Saturday, January 30, 2016

Heady Blues Cruise...

Groggy - Turtle (2015)

The arrival of this album is one which I've been anticipating for quite a while, as Groggy have been on my 'personal favorites' list since the first time I heard their WooDoo EP (if you missed it the first time, you can find our review of that right here, and the one for their Deep Siberian Session here).  Happily, Groggy do not disappoint with this LP, and the near-hour of bluesy stoner heaviness finds them taking a wide range of approaches to their essential style.
From the off-beat start of "Hurricane" all the way to the 11-minute-plus closer "Electric Chair of Doom", Groggy fight against falling into a rut, throwing out curve-balls and unpredictable twists of sound without breaking flow.  Taking swings at metal hardness and more relaxed blues cruising, the duo of Max and Vitalii (and a few musical guests) keep things lively without stripping the real bluesiness out of the music.
If you haven't heard Groggy before, this is a hell of a place to begin (in a good way), and if you're already a fan of the band, Turtle will have you grinning wide.  You'll get to hear several different sides to their style, get a few tunes hooked in your ears, and get introduced to what is almost certainly the best Siberian stoner blues group there is (and if you've got a challenger for that title, by all means, let me know).  If you can pour a glass of vodka to complement the experience, all the better; just do yourself a favor and listen to these guys already.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bomg, Danzig, Goya, The Munsens, Weedeater


Friday, January 29, 2016

Smooth First Trip...

Edinburgh of the Seven Seas - - inlandsis - (2015)

This EP comes as the first release from Edinburgh of the Seven Seas, a solo project by Florian Mallet (perhaps best known to our regular readers from the sludge band Mudbath).  Over the half-hour or so of tunes, Mallet works deftly with guitar and effects to create a psychedelic swell of waves, both heavy and gentle, to wash through your mind, combining compelling melodies with drifting riffs for a fluid and thoughtful experience.
Picking a favorite track is difficult, as the tracks flow together so well, but the title track (clocking in at over seven minutes) does a great job of representing the album in one go.  Light picking and resonance building into swarms of tones, revisited progressions taken in different directions, and a persistent sense of engagement in what he's doing make Mallet's music come off as some of the most honest and personal to show up in our inbox in quite a while.
And while there is the possibility that Mallet is just good enough with the strings to fool me, the EP doesn't seem to be 100% guitar, in case that was worrying any of you.  Some synths/keyboards add extra textures, but for the main beats, it does sound as though delay pedals and some other jangling strings provide the core pulses of the songs.  In any event, this is an excellent release, and downright superb for a debut.  Next time you find yourself needing to release some tension without too much destruction, put this on and let in the music.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    The Freuders, Frozen Planet....1969, Honeysuckle Mantra, Stone From The Sky, Wired Mind


Thursday, January 28, 2016

Bones On Display...

Bones of Mary - Demo EP (2015)

Coming from Tennessee, this quartet of bearded bruisers and their live demo EP (which comes with an extra track if you buy the EP off of their BandCamp) turn out a chunky, fuzzy, and low-tuned set of stoner doom tracks to introduce themselves to the world.  There's a kick of sludgy meanness to the vocals, and a few of the riffs also pick up that swampy vibe, though the rough ride of the music and the ringing it'll put in your ears leaves the impression that they're much less concerned with genre dogma than simply playing hard.
As a start to show their skills off, it's a solid set of songs, with plenty of bite helping them go beyond the usual 'bass and feedback' staples of stoner doom.  And while there is some Southern tinging to the riffs, it's not overpowering, but instead serves as a seasoning rather than the main focus.  The use of a spoken intro sample on "Hang In There" (the bonus track you'll only get by picking the whole thing up off of BandCamp) is maybe the clearest example of these guys working to think outside the box while constructing their tracks, so stay tuned for their next release to show how they've grown from this promising beginning.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Blacksmoker, Bleeth, DopeRider, Hypnochron, Weedeater


Saturday, January 23, 2016

With Guided Hands...

Strange Broue - Strange Broue (2015)

Canadian band Strange Broue's first full album is a strong slab of hazed-out, psych-tinged stoner doom metal, reveling in fuzz, cultic imagery, distorted wails, burbling synth under-tones, and chunky bass riffs.  Technically, it's been out on their BandCamp since last March, but we're hitting it now for Sunmask Records' vinyl release of the album.  In case you couldn't guess where the band's influences lay, track titles such as "Electric Blizzard" (roll it around in your mind for a few seconds), "Children of Sabbath", and a cover of Wicked Lady's "Run the Night" help uncover the band's stylistic roots.
Rumbling its way through several approaches to the essential stoner doom formula, Strange Broue take a trip through heady, echoing, savage, and reeling territories, with enough black-light spookiness to give you goosebumps in your ear canals.  It appears that Strange Broue is a one-man operation, making the tunes and trippage of the album all the more impressive.
The vinyl release trims the track-list down from ten songs to seven, meaning the excellent "Druglust!", "Welcome to Jonestown", and "The Captor" get left in the dust unless you pick up one of the digital/cassette/CD-R copies.  Even without these tracks, it's a very solid album, giving itself over to the themes and smoky refrains with full abandon.  The release date for the standard edition was yesterday, so if you want more hot-blooded stoner doom in your diet, get on over to Sunmask Records and pick up one of the 200 vinyl copies before they're all gone.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Brume, early Electric Wizard, Salem's Pot, Uncle Acid (Blood Lust era), Wizard Cult


Friday, January 22, 2016

From The Ashes...

