen Planet....1969, Pohjoinen, Powered Wig Machine, Red Scalp, Wolf Blood


The Mouths Open...

Thomas Jude Barclay Morrison - Choronzon EP (2015)

With its single track running almost 20 minutes, this first EP in TJB Morrison's planned 'Xeno trilogy' (find the full details at the linked BandCamp page down below) draws inspiration from the discipline of Stockhausen and the ferocity of industrial black metal band Choronzon, but channels it through a thoroughly doomed-out mind-set, with slow tones ringing out over whispering voices as the song builds up to its focus.  Additional layers are gradually introduced, meshed into each other with fine care, and further developed, and the whole thing has an amazingly organic sense of growth as it pushes forward into firmer (but no less dark) footing.  As the bass notes fade away into a protracted death-rattle, the rush of wind rises to fill the void, eating away at the sounds until it too dies.  Effectively atmospheric and focused despite the indefinite nature of some of its sounds, Choronzon give its greatest rewards to listeners who can give it near-meditative levels of attention.  A tempting start to the trilogy, and a strong demonstration of TJB Morrison's singular talents.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Have A Nice Life, Mamaleek, Neptune Towers, Nurse With Wound, Pedestal For Leviathan


Friday, July 24, 2015

Feeding the Wolves

Matalobos ~ Matalobos EP (2015)

These up and comers from Mexico have just released their self-titled debut EP, and it could just be another death doom metal band. Not every death doom band are as refined in their influences as these guys. They pull out a more melodic death metal sound at times, choosing to use doom metal to bind everything together. With that being said, there's still plenty of doom to go with all the death. At just three tracks and still clocking it at around twenty three minutes, we're dealing with massive portions of darkness and heaviness each time the song changes, each on a monolith in its own right. The closer "The Immense Sea", was a textbook example of how a proper death doom song is made. Over the course of nearly nine minutes they swirl together lighter, more mellow doses of atmosphere and some melodic vocals that roll along with the current. These are always book-ended with bouts of smashing chaos, vocals being snarled out, buzzsaw guitar riffs,  like a million hell hounds chasing you down. As you get into the last couple minutes of the song things begin to taper off, and at a point becomes down right tranquil before it ends. You can grab yourself a digital copy from their bandcamp page, and it's small price to pay for something this heavy.

 For Fans Of; November's Doom, (early)Paradise Lost, (early)Sentenced


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Work It Again...

Indonesia - Renovatio EP (2015)

Don't be thrown off by their name, this band hails from Russia, and with a substantial catalog reaching back to 2008, they're well-practiced in the experimentation which fills this new EP.  First of the two tracks is the one from which the release takes its name, a sprawling assembly of twisting rhythms and daisy-chained noodling with high-flying vocals to complement the more grounded riffs.  Strong pushes and change-ups from the drums bolster the vivacity of the music as the guitarist shreds his finger-tips and the bassist keeps his heavy beat rolling.
The band's care for the small details of their music comes through with more emphasis on the more mechanized B-side, "Grand Dramatic Overture", which reduces the guitar's presence (at least for the first half) in favor of compressed percussion and some spacy synth-work, with a return to more straight-up rock arising towards the end.  A handful of guest musicians are credited as contributors for the vocals, keyboards, and extra guitar, as well as the less common ingredients of harp and duduk, and their presence helps give the EP much more expansiveness than would usually be expected of a 2-track release.  Solid and inventive, the EP bends the conventions of its musical influences with a cheerful wildness.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Artension, Dreamgrave, Gripe, Lucuma, Persona



Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Mysteries Of The Wyrm...

Book Of Wyrms - Demo (2015)

Right from the start, there's a classic doom charm to Book Of Wyrms' demo, one that plays right into the minor roughness of the mix.  The vibrancy of the band's bass, drums, guitar, and vocals benefits from the slightly lo-fi acoustics of the recording style, making it clear that their magic happens before production tricks, and the strong bluesiness of their riffs at times only plays more to their earthy sense of doom metal.  Wild tangents emerging from over-grown riffs leads to some spectacular displays, particularly in "Sourwolf", which brings in either some keyboards or a special pedal for some ringing trills against the slow-growling bass as it doubles back on the main several times.  Praise also goes to the vocalist, Sarah Moore Lindsey, whose sweetly smoky timbre lends an extra eerieness to the lyrics of destruction.  Three tracks long, but with each one well-worked and solid (and edging up on 10 minutes), the showing put in by Book Of Wyrms is an impressive offering worth checking in on, especially for fans of doom with a slight psych edge.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Church of Misery, Demon Head, Jess and the Ancient Ones, The Munsens, early Windhand


