Sunday, February 28, 2016

Growing From Ashes...

The Fateful Hour - All We Leave Behind (2015)

We last heard from The Fateful Hour with their album An Everlasting Silence towards the end of 2013 (you can find our review for that one here).  Now they're back with this full-bodied set of seven songs, running at over an hour's worth of doom and sorrow between them.
Opening track "The Face of Transcendence" takes time to clearly establish the melodic grounding of the band's style before launching the heavy bass rumbles, and the careful balance of elements continues in strong form from there to the end.  The expected trappings of melodic doom are given an extra shot of depression, with the keyboards providing delicate filigree over clean vocals singing of self-doubt and mortality.
Though they give the building of atmosphere plenty of time in which to grow, when they throw themselves into hard rhythms and driving riffs, they show a power biding its time for maximum impact.  Use of counter-part with vocals of drastically different timbres adds a further sense of size and depth to the tracks, and the group shows an excellent cohesion in uniting their instruments.  They also bring a sense of genuine emotion to the dramatic singing, something which too many bands in this style fall a bit flat with when it comes time to execute.
With poetic track titles, professional luster, impressive range, and a great sense of rhythmic punctuation for the sweeping tones, The Fateful Hour have assembled a damn respectable sophomore album.  On top of that, they seem to still be pushing into ways of expanding their sound and style, which has me already looking forward to their third album, though I fully expect that they'll take their time crafting it.  Until then, soak in the rich arrangements of this one, and if you haven't heard their first album, get that fixed as well.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bell Witch, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Blackwater Park-era Opeth, Pallbearer, Thergothon


Saturday, February 27, 2016

Stoned in Hell...

Stoned Jesus - The Harvest (2015)

Kiev's Stoned Jesus are back with a bang.  That bang first comes in the form of an alarmed shout of "Jesus Christ!" before the band sonically kick every door in sight down with the tremendously fun three-minute racket of "Here Come The Robots".  While in itself this short sample that begins The Harvest doesn't seem too important - it only lasts a few seconds, after all - the sheer to-the-point punchiness of the sample can be seen as representative of the album as a whole.  It's not that everything on this album is short - the last track is nearly 15 minutes, whilst another is almost 10 - but Stoned Jesus manage to maintain a real sense of focus and clarity throughout The Harvest, even in the album's longer moments.
It's somewhat refreshing that even during the longer tracks at the end of the album, the songs never feel aimless and the group never rely on simply noodling.  There are extended instrumental passages but, thanks to some interesting riffs and chord sequences, they remain of interest throughout.  While the album's first two tracks are without doubt the punchiest - both clock in at near enough 3 minutes and both have a relentless tempo that defies you not to headbang along - the album's longer moments feel equally focused.
The seven-minute "Rituals Of The Sun" is an excellent slice of mid-tempo doom with a rock solid rhythm section and a tasty guitar tone.  "YFS" features the album's most melodic vocals, with the band taking on the feel of a classic American or British hard rock band of considerable vintage.  "Silkworm Confessions" is another interesting moment and, again, sees the band take on a different guise - this time incorporating prog metal influences, though perhaps more in song structure than musicianship.  The fifteen-minute closer, "Black Church", begins with some quasi-ambient atmosphere building before a rigid tribal beat slowly metamorphoses into a ridged, razor-headed groove.  It's a fantastically executed build-up and one that could so easily fall on its face.  It's a great track throughout and a memorable closing salvo to really well-made album.
Stoned Jesus have built a good reputation for themselves over the last half decade, and with The Harvest, it's easy to see why.  What they do, they do well, and there's a lot to like about this album.
~ Martin

For fans of; Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Kadavar, Wo Fat, Enos


Friday, February 26, 2016

Finding A Dark Center...

Nomadic Rituals / Tome - The Great Dying / Bone Divinations (2015)

Though it's accurately described as a 'split single', the size of each track contributed to this release by its two Irish bands easily pushes things out to EP length, coming out just a few minutes shy of a short album.  Who gets the A-side depends on which band you get it from, but for our purposes, let's go with Nomadic Rituals (chalk it up to the ease of alphabetizing).
The group's approximately quarter-hour track "The Great Dying" begins with a slow build of atmosphere and faint bass notes before graduating to firmer resonance and solid doom.  Ratcheting up the heaviness into near-violent slams of down-tuned guitar crashing against the rolling beats from the drummer, Nomadic Rituals do an excellent job of handling momentum and the energy of the songs right through to the final bursts.
Tome turn in a different take with the other track, "Bone Divinations", using more feedback and sludgy vocal stylings to generate a crawling atmosphere of unease that's to be enjoyed more for the journey as it slowly builds to a crunch-out finish.  Both groups do solid by their listeners, so if you want some doom that's big and heavy without losing its energy along the way, give this split an investigation.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Ensorcelor, Gallow God, Moloch, Open Tomb, The Wounded Kings


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Reasons To Fight...