Mountain Witch ~ Burning Village (2016)

This review has resided in limbo for well over a month now. At the behest of our good friends over at This Charming Man Records, I've been sat Burning Village for longer than I care to remember, and being a long term diehard fan of the band, it fair to say it's nearly killed me.
I will however open with this - For those of you who have followed Mountain Witch over the years, you may be somewhat taken a back by trio's most recent sound. It's out with the traditional sombre doom-groove and in with something wholly more, well, retro. Fortunately the change to the band's dynamic has been pretty gradual, with the introduction of a third member and the subsequent release of Cold River, the band laid the ground work for what they have progressed to today. So the exchange of fuzz to funk shouldn't pose too much of a shock to the system. Fear not though, when I say that (often dreaded) four letter F word, they've not gone all stacked heels and slap bass. Don't think Bootsy Collins, no, instead imagine if Grand Funk had one day picked up a Ouija board and got heavily into the works of Aleister Crowley and Vincent Price, then gone on to release We're an American Doom Band... this is exactly how that would have sounded.
Straight out of the gates Burning Village states it's new and uncompromising intentions and opening with a subtle use of Hammer-House-esque samples they've managed to reaffirm that not all of the band's doom heavy origins have been cast to the back burner. Not by a long shot. While the tone, song structure and production all feel like they've been pulled right out of the early 70's the trio have managed to craft something that by the same token still feels heavily modern and unique. Not that the aforementioned is in anyway a band thing. Hell, I long for a return to those simpler, analogue days, and after the bitter disappointment that was Uncle Acid's Night Creeper earlier in the year, it's fantastic to hear an album that can actually conjure up all that retro feeling and essence while not feeling precocious or like the audible equivalent of watching paint dry. Sure, many of you who've become akin to the slower and darker of the band's first three outings may not be instantly won over or drawn to Burning Village, but I urge you to give it a few listens. Once the initial shock of the change has settled in, you can, and no doubt will, see exactly what this album is - An absolute powerhouse of early 70's inspired occult rock filled with more satisfying riff hungry eeriness than a Pentagram encore at a black mass under a full moon on October 31st.
The pre order for the album goes up on the 23rd of January (this Monday), and has been carefully crafted by our buddies over at This Charming Man Records, and will be available in two colours.
~ Jay

For Fans Of; Saint Vitus, Sir Lord Baltimore, Moon Curse, Highway Robbery, Phantomass 


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Noise And Color...

chainsaw rainbow - photorealistic EP (2015)

The latest release from chainsaw rainbow, this four-track EP finds JETDOG's side-project continuing to explore the heavy noise distortion and fuzz of long-drawn riffs.  "sidewinder" and "caffiene" [sic], the first two tracks on the EP, do their job by fading in, buzzing up to full deployment, and fading back out into echoes of their noisy reverbed strains.
After those, "sparkler" may be the stand-out of the four, with some cool delay-reverse effects on gentle and relatively clear notes building a firm melody before phased, whomping heaviness is introduced.  Being as it's the longest of the tracks, the room to space things out has "sparkler" feeling more like a regular fuzz rock song than the others, though it does embrace the wilder disintegration effects towards the end.
"violet gorilla" closes things out with twangy bouncing notes feeding off of their own amplification, developing a semi-hypnotic rolling momentum with enough hookiness to work as the last track.  Comparing photorealistic to earlier chainsaw rainbow EPs is a bit tricky (especially if you didn't catch them on release, as they have a tendency to disappear from BandCamp after a while), but with the return to vocalless riff-churning, it does seem to satisfy the urges that brought the musical project into being.  Those with a love of pedal effects and zone-out music will want to check this one out.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    A Place To Bury Strangers, Boyd Rice, JETDOG, Loop, Stereolab


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Adventurous Psychedelic Rock...

Jody Seabody and The Whirls - Holographic Slammer (2015)

It can be difficult to find stoner and psych bands these days that trade in anything too original, so the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach of Jody Seabody and the Whirls' Holographic Slammer is refreshing, to say the least.  Jody and co. trek through numerous different styles on this album, often throwing an array of potentially clashing ideas into the same song.  The result is an imaginative record that throws genres around with abandon but somehow still manages to retain a sense of cohesion.
The technicolour splurge of the album cover suggests a groovier-than-thou '60's boogie psych throwback whilst the the acoustic opener of "Two Atmospheres" sign-posts a record of likable lo-fi singer-songwriter jams.  As if to prove something of a point, the next track, "The Grassman", is a lengthy jam that has its roots in the far-out blues of the early '70s, but spreads its pallet out as far as The Doors and the heavy stoner rock of Sleep.  Attempts to compare Jody Seabody and the Whirls to any one band are ultimately futile.  Comparisons to other better known bands are frequent but fleeting.  At times Pink Floyd is brought to mind whilst at other times any number of groovy stoner doom bands come to mind. 
What sets Jody Seabody and the Whirls apart from the million and one other psych bands doing the rounds at the moment is that Holographic Slammer is an ultimately song-centric album.  Only on "The Grassman" do the band really let themselves go, and this is no bad thing.  Jamming can be great, but a set of tightly-performed tracks whose arrangements exist mainly to serve the song can also be rewarding, and this is essentially what Holographic Slammer consists of.
Holographic Slammer is an individual record - while certain songs and moments strongly bring to mind bands of the past, this collection is diverse enough to not sound like any one band all the way through, and ultimately makes for a fresh, enjoyable listen.
~ Martin

For fans of; Pink Floyd, The Doors, Sleep, Jimi Hendrix, Country Joe & The Fish

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Torn From Within...