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The She Beast Roar

She Beast ~ Felch Queen (2015)

 Australia's She Beast doesn't have any positive themes in their music, in fact, it's pretty much the opposite. Some tracks are long, despondent jams, with droning riffs that don't hit you so much as smother you. Other songs they've made available are fast, driving sludge metal tracks that beat you senseless in the duration. "Felch Queen" is one of the first types I mentioned, opening up with some long and ground rumbling notes, the drums kick in and the track never really moves any faster than at that very moment. The drum rhythms keep driving the song forward, while pulling the sludgy guitars along with it. The sonic equivalent of a getting drug through a field of broken glass by a man with one leg, a painful time spent in a jagged hell. The vocalist screams and growls the song's lyrics, appropriately sounding like the wails of a dying man. I mean all of this in a positive manner of course, if you're a fan of twisted and gnarly sludge metal like me, this band will please you in all the right ways.  If you go to She Beast's bandcamp page though, you won't find any full albums or EPs, just individual songs. But when you put them all together, they work pretty well, and would make a damn heavy demo. 

 For Fans Of; EyeHateGod, Buzzov*en, In the Company of Serpents

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Stick It In...

Slowbot - Pacifier for the Mind EP (2015)

Roughly a year after the release of their first EP, Slowbot are back with another one, set to continue their exploration of heavy stoner rock.  While it holds just five tracks, they're all meaty offerings that crack the 4-minute mark (with "Massive Suicide Machine" at a sprawling 7+); no jingles or pop flashes to be found here, just chunky grooves and slow-beat power.  The band comes together with a strong unity of purpose in these earthy trips, supporting each other's performances and only going for the spot-light when it works for the song, fitting themselves together in the service of rock.  It's one slick ride through the EP, with the fired-up bursts rising and burning out of the songs in a way to make you enjoy it while getting ready for the next hit.  Good stuff, all around.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Daily Thompson, Fatso Jetson, Mos Generator, Sinister Haze, Slow Season


Saturday, July 18, 2015

Product Review ~

I must confess Unison Research had somewhat flown under my radar for quite some time. Well, from their 1987 conception to the beginning of 2015, truth be told. Granted, my being only 3 when they were founded does play a small part in that ignorance, but still, shame on me.
So who are they? Well, they're not exactly a household name by any means so don't feel too uninformed for not knowing. But to bring you briefly up to speed - from their early humble beginnings in Italy, they've strived to be at the forefront of the analogue hifi market in both style and substance. Despite living in the shadow of the more renowned companies such as Quad, Leak and such like they've not exactly done too badly for themselves. Having honed their research predominantly on the tube powered side of things, to date they have quite the impressive resumé of products, including quite an array of impressive solid state products to their name to boot. 

But lets get back on track and talk about the amp in question...