Dirt War - Demo 2015 (2015)

Three quick tracks and a longer closer on this demo from NY-based quartet Dirt War get the group off on a good start by blending stoner doom fuzz and bass focus (two bassists, no guitar) with gnarly vocals and a high-power performance from the drummer.  While there's a tendency to immediately throw that mix under the heading of 'sludge,' I'd say that the energy is the sludgiest thing to be found here, as the group side-steps many of that genre's usual trappings in favor of something a bit different, though there is a staunch aggression and battle-readiness to the playing and yells.
All of the tracks flow well into each other, giving listeners the impression of being present for an extra-lively practice session, and last track "Wolves" brings some extra thunder out to put a bit more doom in the balance of their style-mixing.  Good playing from everyone involved, the vocalist knows how to keep from going overboard with his presence, and in short, a good introduction from the band.  Check 'em out if you want something different with strong energy to its heaviness.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Centipede, DopeRider, Lung Molde, OLDD WVRMS, Wolf Blood


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Super Satisfying Stoner Sounds...

Dog Days ~ Heat (2016)

Good God, 2016 has got off to a rip roaring start. In the first two months alone I've stumbled upon at least five albums or EP's that would have easily made their way into my best of 2015. So lets not beat around the bush, lets crack on with the first of my best of this year so far...
Dog Days - mixed gender instrumental stoner rock awesomeness from Switzerland. Yup, you read that right. I'm not sure about Gabe, but I'm pretty confident that I've not had anything from there before. But hell, if this is what they can do then I'm seriously considering moving. This album totally and utterly slays. It's that simple. Even if you're not entirely sold on the whole instrumental stoner rock angle (pfft, do you not own any Karma To Burn!?) there's still so much to love about Heat. Right from the opening fuzz filled bars of Saluki you get the immediate sense of where this album is heading, and it doesn't for a single second disappoint. Mixing high octane, insanely satisfying riffs with an equal measure of atmospheric production and breakdowns is a touch of genius. Where most solely instrumental albums often play out like a jam session, Heat feels entirely tight and focused. In fact, it spends a lot of time feeling more and more like an incredible film score than your average stoner rock album. Whats more, this works, and bloody brilliantly too. Despite it's lack of vocal content, its entirely captivating from beginning to end. This is in no small part down to Vincent's master riffmanship. I realise I totally just made that term up, but I wholeheartedly stand by it. Just listen to the opening minute of Lancashire Heeler and you'll see exactly what I mean. Not to take away from the rest of the trio though! Marie's bass lines rattle your vertebrae and theres not a single track where you won't eventually find yourself air drumming along with Julien, especially track 2, Shiba.
If you like your stoner rock tight, relentless, with a little hint of punk prowess and a sweet nod to Led Zeppelin, then you have absolutely no excuse to go and get this album. And for all you tight bastards out there, you can even pay what you want!

If any of you managed to recently catch them locally supporting Cancer Bat's, then I both hate and envy you in equal measure. I'm so gutted that I can't get down to Desert Fest this year as I'd give a nut to catch this lot live!
~ Jay

For Fans Of; Serpent Throne, Karma To Burn, Beast, Tuber, Sonic Flower


Sunday, February 21, 2016

Fear For Your Child...

Merlin - Electric Children (2016)

It's been a while since we've heard from the crew of Merlin (the most recent drop from them coming in the form of the Night Creep single, released a year before Uncle Acid's similarly-titled fourth album), and while their line-up has undergone some changes in that time, they're still turning out high-quality doom with unusual turns.
"Bad Trip" starts off the new album with some clear chimes before the guitar, bass, vocals, and drums rumble into action, fuzzed, distorted, smoked, and beaten.  The trail of heavy riffs leads from there into the title track, a dirty-sounding doom rock piece with enough occult seasoning to put a curse on your house should you switch it off mid-song.  A slower, smokier groove picks up your rattled nerves with "Will o' the Wisp", "Interlude" throws in some synth riffs that could have been plucked from an underground '80s horror movie, and then "Night Creep" jolts things back to dangerous life for the second half.
"Warbringer" and "A Reprisal for Julia" take things deeper into menacing heaviness, then through another atmospheric synth piece (one in which I was hoping to hear a Hellraiser sample pop up, I'll admit).  Finally, the ~23-minute monster of "Tales of the Wasteland" takes things back into the dark Western vibes which shaped so much of Christ Killer, finding room for shredding crescendos and psychedelic cyclones of swirling sonics (plus some chimes at the end to tie back to the start of "Bad Trip", so you can put the album on loop and let your mind melt away).
There's a lot of variety to the new album, giving fans plenty of replay value while letting the band show some new sides and explore fresh territory.  The pulp horror heritage, creepy tunefulness, and knack for turning tight grooves into expansive outpourings are all still there, but sewn back together into new forms and given a different sort of life.  With another ten minutes or so, "Tales of the Wasteland" could make for an album in itself, but all of the songs together unite for one hell of a trippy ride, showing Merlin in ace form.  Mark March 9th on your calendar, get the album, and don't operate any heavy machinery.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Blood Farmers, Desert Suns, Goya, Sleep, Wounded Giant


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Deep in Space...