Of Spire & Throne - Sanctum in the Light (2015)

It's fairly rare these days for cover art to make me actually grimace, but Of Spire & Throne managed to make that happen with the artwork for Sanctum in the Light; go ahead and click it for a full-size view, if you haven't already done so.
This is the fifth release from the UK-based band since their self-titled debut came out back in 2010, and in keeping with the gruesome art and the grandeur of their name, the looming quartet of songs on SitL deliver effectively slabby doom, with a patina of sludgy grime to keep things nasty.  Rising up from bouts of crushing bass, the band shows a striking way with emergent melodies, using rare moments of poignancy to emphasize the heavy hitting found virtually everywhere else in the album.
This isn't just your standard 'chugging bass, slow drums, and fuzzy guitar' doom, though; OS&T carve out thick monoliths with intricate developments beneath the massive rumblings, drawing listeners into a deep-set maze that demands to be followed to its end.
"Gallery of Masks", the final track, does a great job of capitalizing on the album's build-up, taking time to cover the harmonic qualities along with the heavy, heavy riffs, and the aftershocks from listening to the full album will stick with you for a while.  All in all, this is powerful doom that doesn't sacrifice thoughtfulness to achieve its force; easily one of 2015's best, though I'm a little late in getting to it.  Happily, these four tracks have seen their way onto a double-LP vinyl release, so be sure to snap one up if you're in the set of those who like their doom to be dark and oppressive.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bongripper, Lung Molde, Pallbearer, Stoneburner, Sutekh Hexen


Friday, January 15, 2016

Stirring Up Storms...

Matte Black - Dust of This Planet (2015)

This new album from Matte Black starts off with a slow grind of submerged sound before breaking out into a fuzzy bass reverb, and between those two sound-fronts, the band does a nice job of setting the stage for the rest of the album.  As they move on into the second track, the subtly-titled "Fuzz", MB slip into their groove; by the third one, "CTRL", they're starting to mix it up with the injection of more aggressive riffing and beats.  More attitude emerges as the album continues, along with more simple but evocative titles like "Half Moon" and "Cage", though the band keeps room for slower and moodier stretches of rumbling discontent.  Another strong point is that the band pulls off their potent blend of stoner doom (plus some faster, not-quite-thrash stuff) without seeming to try too hard; they know how to ease back and let things breathe without sweating over stuff like 'is there enough bass?' or 'should I hang onto this riff for another three minutes?'.  The songs just feel natural, even when they dive into their thickest material.
In short, it's a pretty cool album, well-suited to nights where you just want a drink and/or a smoke and something good to hear while you do that.  At the same time, if you want to pay close attention to what they do in the songs, there's plenty of pay-off there as well.  All around, a very solid showing, and if you dig it enough, you can pick up one of the 300 vinyl copies direct from the BandCamp.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Attalla, Blacksmoker, Brume, Chronobot, Stone Machine Electric


Thursday, January 14, 2016

Violence Without Mercy...

Herscher - Herscher (2015)

Kicking off with a bang and growling bass, Herscher's first full album takes listeners on a trip to the buzzier side of stoner doom metal, with a few shots of sludgy anger to round out the attitude.  Over the course of five sizable tracks and a slightly shorter closer, the band rumbles, bangs, and pounds its way through a menacing sonic landscape.  Cloaked in feedback and distorted vocal foci, Herscher build their wall of noise to towering heights, smashing it back down each time to make room for the next song.
It's one of those albums that really demands high volume to be fully appreciated.  Sure, you can tell that they're tearing it up with your speakers at a modest setting, but it's only when you have it turned loud enough for the vibrations to hit your body that you'll get to enjoy the assault on a physical level.  Appropriately cranked, the subtler details of the shifting waves (be glad I didn't try for a joke here with the "Skull's River" track) can be heard as more than a blur, and the beating of the drums will hit as hard as you can handle.
As Herscher crank up the tempo for final track "Bandana", the album pulls together quite well.  It's a hard trip, one that may leave you feeling kind of drained afterwards, but the band has certainly done some excellent work here.  If you want some aggressive doom that doesn't stick to the usual guide-lines, do yourself a favor and check in on this.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Animi Vultus, Cough, Lung Molde, Sunken, Wizard Cult


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Seeding A Dark Future...