The S6 - just look at it... Valve amps are generally speaking a thing of engineering beauty by default, but few tube amps come prettier than this do they? It's not exactly hard to tell that this fine piece of kit was conceived and designed by Italians is it? It aches of simplicity yet still wields a fascinating beauty and symmetry.
Before I go too much further or declare my undying love for this thing, I should confess that this is now my personal amp of choice and currently holds pride of place in my set up. Take from that what you will. But after much deliberation, research and back-and-forth-ing I settled on this 8 tube behemoth over many, many others. I say 'behemoth', but the pictures you see don't really do the S6 that much justice in terms of its dimensions. At just shy of half a metre deep and 35cm wide, to say this was larger than your average piece of kit would be an understatement. In fact, I'd go as far as to say this is the Pavarotti of amplifiers - Italian, awe inspiring acoustically, but bloody heavy. Yes, as with all valve amps you are met with a substantial weight issue to compliment the dimensions, 25kg to be exact. But this is to be expected with all amps of this ilk and shouldn't serve as too much of a surprise. Don't panic though, if you are able to accommodate the size and weight and are committed to the forking out for the S6, spare a thought for those looking towards its big brother, the S9. Equally stunning in the looks department, the S9 is not just 7cm deeper, but wider, higher and twice, yes TWICE as heavy. A truly remarkable and awe-inspiring specimen, it is somewhat restricting when it comes to the average audiophile's space restrictions and bank balance.
So where does the S6 lie within the companies current catalog? Well, roughly speaking, slap bang in the middle. Unison Research's valve powered offerings (at time of writing) range from their Simply Italy model priced at a very modest £1,500, all the way up to their Absolute 845 which will give your bank account a coronary, to the tune of £30,000.
But the proof is ultimately in the pudding and we need to know how exactly this big beauty holds up. So allowing a 15 minute warm up, I kick off proceedings with an original 1st pressing of Electric Ladyland, and straight out of the gates you can hear just how refined and balanced the S6 truly is. As ...And The Gods Made Love opens in all its psychedelic fuzz and reverb glory, it is met with all the blissful warmth and fullness that is the only way that can faithfully do any late 60's recording justice. Baring in mind there is only a simple phono stage between turntable and amp, tonally, the S6 feels as damn near perfectly balanced as you can possibly get. The 6 EL34's really manage to delve deep and accentuate every note without sacrificing too much of the bass. But as good as Noel Redding was, this recording was always going to have its production focused on one man in particular. So despite bathing in the warm fuzzy feeling that amp serves up with the likes of Gypsy Eyes and All Along The Watch Tower I can't help but feel those deeper notes need to be put through the ringer and tested with something a little heavier. Time to bring out stoner rocks leviathan's, Electric Wizard. Let's face it, if anything was going to put the S6's bass approach through its paces, it's their 2000 release Dopethrone. Just a handful of bars into Vinium Sabbathi and you begin hear just whats lacking. Although, I should confess, I feel slightly aggrieved saying that, because I've made it sounds a whole lot worse than it realistically is, and to be quite frank, I'm making a mountain out of a molehill. But for the sake of a balanced review, I'm obliged to point out any flaws, however slight or petty they may honestly be. So there we go. Some genres feel every so slightly bright. Oh, and the remote control sensor requires a pretty straight and clear line of sight. Thats it. Thats my full list of grievances, if thats what you really want to call it. But with regards to the bass there is a solution, and here is where I pull the ace from my sleeve. While the S6's stock EL34's are entirely fine, they don't hold much of a candle to the upgraded Psvane equivalents I'm about to replace them with... and they do make a difference. Don't get me wrong, they're not about to completely reinvent the sound. They merely give everything that little bit more kick.
Fulfilling the true sound of the bass while not going too overboard, they act somewhat as a mid way point between the stock tubes and KT88's. The result is subtle but noticeable, leaving the bass feeling like it's been injected with that little bit more depth and power, making I, The Witchfinder that touch more bowel shuddering. No doubt, given the ideal pre and power amp matching this would barely have been the issue I've subsequently made it, but we don't all have that option when it comes to tediously testing out the synergy between our kit. But when all's said and done, as far as gripes goes it's a minor one and lord know's it's hard to look at this thing and bare a grudge. Even without the upgraded valves this thing sings, no matter what genre you throw a it, and believe me I've tried... From Björk to ZZ Top, so far it's proven impossible to significantly catch this thing out. Even coping with the delicate melody of Beethoven's Piano Sinatra No. 14 (yes, I am surprisingly cultured) or Isis's brutal harmonic assault that beats at the heart of Oceanic, nothing gives in or falls short of remarkable. There's no trading off either, the openness of the bass doesn't lead to an excessive amount of treble for example. There's no sacrifices, it's 100% guts and glory, and this shows most prevalently when I throw on Church Of Misery's seminal Houses Of The Unholy. A modern day stoner rock classic, with its roots firmly and deeply buried in an era long since past, or at least a hazy memory in our fathers minds. The early 70's tone of trippy psych coupled with the fuzz heavy riffs really push the S6 to it's limits and goes to show what the machine is truly capable of delivering... and thats nothing short of staggering.
I honestly can't find a significany fault with this amp. Right out of the box it goes above and beyond anything else I've ever had the joy to listen to. The fact that it's looks and elegance are unparalleled (at least in my mind) goes some way to wooing me over alone. Sure, you could find yourself a valve amp for a fraction of the S6's price tag, but if you do, trust me, you'll be sorely missing out. That's exactly why this machine has gained such critical acclaim for the last 4 years.


Finding A Center...