Spelljammer - Ancient Of Days (2015)

With their 2012 album Vol.2, Spelljammer released a modern stoner rock classic.  Heavy, trippy, monolithic - it was all of those things and more.  Original vinyl copies change hands for big cash these days, and it has a high reputation among many.  Following that album up would be a challenge for anybody but, right from the get-go, it's clear that Spelljammer haven't let their guard down with Ancient Of Days.
The 12-minute-long opener, "Meadow", is exactly what you'd want and expect from a heavy stoner doom band like Spelljammer.  It starts with three minutes or so of droning feedback and heaviness before kicking into a truly gigantic riff.  It's heavy and brutish, but also groovy, and there's definitely a degree of compositional sophistication here - there's effective use of quiet / loud dynamics throughout.  I've always appreciated an acoustic track or two on doom albums, and Spelljammer supply their own with the Ancient Of Days' second song, "Laelia".
The album is well-produced with some excellent, thick guitar tones and fittingly psychedelic vocal effects.  Much has been made in the press release of the group's new three-piece line-up; however, from where I'm sitting, it hasn't made a huge difference musically which is no bad thing.  It's not that this album is a rehash of previous efforts, far from it, but it's not a million miles either sonically or stylistically.  Fans of the band's previous outings will be very happy with what Spelljammer have offered here, whilst newcomers to the group will find a band that, for my money, sit with the best of all doom bands operating at the moment.
~ Martin

For fans of; Monolord, Electric Wizard, With The Dead, Windhand, early Om


Friday, February 19, 2016

Following The Old Ways...

Akasava - Strange Aeons EP (2015)

As the first non-single release from the French band of Akasava, this EP and its quarter-hour of material set a cool tone for the group with some doom-shaded heavy rock.  Fuzzy production meets some throw-back '70s-style vocals and crunchy chords to create a pretty decent emulation of the old style, with enough headbang-friendly bridges and riffs to entice even jaded fans of the style.
Though the EP goes by quickly, the band does a good job of keeping things lively from song to song, with touches like the intro and outro tracks showing an engagement in the creation process that could lead to some fun bonuses on future albums.  High- and low-tempo tracks let the band show off their facility in different forms of the '70s ouevre, and while I personally leaned more towards their high-speed work, the heavier material pulls together solidly (especially when the organ kicks in on "Black & White Lady").  A promising start for the band, and something to check out if you've been running low on retro heavy rock.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Acid Witch, La Chinga, Manthrass, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Sedated Angel


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Grooves And Gnashing...

Disastroid - Love Is What You Bring On Home (2016)

This two-track EP is the latest release from Disastroid, a trio from San Francisco who specialize in heavy rock with a rough edge, following up on their Missiles LP from late 2014.
The title track comes first, rolling out a stompy, thrashy rhythm assault of meshed drums and bass, soon joined by guitar shred solos and vocals which vault and roar alongside the instrumentation.  The energy is a good match for the cover art, simultaneously ferocious and warm, and it comes to a close sooner than you'd like.
"Gadabout", on the B-side, brings another groove-based set of riffs, which get spun out with unusual time signatures, downward-heading progressions, and funky interjections from the guitar.  I'd personally give it to this one for the more memorable of the two tracks, thanks to one of the riffs just having super hook power over my ears.  I'm still finding myself tapping it out on my desk from time to time.  In short, if you dig heavy/stoner rock that adds some warmth without losing its earthy rawness, give this crew a look and a listen.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;     Escape Is Not Freedom, Lat Det Gro, Queens of the Stone Age, SKUNK, Teacher


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Bringing The Doom To You...

Centipede - Sarnath (2016)

Sarnath forms the first full LP from this Finnish band, and with its eight tracks, the trio lays down some serious sludgy doom.  Keeping things well-heated, the songs blend thrashy riffs and head-banging structuring with some gnarly twists of the strings, giving listeners a trip through savage beatings and grimy pedal textures.
There's a very solid bite to the guitar-work, which often tears loose from the pace set by the bass and drums, adding a cool element of unpredictable volatility to the mixture.  There's also a rawness to the mixing which suits the raging performances and attitude, keeping things from settling into comfortable grooves and thereby losing the edge.
If you find yourself in want of some hard-bashing metal from the heavy end of the spectrum, Centipede have got you covered.  No official word yet on whether this album will be making its way to vinyl, but with a run-time just around forty minutes, and a 7" split in the band's back catalog, it's not too hard to imagine that this might materialize on the black wax.  The album will be released March 4th by Inverse Records, so mark it on your calendar and get your ears ready for ravaging.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bones of Mary, Chariot Throne, High On Fire, Lockersludge, Pohjoinen