The Dunwich Orchestra - H.P. Lovecraft's "The Colour out of Space" (Chapter 1) (2015)

Combining motion comics, animation, atmospheric doom, and the fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, this first chapter of a planned quintet serves as an introduction to and demonstration of the talents of the team working to realize the story in a wordless fashion.  With artwork which captures the rural desolation complemented by twanging strings that easily shift into more menacing forms, the moods and narrative are communicated with style and sly humor, building towards the doom with a nice sense of reserve.
While the group's initial IndieGogo campaign to raise funds for the remaining four chapters didn't meet its goal, they've stated an intent to "go back to the drawing desk" and figure out a way to complete the project.  Hopefully they'll piece it out into funding campaigns for one chapter at a time, instead of trying to grab it all in one go.  If you have a fondness for concept-driven doom, Lovecraft's fiction, lavishly-drawn art, and/or wordless story-telling, give this first chapter ten minutes of your time, and keep an ear out for further developments from The Dunwich Orchestra.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bell Witch, Earth, Gnaw Their Tongues, Have A Nice Life, Hellenica


Saturday, January 09, 2016

Stirring From Bracken...

Battle Path - Ambedo (2015)

Hailing from Tennessee, Battle Path have been putting out material since 2011.  With this new album, they have a new drummer, Jeremy Trotter, as well (though Casey Stickney is listed in that position in the album's credits on their BandCamp page).  Musically, on this LP Battle Path combine the slow atmospherics and wallowing tones of doom with the growls and aggression of black metal, resulting in a fusion that puts in a very respectable amount of work to impress listeners and create an album which builds on itself from start to finish.
While it's not without a few rough spots, the band has clearly evolved since their last album, Empiric, and the music seems much more vibrant overall, whether dredging through bassy reverb or tearing into fits of venom-loaded violence.  And while I may be a bit biased, I'd have to say that when they're going for a pure form of one or the other, it's the former section which seem to really show the band's strengths, as with the tense melody development of the title track.  But even better than that is when they bring the two together without trying to include every feature of each, so that, as in "Ascension", it's not entirely slow, not fully break-neck, but nonetheless, totally crushing and powerful.
As they continue to explore the common ground between the two styles, and further develop the character of their band and its dynamics, Battle Path have as bright a future ahead of them as a group with this sort of thematic focus can have.  Inherent Records and CrimsonEye Records have teamed up to handle the vinyl release of the album, with three color versions each getting 100 copies, so if you dig blackened doom metal, doomy black metal, or just heavy, angry, and powerful metal in general, be sure to check this out before it's too late to snag yourself a physical copy.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Dead Raven Choir, Forgotten Tomb, Gallhammer, Trees, Trinacria


Friday, January 08, 2016

Not Necessarily Sober...

Mother Mars - Black Coffee And Good Advice EP (2015)

It's been a while since we've heard from Mother Mars, as their last EP (Claimed by the Cloner) popped up back in 2014, and their last full album (Steam Machine Museum) was in 2013.  Happily, they're back in fine form with this new three-track release, brandishing a harmonica and other bluesy touches to their heavy rock style.  The title track is a loose-hanging chunk of friendly bleariness and fat-tubed riffing, done as an instrumental alternate take for the closing song.  In between, "On The Trail (Short Trip)" picks up to higher energy with some hooky grooves, frenzied guitar-work, and spacy beams of energy conveyed by synths and pedals.
At eleven minutes of run-time, it's primed for a 7" release (though they'll need to do the two "Black Coffee"s back-to-back on the same side if they go that route, and as of now, the band says it's digital-only), and a reassuring reminder that Mother Mars have their heavy/psych/space/desert grooves fully intact, with some new tricks to show once their next LP rolls out of the dunes.  Until then, tuck this into your ears and have a good time.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Blackout, Frozen Planet....1969, Powered Wig Machine, Queen Chief, Slow Season


Thursday, January 07, 2016

Old School Hard Rock With A Modern Twist...

Long Live The GOAT - A Greeting From The Dark King (2015)

Chicago's Long Live The GOAT don't try to reinvent the wheel with this début release, however, they do give us two slabs of straight-up hard rock riffing that certainly leave a mark.  The guitar tones are chunky, the drumming is energetic and the vocals have the sort of gruff hard rock 'n' roll vibe of numerous classic '70s rock acts.  Winding, well-played lead guitar gives some melodic counterpoint to the crunchy riffs.  Both tracks here stick to the tried and tested heavy rock formula, but that's not a bad thing, and Long Live The GOAT do a good job of capturing the essence of numerous old school '70s hard rock whilst mixing it with a more modern-day heaviness.  With only two short songs on display here, it doesn't feel like the band really had a chance to live up to their potential, and a longer-running EP or full-length album would likely pay off well.  Nonetheless, this début release signals a band with potential to do something excellent in the future.
~ Martin

For fans of; Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Enos, Groundhogs


Monday, January 04, 2016

Jay's Top 20 Releases Of 2015...