Dead Hand - Storm of Demiurge (2015)

With an EP and a split (joined by Repellers) already under their belts, the Georgia-based crew of Dead Hand have moved on to their first LP, and it's a belter.  Starting off with straining distant guitar waves, insistent percussion, and a muffled vocal sample in "Resign To Complacency", the band takes its time establishing a chilly atmosphere before smashing in with their more energized vocals.  It's a smooth and well-constructed ramp into the subterranean sludge which forms most of the album, and with it, Dead Hand quickly establish their fondness for unearthing new facets of each song with a natural-feeling flow to the changes.  That inventiveness also leads them to try out material the average modern sludge band would be unlikely to attempt, pulling in influences from death and doom for passages both elegant and brutal, in turn and in combination.
"Trailed by Wolves", the album's big-hitter at ~15 minutes of heaviness, feels like the album's best showing of those tendencies, with its numerous drastic musical shifts chaining together; similarly, it drifts seamlessly into the title track, which finishes its run with a focused central riff, as though the eye of the eponymous storm has brought its calm.  That extends into the post-rockish "1/13/12", which at ~3 minutes of measured picking from the guitar feels like a quick bridge by the preceding songs' standards.  Album closer "The Last King" begins by drawing that sedation up by the neck, giving it an almost military march setting before the vocals arrive to herald the coming violence.  It's a satisfying close to the album's various moods, and the album as a whole comes together fantastically.  Probably too dangerous to use as driving music, though.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Gnaw Your Tongues, Heavydeath, Naught, The Nepalese Temple Ball, early Opeth


Friday, July 17, 2015

Simply Massive...

Goya - Obelisk (2015)

Goya have been keeping themselves busy since the release of their first LP, with a split and a single on STB Records and the 3-track Satan's Fire all coming out this year.  Now that their second album is arriving (first on CD and cassette, with vinyl coming a couple of months later, all of it so limited that you'll need to scramble or be left in the dust), it's time to check your lighter's fluid levels and crank your speakers once again.  The album starts off with the A-side from the previously-mentioned single, "Nothin' But Dead Stuff", a thick cut of heavy fuzz and chunky riffs perfectly suited to christen the band's return trip.  A cacophony of drums and strings roaring about as vocalist/guitarist Jeff Owens blares out "I wanna hear you scream!" jumps from there into a psychedelic bridge that squirms like there's worms crawling in the pedal-board, ending up with a hard punch of sound to cap the entrance.
"The Devil's Prey" is the first of the three or four 'big' tracks of Obelisk, and its heavy psych doom low-end fiesta gives a taste of the madness the album has up its sleeves.  Darker than early Black Sabbath's interludes, but with a similar rough-edged skill, "The Star" pops out as a disarmingly melodic breather before the title track, which slams past the minimum heaviness needed to earn its name, and just keeps going off into the stars.  Hearing the band tear loose with the guitar-shredding, feedback, and drums as the bass steam-rolls the way is enough to over-rule the usual pace of psych doom in favor of 'fuck it, let's go fast,' and "Obelisk" makes one Hell of an argument in its favor.
"300 Eyes" picks up some of the country twang of goofy B-side "I Might Be High....", but swaps out the comedy for a somber (by the album's standards) acoustic guitar dirge as the vocals rise and bloom, expanding the pared-down melodiousness of "The Star" into a lush oasis.  As "The Sun" bursts in with its high-speed explosions, the psych takes over again, then bounces back to stern doom for "Beyond Good and Evil", combines the three for "Echo from Space", and rockets off into "No Place in the Sky" (reworked from its version on the Wounded Giant split) for a perfect culmination in the finishing track that'll take up the D-side by itself on vinyl.  It's a magnificently-assembled album, with the performances ranging from nailed-down to wild abandon in pleasing proportion, strong riffs throughout, and a real mean edge to it all.  Damn good stuff, and the full album is up for streaming on Goya's BandCamp, so start listening and mark August 1st on your calendar.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Acid Bath, Brume, Church of Misery, early Electric Wizard, Weed Priest


Thursday, July 16, 2015

An Invasive Corona...

Hiding Sun - Sol Måne (2015)

This debut from French band Hiding Sun runs as one half-hour track, dominated by bass fuzz and creeping tempos, with wide-ranged drum-work pulling it all back down to earth whenever things start to float off too far into the dark clouds coming from the pedals.  The song feels like a blend of improvisation and practiced sections, with transitions that are just as engaging as the extensive riff-riding expanding from interjected notes to full-on roars of sonic punishment.  With its kaleidoscope-like nature, the song acts as a strong show-casing for the band, hinting at all the directions they can take should they choose to start breaking things up into smaller pieces while also solidly demonstrating how they can take on huge tracks with no sweat.  An impressive start for the band, Sol Måne seems likely to gain some big buzz around the internet as people catch on, so get a jump into this big vat o'doom now to beat the rush.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Blind Samson, Clouds Taste Satanic, Coffin Torture, Electric Wizard, Tons


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Burning Bright...