Christ! Where the hell did 2015 go? It disappeared in a bloody hurry didn't it?! Good riddance too, what with various religious and political zelots still kicking seven shades of shit out of each other, and natural disasters abound. Usually in the form of storms, floods, wildfires and Donald Trump. Not to mention the loss of BB King, Sir Christopher Lee, Scott Weiland and of course, our lord and saviour, Lemmy - yet leaving the likes of Justin Bieber, Nicki Minaj and Kanye fuckin West unscathed. There really is no justice.
But it hasn't all been downers in the Burning Beard camp. We had a big revamp, remodel and rename and have been absolutely inundated with emails every day of the week. So much so that we've taken on three new writers - Martin, Richard and Andy. But onto the releases of the year. Not quite as volatile as the worlds current events, but not without their own ups and downs. We had a plethora of fantastic releases from all of our close friends independent labels and some fantastic returns to form from likes of Refused, Goatsnake and Valkyrie. A few middle of the road released from Windhand, The Sword and Clutch (sorry but something just didn't stick for me with those). Then my biggest let downs of the year in the shape of Uncle Acid's third album, Baroness's Purple and the debut from With The Dead. All of which I just expected more from. 

I've have seen few top 2015 releases lists over the last month and I cant help but feel that most bands have made their way in to some of them on name alone, and had many of those albums been released by unknown artists they wouldn't have even garnered a mention. So with that in mind the following list of my favourite releases of the year consist of not just albums, but EP's and demo's alike. They reside here not just because they've excelled expectation or surprised, but, to me, shown more passion, conviction, ingenuity and originality, giving them far more reason to make this list than many of the more well known artist's offerings of the last 12 months.

20. Watchtower ~ Radiant Moon
Two big fat heavy slabs of doom from the Aussie trio. Heavier than a death in the family and beautifully pressed and put out on 10" by our friends over at Magnetic Eye Records.

19. Rifflord ~ 26 Mean & Heavy

Dirty, heavy and kinda sounding like the Doors if they were to have gotten heavily in to weed, ouija boards and black masses. Dark fuzzy and riff hungry are always a great mix.

18. Witchsorrow ~ No Light, Only Fire
A brilliant return from one of the UK's best and most humble doom acts. Retaining their full blooded heavy approach with a subtle nod to dooms classic origins.

17. Blackout ~ Blackout
Riding Easy Records began the first quarter of the year with yet another brilliant discovery in Brooklyn based trio Blackout. Deceptively sludgy and psychedelic in equal measures, don't let the albums cover fool you.

16. Ufomammut ~ Ecade
This long awaited follow up to 2012's Oro double album didn't fail to impress. In fact, the only thing to out do the albums content was the deluxe version of the LP, in all its silkscreened hand made beauty.
15. Acid†Priest ~ Outta Control 
A near perfect combination of occult style rock mixed with a hint of punk aesthetics. Acid Priest gave similar acts like Uncle Acid and Satans Satyrs a run for their money, and in my eyes well and truly beat them.

14. Kaleidobolt ~ Kaleidobolt
Our friends over at Pink Tank Records have done a great job at digging out some fantastic psych bands over the last couple of years, and none come more thrillingly psych'y than Kaleidobolt.

13. Egypt ~ Endless Flight
Just making the 2015 list with their late in the year entry, Egypt finally return with their first full length album in over 2 years... and it's a fuel guzzling desert rock monster. Look out for the LP release later this year.

12. Yuri Gagarin ~ At The Center Of All Infinity
After teasing us earlier in the year with the Sea Of Dust EP the Swedish space rockers finally dropped their best work to date, and it's as trippy, spacey and heavy as I could have ever hoped.

11. Waingro ~ Mt. Hood
I was a big fan of the Canadian's 2014 self titled release and when I heard they'd pressed themselves a second release I snapped it up without hesitation. Once again, the furious trio have well and truly smashed it out the park.

10. Barbarian Fist ~ The Whorelord Cometh
I took a punt and bought this LP sight unseen. Or hear unheard. Is that a thing? Anyway. I bought it solely on the cover and I have not one single regret. It's like the soundtrack to a Viking stag party. Bloody brilliant.

9. Glowsun ~ Beyond The Wall Of Time
A beautifully groove filled return from the French psych rock masters that seemed to fly under many peoples radar. Which is a bloody sacrilege as is a brilliantly executed progression from their first two releases.

8. Kadavar ~ Berlin
When it came to Kadavar I could always take them or leave them. But this drastically ambitious change of pace and sound really paid off, making Berlin one of my biggest surprises of 2015.

7. Moon Curse ~ Spirit Remains
Showing a huge step forward in almost every aspect of album creation, Spirit Remains has cemented Wisconsin's Moon Curse as being true giant slayers when it comes to the whole occult/acid rock genre. Go get the vinyl from Bilocation Records while you can!

6. Red Sun Atacama ~ Part. 1
This little known French trio really blew my hair back with their high octane EP Part. 1. If they can keep up the same highly addictive and satisfyingly furious pace of this beauty then I really can't wait to hear what they've got in store for this year.

5. Indian Handcrafts ~ Creeps
Another release that really came out of left field for me. Fuzzy, frantic and fantastically original, Indian Handcrafts won't fail to get you stomping your feet and air drumming within an matter of minutes.

4. Top Dead Celebrity ~ High Horse
One of my most anticipated returns for a long long time. Utah's Top Dead Celebrity have been one of my favourite bands since I first discovered them about eight years go. High Horse didn't disappoint either, residing high up in my iTune all time top 25 most played albums. 

3. Dr Colossus ~ Shut Up & Eat Your Pinecone/Whack Sabbath
Another small morsel teasing at an album that just can't come quick enough for me. The Simpsons inspired stoner doom aficionados from down under once again gave us fantastic riffs coupled with killer lyrics. A winning combo in anyones book.

2. Bedroom Rehad Corp. ~ Fortunate Some
This was easily my best new discovery of 2015. Heavy, groovy, thunderous and pleasing in every aspect. Bedroom Rehab Corp pulled off an absolute blinder with Fortunate Some and have me itching for full length in 2016.

1. Elder ~ Lore
Eager anticipation seldom delivers overwhelming satisfaction. Lore however was one hell of an exception. Arriving early in the year, from day one, Elder's third album never received much competition when it came to toppling it from my top five. With a stage show to rival the album's awesomeness Lore, for me, was a highlight of the year.


Honourable Mentions...


Sunday, January 03, 2016

Raedon Kong Interview

Raedon Kong's new album Critical Paths came out back in November of this year, making a great impression as soon as it arrived (you can read our review of it right here). 

The duo of David Leonard and Stephen Sheppert were kind enough to give us some of their time for questions about their backgrounds, the new album, and a few other things, so read on!

The Burning Beard: Hi, thanks for giving us some of your time for this interview.  Why don't we start with each of you introducing yourselves and sharing some of your musical background, from stuff you listened to while growing up, all the way to how you got into playing music yourselves?

David: My name is David Leonard, born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana.  My musical background is a little bit of band class in elementary and middle school where I played trombone.  When I was in middle school, my brother Brian was in a classic rock band which practiced at our parent’s house, so I got to watch them and I paid most attention to their drummer.  I soon realized that I wanted to play the drum set… this was 1990-'91 era.  I bought my first drum set in the summer of 1993 and started a band with my friends.
Basically, as a kid I listened to everything popular like Michael Jackson, The Police, Rush, and just a lot of radio music as well as classic rock like AC/DC and Led Zeppelin.
Towards the late 80's I started listening to a lot of Metallica and Iron Maiden.  As I got a little older I got heavily into hardcore and punk music as well as more extreme and obscure metal and hardcore bands – a lot of crossover bands.  Basically, I grew up listening to punk/hardcore, heavy metal, progressive rock, experimental and a lot of pop music.

Stephen:  I was also born and raised in Cajun country.  I was raised on rock and roll from an early age thanks to my vinyl-collecting pops, who is also a musician and serious music fan.  Had guitars laying around in every room so it was inevitable that I’d pick one up.  Went through the school band thing, which I believe to have been beneficial when it comes to composing and understanding dynamics.  
In my early teens I pretty much watched MTV all day with guitar in hand and learned every hair metal song I could.  BIG STEVE VAI FAN.  Gradually the grunge invasion came along, as did a heavy dose of skateboarding.  I discovered Sonic Youth, Quicksand, Fugazi, Primus, etc., through skate vids and [the MTV show] 120 Minutes.   Around that time a friend I met through skating asked if I could burn a disc for him.  It was Evil Twin, an album by Hammerhead.  I had never heard of them, but my life pretty much changed then.  I got a big muff pedal and ended up joining the band Icepick Revival.  
I was exposed to a lot of great bands during that time: Today Is The Day, Keelhaul, Dazzling Killmen, Zeni Geva, early Dillinger Escape Plan, etc.  Relapse [Records] and Amphetamine Reptile [Records] were on fire at that time, and I truly believe that was a high point for underground heavy experimental music.
When Icepick Revival disbanded, I started Collapsar (on Escape Artist [Records]) which was a tech metal project that I needed to get out of my system.  Eventually, Collapsar faded out, and that's when I started jamming with Dave to form Raedon Kong.

TBB: How did Raedon Kong come together?

David: One of Stephen's previous bands, Collapsar, had called it a day, and I was not playing with anyone, and we were in different bands in the scene here in Lafayette, knowing each other peripherally, so we just got together and started jamming.  Basically.

Stephen:  Yeah, I knew Dave was a good off the wall drummer; his previous band Arma/Hooves was a killer project.  I guess Raedon Kong started with the mindset of no barriers; just play what comes to mind, whether it’s heavy or not.
TBB: What was the reasoning behind sort-of naming your band after actress Rae Dawn Chong?

David: The name comes from the actress… it rhymed… it sounded really cool and larger than life, so we kept it.

Stephen: Yeah, we made a list of names and kept coming back to it.  A little humor always helps.  Plus she’s pretty hot, right, and has a great lineage.

TBB: What were some of those other names you almost used, if you can dredge them out of memory?

Stephen: That was a long time ago.  I think one possible name was "Suicides in Japan" and another might have been "Xamot" - a reference to an old GI Joe character.  They were pretty lame, so we stuck with Raedon Kong.

TBB: Your first album and EP were self-released, but your new album, Critical Paths, is being handled by the Hell Comes Home label, which is based in Ireland.  Given that RK is a Louisiana band, how did you end up with HCH for this release?

David: Stephen sent our album to about ten thousand record labels, and Joel replied with interest in releasing our album on vinyl, so we said OK and it's now actually out there for everyone to hear, which is really exciting! Thanks Joel!