DrAlienSmith - Phosphorus EP (2015)

Coming out a year after DrAlienSmith's first EP, Phosphorus features five tracks blending doom, industrial, heavy psych, and a spice rack of other influences for a quick but admirably experimental journey.  With an ability to write engaging material in both slow crawls and more animated material, DAS hits a good balance between the two.  Right now, my favorite piece is the title track, with its controlled moodiness and how it develops that quality, and while there's enjoyment to be had in that, I found myself wanting the wildness to go further, by letting the feedback have a stronger outlet or just cranking up the volume.
It's an EP that rewards close listening to the details, though, with what feels like an obscured outer-space story shaping its instrumental pieces (although that could just be the NASA cover art working its magic).  The years of mixing-board experience held by Al Smith (the man behind the alien) gives the album a great sense of textures and frequency-management (not always dominating the material, but ever-present), while the spikes of harder/more guitar-based punch are used sparingly enough to retain impact and strong contrast.  Cool stuff, worth checking in on for fans of dark & heavy music looking for something out of the ordinary.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bill Laswell, Chord, Factrix, The Sleepers, Sunwølf


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Now Leaving Orbit...

The Soviet Space Programme - Space Is Hell (2015)

This first release from The Soviet Space Programme carries a bit of a story with it, as the five tracks it contains are framed as the last transmissions received from the first human sent into space, shortly before an error sent him on a course out of the solar system.  Whether or not you want to believe that, the setting it creates for the music fits well, as the sounds of heavy resonance, rushing power, and isolation-enforcing studies in feedback all cluster around the sensation of being trapped in a piece of complex machinery in which something important has broken.
The track titles go a long way in adding to the album's central concept, with names such as "Thirteen Years in a Tin Can, Living on Institute of Space Science Food Substitute Paste" and "Dead Signal" (the closer, of course) sliding right into the oppressive vibrations from the amps.  That's helpful, as those vibrations and some synthesizer-generated beep patterns are most of what there is to be found in Space Is Hell, aside from faint and distorted speech (in a language my uninformed ears are completely willing to accept as Russian) providing a strikingly calm contrast to the mutations of the drone-tones.  Depending on your feelings about feedback exploration, it'll likely either hypnotize you or drive you up a wall, with the short interlude of "In Space, No One Can Hear You Pray" and the silence after the brain-melting final track offering the only release to be heard.  If you want to take a space-trip (or terrify someone who's in the middle of one), just put on Space Is Hell at high volume; a limited run of 50 red cassette copies are available now, for the price of £6.66 apiece, with digital through BandCamp.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Culto, Dead Machines, JETDOG, Sports, Sunn O)))


Monday, July 13, 2015

To Be Remembered...

Rolling Through The Universe - Lethe (2015)

As the first album to come from Rolling Through The Universe since the departure of co-founder Mitch Meidinger (and the subsequent addition of a new drummer and bassist), Lethe has some high standards to meet.  While there's certainly some change-ups in the band's chemistry, the resulting mix is one that works quite well, and there's no sign of roughness or disconnection in the new line-up as they conjure up their deep and powerful doom metal.  The forceful command of the riffs, the wide range from drummer Noah Leen, and the sustained experimentation with how best to fuse the dark sounds of the bass and guitar are the most prominent examples of how well the finished album works, though there's plenty of substance waiting underneath to encourage repeated listening.
At times, there's comparisons to be made to Opeth's first few albums, based mainly on the somber grandeur of mood and the handiness with which RTTU achieve that dark richness without over-indulging.  The music doesn't really break into fantasy metal arpeggios or bog down in full-on funeral doom creakiness, but the song-writing's fondness for elaboration and examination of the riffs incorporates outside elements into the core doom with fiery style.  The management of the music's energy is another thing for which the the band deserves high praise, as they start out big (with the ~9-minute title track) to get listeners in the massive-doom zone, give 'em an extra dose with "Fall of the Corona" around the same mark, then drop down to about half that for the next three tracks ("Antithesis", "Claw of the Conciliator", and "Centrifuge"), each of which escalate the intensity.
With "Centrifuge" spinning up to a keening guitar solo towards its mid-point, then dropping back down into an exhausted-sounding dirge, the stage is set for the biggest song on the album to act as the closer.  "Subject of Discord" takes that position seriously, putting still-bigger riffs to work along-side some exquisite restrained shredding from the lead guitar and top-notch work from the drummer.  Lethe is an extremely solid album, and I'm hoping this incarnation of RRTU will stick together long enough to put out several more.  Hidden Temple Records is handling the release, with CD and digital copies out now, and the vinyl to come in late August.  Atmospheric doom metal fans, do not miss out on this one.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bell Witch, Coffin Torture, Mares of Diomedes, The Nepalese Temple Ball, Venus Sleeps


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Team Of Terror...

Tides Of Sulfur / The Air Turned To Acid - The Last Words Of A Dying Planet (2015)

The two sludge bands on this split both hail from the UK, with Tides of Sulfur being a trio that started out together, and The Air Turned To Acid coming together from various groups.  Tides of Sulfur take the A-side with their two tracks, "Lord of Flies" and "Crawling Through A Pit of Ash and Bone", with the first coming in at just under three minutes and the latter stretching out to over seven.  Starting out with the usual sludge tones and tempo, "Lord of Flies" quickly revs up to a harder and punkier modus operandi, with rasping yells, bludgeoning drums, and near-vibratory guitar work tearing over the relatively calm bass-line.  A quick but decisive drop-off with a yell of the title, then it's on into their second track, where the raspy vocals are joined by some cleaner work, the tempo is pulled back down to more traditional sludge speed, and the band turns out some very solid work with a number of surprises waiting to take unwary listeners by force.
On TATTA's side, "Sisyphus" starts them out with all the grinding heaviness you'd expect from that title.  Rough growl-howls are emphasized by the drummer's bashing, the guitar and bass churn together in low-tuned stewing, and the riffs are never held for longer than they need to be.  "Glandroid" brings in a little more thrash flavor to the riffs and execution, with a cool chunky progression serving as the refrain before things disintegrate into violence.  FHED will be handling the split's release with a limited run of 50 cassettes, so if you're a fan of the really nasty sludge in which the UK's been specializing recently, and tapes are a format you can use, snap one of these up before the supply runs out.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Deuil, Fange, Mudbath, Rorcal, Verdun


Taking New Forms...

Abaton - We Are Certainly Not Made Of Flesh (2015)

The long-in-the-making follow-up to 2011's Hecate is finally nearing release, and the band was kind enough to provide us with an advance copy of what they're planning to unleash on the world towards the end of September.  Whether you're already familiar with the Italian band or this marks your first time hearing of them, go ahead and start anticipating this album's release, because it's got something for just about every type of metal fan.  Death-driven drumming and clawing guitar chords, sludgy storms of high-interference amping, doomed-out stretches of melancholy reflection, and a blackened sizzle to the more vicious moments come together with damn strong unity.
We Are Certainly Not Made Of Flesh is one of those albums that gets its hooks into you with the first listen, and pulls them deeper and tighter each time you revisit it.  Allowing Abaton to guide you through the labyrinthine twists of the darkness they've put together is something you have to kind of surrender yourself to, as getting too attached to any one of the styles they put to use comes with sharp punishment.  Once you can hand over control, though, you'll be amply rewarded with sludgy deathly doomy metal 'til you can't take it anymore.  The band has not yet announced the formats on which they intend to release WACNMOF, but however it arrives, you'll want to get your hands on this one.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Coffin Torture, Dead Existence, Eibon, Electricjezus, Heavydeath


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Corroded By Oxygen...

Gortaigh - Rust EP (2015)

This four-track EP comes to us from Russia, and while it's over in just 20 minutes, there's enough filthy sludge in that duration to have you looking for something with which to scrub out your ears.  Low, gritty, and sticky on the ears, with shrill escaping feedback fighting against the swampy undertow of the bass rumbles, it's a set of songs that demand to be played loud enough to make you worry about damage to your speakers.  Don't worry about understanding the distorted hiss of the vocals, either, simply let them wash over you with the rest of the sludge; just don't expect to feel clean afterwards.  A good prescription if sunny weather has you longing for the gloom of colder times.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Deveikuth, Gilla Bruja, Grey Widow, Hazarder, Hypnochron


Circled By Serpents...