Stephen:  Yeah, I sent the album out to every label I could think of, just for shits and giggles.  Probably 1% listened to 10 seconds of it.  We were seriously days away from releasing it ourselves when Joel from Hell Comes Home contacted us through Facebook.  He dug our old stuff and was interested, so I've gotta give thanks to him for coming through in the clutch like that.  Crazy to think, but some of the riffs on Critical Paths were written in 2012.  We recorded the album mid-2014, just took time to get it out.

TBB: What are your song-writing habits like?  Have they changed noticeably since your first album together?

David: Stephen writes a lot of riffs, we sift, and we sift, and we combine, and jam, and we sift, and eventually, voila!

Stephen:  You know, I used to come to practice with complete compositions that I had written on the couch, but playing with Dave and his freestyle approach to drumming kinda opened up the song-writing process.  Pretty much now I may bring a 'couch jam nugget' to jam, but then leave everything open to be written as we play.  Kind of a shotgun/stream of consciousness approach.  We record everything so we usually sift out the tasty jams after listening.

TBB: How has Raedon Kong been received at the live shows you've played?  Any experiences or reactions, good or bad, that really stand out in your memory?

David: We usually get a really positive response from those that come out to hear us.

Stephen:  We usually get the 'man you guys are great but if you had a bass player…'.  Or wait no… how about 'you guys ever heard of Big Business?”  Mostly though, our shows are just a bro sesh; lots of jamming, beer-drinking, reminiscing with old friends.

TBB: Are there any bands with whom you've really enjoyed playing a show, maybe feel might fit well with you for a split release?

David: Eat The Witch, from New Orleans.

Stephen:  Man, I have a good time jamming with most anyone.  The now defunct Skycrawler (from Austin) was good.  Also, Darsombra from Baltimore are always a treat and a trip.

TBB: What do you enjoy hearing in the music you listen to in your own time, whether it's to relax or get energized?

David: If it moves me I will listen to it.  There is too much to mention in an interview, but if I were to pull from the top of my head, it would be Pink Floyd's Animals.

Stephen:  +1 on the Pink Floyd Animals.  I’m a little burnt out on it due to 1000+ listens.  Mostly Mahavishnu Orchestra and King Crimson lately.  Jammed the entire Keelhaul catalogue the other day.  Will Scharf forever.  A little Zebulon Pike, Pinkish Black, maybe some Death sprinkled here and there.  Bought an album by John Lurie called The Voice of Chunk the other day.  Interesting album.  Youtube that shite.

TBB: Are there any bands you've come across recently that you would recommend our readers should make a point to check out?  On the other side of that, are there any bands, metal or otherwise, that you feel have been getting way too much hype lately?

David: If I may be so bold, I'd say that Raedon Kong needs more hype!

Stephen:  Well, I'd have to rely on my old faithfuls; Zeni Geva, Keelhaul, Dazzling Killmen, King Crimson, Mahavishnu Orchestra.  If you haven’t jammed that stuff, get on it.  As far as bands that get a lot of hype, aren’t most if not all of them watered down a bit?  I’ve been hearing some really strong opinions both for and against this band Ghost.  I guess I need to check 'em so I can be that guy on Facebook.  Kanye? 

TBB: How did you settle on the artwork for Critical Paths, and who created it?

David: I painted this picture because I grew up watching Bob Ross paint happy trees, and I always loved doing artwork and wanted to start oil painting, so I tried it and came up with this image.  Years later I showed it to Stephen as a possible option for cover art… he liked it, so we used it for Critical Paths.  As far as artwork, it is whatever works at the time… maybe we'll use someone else's artwork next time.

TBB: What's in the near future for Raedon Kong?

David: We are likely to start writing again and play some shows.

Stephen:  Not sure about the musical direction but we'll most likely leave it open to whatever comes. 

TBB: Anything else you'd like to say to our readers?

David: Thanks for your time and interest in our music, and hopefully we can create more.

Stephen:  Thanks to anyone that has checked our albums out and supported us.  That’s the stuff that keeps bands going.  Stay tuned.

TBB: Thanks very much for your time, and for the excellent music!

~ Interview by Gabriel

Saturday, January 02, 2016

Gabriel's Top 20 Albums Of 2015

Well, it's that time again.  Hard to believe another year has come and gone already, but there were a ton of great releases over the past twelve months, and as usual, not nearly enough time to listen to all of them.  The list that follows is restricted to those full albums that I did have a chance to lay my ears on this year, and even with that limit, carving it down to just twenty selections was almost painfully difficult.  If there's an album you feel should have made the Top 20, just pipe up with a comment, here or on our Facebook link, and I'll try to fit investigating it into my schedule for 2016.  Here's hoping the new year treats all of you kindly, and that the musical offerings are at least half as good as what we were treated to this year.  Cheers!

#20. Bell Witch - Four Phantoms

"Considered on its own terms...Four Phantoms is an elegant (though bulky) construction, with the longing wails and tortured chords forming an inexorable journey towards oblivion (thematically, at least)."

"Building on a broad doom metal base, the group emphasizes atmosphere and slow, haunting riffs, with growling vocals which work to strengthen the music instead of just roaring over it."