Dollar Llama - Grand Union (2015)

Dollar Llama's new album, their first since 2009's Under The Hurricane, starts off with an explosion of drums and guitar, raging right out the gate and setting the bar for the rest of their slamming set-list.  There's plenty of swaggering attitude carrying the songs, which often go with a steady-rolling beat as the vocals are howled, and things generally move too fast for any sort of gloom to overshadow the sense that these guys will do their best to beat the hell out of any problems they might encounter.  Major song shifts come most prominently in the form of big ramp-ups highlighting the beastly technique of the drummer playing against quick-picked guitar (check out an example on the streaming title track below), with a small number of samples sewn into some of the songs to nice effect.
The latter half of the album goes a little heavier on average with its songs, culminating in the ~7-minute "Noisecreep", given a run for its money by preceding tracks "Almighty Red" and "Alpha Blood", and while Dollar Llama steadfastly hold on to their beat-storms and yelling, the doom seeps right in with very little trouble.  Whichever side your preferences fall, Dollar Llama have done quite well by themselves with this one.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Queens of the Stone Age, Slamphetamine, Buitre Humano, Iron Tongue, High On Fire


Friday, July 10, 2015

Getting Ground Down...

Yellowtooth - Crushed by the Wheels of Progress (2015)

The new album from Yellowtooth begins promisingly enough, with a short dialogue sample leading into a gun-shot to start the games.  The first few songs to follow make use of Cookie Monster vocals, pounding drums, and difficult-to-differentiate guitar riffs, going for a combo of crusty punk with chromed-out metal that's too attached to old standards to sound genuinely rebellious.  By the middle of the album, they start to slow down and give the music space to resonate (as in the start and a few truncated measures of "Season's End", the break-downs in "Manifesto", and the feedback droning of the title track) or work up to high-speed instead of just hanging out there the whole time (well-evidenced again by "Season's End" with its solid crescendo), showing more-than-decent chops from the band.
The insistence on returning to the worn-out D-beat form over and over again makes for a fairly hard split on whether it'll win you over or have you soured by the album's end, around where the songs take on a slightly less-cluttered sound and the leads come through with more clarity, but beneath the covering layers of samey-sounding crust, the band puts in good work.  Start at the end and work your way back to the first songs if you need time to warm up to standard death metal vocals, but give the album a fair shot at crushing you beyond hearing just one track and deciding from there.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Dogmate, Buitre Humano, Future Leaders of the World, Sick Of It All, Necrophobic


Thursday, July 09, 2015

Product Review ~


My personal favourite turntable on the market at the moment and my pride and joy. So it may be a little biased to say, but in my eyes an utterly flawless one to boot. Yes it's one of the most expensive turntables on this list sure, but when you actually see and hear the thing in the flesh you will instantly realise where your hard earned bucks have gone. But first things first, lets start at the beginning...
Pro-Ject have been around for just 20 years. I say 'just' because if you look at the vast majority of the biggest high end manufactures out there today their origins often go back many many decades. But this has not hindered them from competing with the big boys. They have been pioneers in the turntable industry since day one, and when you think that that day was way back in 1991 when vinyl was all but dead and cd's were forcing their dominance onto the market, well it just makes their accomplishments even greater. But where many producers of high end goods often loose sight of the less wealthy demographic out there Pro-Ject didn't, and have always been conscious to offer a great selection of turntables at a wide variety of prices and styles. Surely the lower priced players are of poor quality right?... Wrong! In fact that couldn't be any further from the truth, hell, just look at the amount of awards they've won. If you are to look on What HiFi's site, they have no less than ten 4 - 5 star awarded turntables, almost double than any other manufacture. Not bad for a company just two decades old. 
So lets get down to brass tacks and crack on with the review. Gee, where to start? Well just take a look at the thing. Its simple and beautiful. Perfectly minimalistic and calmly subtle. Based on its predecessor the RPM 9.1, Pro-Ject utilised their development of the RPM 10.1 to give the original some nice tweaks and alterations. Retaining the same excellent build quality the biggest addition is that of the 9cc Evolution carbon fibre tone arm which has under gone some slightly chunkier remodelling and retuning around the anti skating weight and tone arm counter weight. Another new addition are the three new wide magnetic dampening feet. What does remain is that same heavy (3.5kg to be exact) acrylic platter with brass puck, inverted main baring and the isolated motor housing. Which by the way, runs so quietly that you may be tempted to prod the pulley to check its actually running (yes, I may have done this). Plus the aforementioned brass record puck, which may well initially be quite alien to some, including myself as it's not often the sort of thing found on less costly turntable set ups. It's does however work wonders, especially if you have a few slightly wavy or questionable old 125g records.
So its safe to say the build is not only fantastically solid and methodical but utterly gorgeous as well. But as what everyone has come to expect from Pro-Ject the quality doesn't stop there. Naturally everything is pin point precise and obviously this shines through on playback. Whether you're playing the fast paced thundering of Maylene & The Son's Of Disaster's 'II' (as you can see above), the bass heavy slow tones of Oldman Gloom or enjoying the classic blues of John Lee Hooker the 9.2's range is ideal for any genre. Of course you're going to want to couple this little beauty with a worthy cartridge too and it goes without saying, which is why I'm going to say it anyway, but look no further than Ortofon. In my mind there's no one else to even consider when you're weighing up price and quality, and it seems as though the guys from Pro-Ject are quite like minded. If you have a glance over their product range you'll notice that all their models that include cartridges all come fitted with Ortofon's. Need I say more?
So whether you're looking for your first turntable or you're a seasoned veteran, sticking to a budget or have money to spare, your first stop should always be Pro-Ject. With award winning tables ranging from £150/$240 to £4000/$6400 you really have no reason not to.