"Twisting and turning through abstract feedback and body-moving riff revving, TC decisively show that their skills haven't rusted in the slightest during their time away from the public."

#17. Heavydeath - Eternal Sleepwalker

"It all works to hypnotic effect, as the slower passages enact enough of a lulling effect for the hard attacks to arrive more dramatically, and the down-shifts of the other direction taking advantage of the residual rawness."

#16. Dorthia Cottrell - Dorthia Cottrell

"[W]ith a reliance on extended repetition of chorus lines the only overt fault, Cottrell sounds perfectly at home with the company of sparse chords and her clear-ringing voice."

"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."

"Over the course of the four tracks, it feels as though every time the trio let their minds drift away to explore the wide-ranging spaciness in the psych side of their music, they're ready with a mean club-swing of doom to knock out anyone whose guard got lowered by the siren call of the whammy pedal."

"Consisting of just three tracks, but stretching out to three-quarters of an hour, Volumes finds Headless Kross spooling out heavy clouds of fuzz, feedback, and grimy tones punctured and punctuated by the powerful drum-beats, and clearly not giving a damn when it comes to holding back."

"Warm production and slight hints of humor, along with faint touches of stoner/psych head-warping, draw the music into something with more character than aggressive doom metal usually achieves, offering up something that earns the repeated plays fans of the album will find themselves compelled to hear."

"Prog, heavy metal, krautrock, doom, jazz, and others make their mark on the main heart of the music, with the band adeptly juggling them all into a colorful blur, and throwing more tricks in with each track, though they never let the technicality overwhelm the essential blistering drive."

"Things start out relatively subdued... with the title track slowly humming its way into being with emergent vibrations and melodies weaving themselves together, mostly driven by down-tuned guitar with synth touches bubbling underneath.  By the arrival of the second track, "Hazchem", there's a well-established mood of subtle doom, though the band is quick to overturn any dogmatic preservation of the gloom for its own sake."

"Heaviness, hard riffs, mellow cruising bridges, and pound after pound of leafy limberness with curling the songs around from one way into half a dozen others before it's out gives the new album a spine-jellying potency born of whatever's in Poland's water to make their heavy music groups so damn good."

"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... 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."

"Disenchanter seem to have picked up some extra speed since their last EP, with battering rolls of percussion, slick-fingered chord progressions, and some use of overlapping vocals all working to keep things vibrant without taking too much away from the heaviness... At its heart, though, the album stays true to the doom-power of their earlier efforts, just turbo-charged into jolting liveliness."

"The trio works well together in the absence of vocals, and there's a nice woodsy feel to the music, for all of its amp-powered resonance, coming to life somewhere in the buzz of the strings and the ringing between beats... The variation from song to song comes mainly in tempo and intensity, but the group's roots are so firmly dug into heavy earth that it all slips together into one spine-melting experience."

"Finally available to the public after the band's decision to go the self-release route, the oddities (and storminess) of Maelstrɔsm hardly end with the title, as they blend together psych, stoner, thrash, doom, and several other styles into a fast-changing and violently inventive set of tracks that keep the surprises coming from start to finish... [E]ach track comes out hard and ready to beat your brains in, but with enough tightness on the reins for the band to steer it in any direction they like... It's a far cry from the standard stoner rock, and the experimentation rarely falters or hits a false step."

"Howls, groans, bellows, and death rattles materialize from the instruments and vocals, with the band bringing their chosen album title to life in all the right ways, and only rarely relenting in the inexorable crush.  Some blackened crispiness to the guitar at times helps push the dagger even deeper, and after the first few tracks, you've got little choice but to simply accept the beating the band is going to lay down.  As the beating moves into more existential and cosmic territory, the steam-rolling done by the earlier tracks destroys the resistance that might save you from their torturous knowledge."

"The bass gives you enough reverb to start swimming on air if your stereo's loud enough, but there's a crispness to the mixing that lets it co-exist with the higher registers of everything else without crushing the life out of them.  The guitar gets so psychedelic at times as to pass for a wildly-modded synth, and well-used echo effects on the vocals let them sink right in to the crushed-velvet mind-trip, guiding your ears through the maze of amps and tones as the music unwinds... Despite the length of the songs, the album glides right along... the band has me roped into needing to play this over and over[.]"

"Opening with "Gambian Blue Wave", the sextet blend blues, psychedelic, alternative, heavy rock, and jazz into an unpredictable but always-engaging whirlwind of moods and styles, jack-knifing around the tempo range and always seeking something new to try.  Taking any one of the tracks out of the full line-up just doesn't do the group's range justice, given that the contrast between their off-the-walls pieces and more 'rainy day' material... benefits both sides when taken as a whole."

#1. Mamaleek - Via Dolorosa

"The duo of Mamaleek continue their tradition of reinvention with their latest album, which finds them performing blues with a harshness evocative of black metal or the meaner sort of sludge.  Though the harshness isn’t a constant presence, the times when it drops back down to a calmer performance (as it does several times, often for long stretches) play to a sense of its transience, with the incoming crash or howl looming on the audio horizon... the density of sound covering a range from sparse instrumentation to pounding dins and the inventive blending of styles is fantastic."