Rise To Power...

Void Cruiser - Overstaying My Welcome (2015)

It's hard to accuse Void Cruiser of rushing things; since forming in 2011, they put out an EP two years later, and two more years on, their first LP has arrived.  At ~40 minutes, it's ripe for a vinyl release, though there's not yet any announced plans for that, and the band's rugged sound has just enough polish on it to slip into unsuspecting ears and take control.  Heavier than your usual desert rock, and with more of a psychedelic edge than the short-hand of 'stoner rock' generally implies, Void Cruiser revs through the eight tracks (three of which are revisited pieces from the EP) in clouds of dark smoky feedback cut through with gut-punch riffs and white-knuckle tear-offs.
There's an attention-getting melding of traditional grooves and targeted jabs of out-there wildness, like the injection of tambourine into "Heist" or the sudden wash of extended tones matched against rippling percussion in "Amoeba", and Void Cruiser carries it all off with an air of cool & casual madness.  There's more than enough variety and depth to the songs to give listeners new things to notice and enjoy each time they pop it on for a play, with attitudes ranging from offering a strongly-scented hug to being liable to brain you with the nearest heavy object to hand.  Take the bruises with a smile as you check out the album, and know that it's just the way Void Cruiser like to play.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Powered Wig Machine, Mother Mars, Gallileous, Desert Suns, Sonora Ritual


Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Filled To Bursting...

Clouds Taste Satanic - Your Doom Has Come (2015)

With their second album, Clouds Taste Satanic continue their established fondness for wrapping big doom tracks up in a classy presentation.  Unlike To Sleep Beyond The Earth, this time they're having a go at breaking the music down into more than one song per side, with six pieces coming together to provide as much as can be squeezed onto a single LP before the sound quality begins to suffer.  The slow procession begins with "Ten Kings", setting a foundation of thumping riffs and reverb before shifting into more violent mannerisms.  There's a more staunchly metal bite to the songs, with the post-rocky pieces of the first album switched to a more sinister tone this time around, though the eagerness shown by the band in exploring ways to keep the song-writing fresh hasn't diminished one bit.  Whether slogging through a slow'n'low riff section or bashing out some less-tethered frenzies, CTS show a good sense of how far they can stretch a piece before it starts to fracture and cut into the next portion.
As much as the band has changed their approach from the first album, there's an appreciable sense of how lessons learned from its construction influenced this one; the care for filling each side not just with track after track, but to give it a satisfying experience to itself, for instance, with the rising momentum of the A-side crashing into "Beast From The Sea" for the climax, and "Out of the Abyss" climbing inexorably back up to those heights and beyond until "Sudden...Fallen" returns to destruction.  The numerous bridge segments of CTS' debut have their own updated incarnations, with condensed versions of their changing choruses providing punchy palate-adjustment, and each of the musicians is on-point with their performances, precise and powerful.
From the evidence of Your Doom Has Come, Clouds Taste Satanic have far less interest in simply getting by than in challenging themselves to always improve, and I fully expect that whatever comes next will have just as much in the way of new angles.  You'll have to wait a while to hear it for yourself, as the release is scheduled for the 1st of September, so mark it on your calendar and set aside some cash to prepare.
~ Gabriel

 For Fans Of;    The Wounded Kings, The Electric Knives, Nelly Olsen, Bell Witch, Monolord