Friday, February 12, 2016

Riding The Star Lane...

giant gutter from outer space - set adrift EP (2015)

Coming to us from Brazil, this new project resulting from a team-up of two friends and musicians sets its sights on (as you might guess from the name) some spacy material.  With copious amounts of reverb, twang, and rolling rhythms, GGFOS combine technicality with atmosphere to great effect, delivering some near-dizzying arrangements of melody and chops.
Operating as a combo of bass and drums, the duo focus on assembling their pounding beats without the interference of vocal incorporation (or at least, if there were vocals, I was too floored to notice them), turning out stuff to which you can simply try to keep up while banging your head.  You probably won't be able to keep pace, but that's OK.  It's music that makes me ache to see it live, to feel the speaker output set my bones rattling and hear the tangents improvised between the performers in the heat of the moment.
It's a powerful release, even better when taken as their first set of material released to the listening public, and it really fires the imagination to consider where they might go from such a strong starting point.  Excellent stuff, and I'm sure I'll find the hooks from this EP caught in my ears for days to come.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Dead Hand, Hijo de la Tormenta, Reptensol, Sunken, Thomas Jude Barclay Morrison


Thursday, February 11, 2016

Banging Heads And Pulling Threads...

Escape Is Not Freedom - The Truants EP (2015)

This EP is the first release from this Chicago-based group, and as its five tracks show, they've tapped into something with some strong potential.  Part grunge, part sludge, part heavy rock, the songs power along on grimy bass riffs and rough vocals, drums providing a sharp counterpart to the thick waves pouring from the amps.
Running through four tracks in the 4-to-5-minute range, and then closing things out with the 8-minute monster of "Seed", the band shows a fair number of sides to their style.  Squealing harmonics, memorable riffs, some extra complexity/technicality without drifting into over-indulgence, and some serious rhythm control all come together as a damn fine debut, with plenty of twists filling out its run-time to call listeners back for more.  Picking out a single track to use as the streaming inclusion was a tough call, so I'll just go ahead and say that you really should give the whole EP a listen over on the BandCamp page.  Looking forward to hearing more from this crew and checking out how their sounds develop with subsequent material.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Behold! The Monolith, Buzzov•en, Funeral Horse, Reptensol, Skullcave


Sunday, February 07, 2016

Heady Vibes...

Honeymoon Disease - The Transcendence (2015)

In The Transcendence, Honeymoon Disease (named after a particularly vicious STD) have created a compelling and well-executed album that brings to mind numerous '70s rock bands (as practically all modern heavy rock bands do).  Perhaps more importantly though, they also sit perfectly alongside their musical peers in a modern music scene that enjoys a generous number of excellent female-fronted metal and rock bands.
The first band that came to mind when I listened to the album opener, "Higher", was the classic Dutch psych band Earth and Fire.  While Honeymoon Disease are less overtly psychedelic and more in a classic hard rock tradition, the organ-heavy opener had more than a little of the fruitful late '60s / early '70s psychedelic scene about it, whilst still sounding contemporary.
Another older group that came to mind was Lynyrd Skynyrd. 
Although less centered around jamming than much of the best-known Skynyrd, the energetic guitar soloing on a number of the songs here brought to mind moments of "Free Bird".  Honeymoon Disease also sit very comfortably alongside a number of comparable contemporary bands.  The retro psych rock of Electric Citizen and at times even the NWOBHM / doom crossover of The Oath is, if not particularly similar to Honeymoon Disease, then at least likely to appeal to fans of Honeymoon's impassioned boogie hard rock.
There are moments of psych on this record, but for the most part it leans more towards the danceable, energetic riff rock and even the occasional southern rock twang of Crazy Horse's frenetic country rock.  The result of these influences is a heady album of fun, easy to like rock 'n' roll.  It's not a game-changer of a record, but it's very hard to dislike and everything it sets out to do is done well.  Although it's not hard to compare this album to classics of the past, it's not derivative, and it's an enjoyable album from start to finish.
~ Martin

For Fans Of; Earth and Fire, Blues Pills, Lynard Skynard, Electric Citizen, Janis Joplin

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Friday, February 05, 2016

Live And Powerful...

Hijo de la Tormenta - En Vivo en Buenos Aires (20-06-2015) (2015)

Following up on their self-titled album (you can find our review for that here), Hijo de la Tormenta have this live EP featuring a pair of songs which, as you can tell from the title, were recorded on-stage in Buenos Aires.  Despite the brevity of the EP, HdlT put in a good showing,
The first of the two tracks is "El Abuelo", a song which tempers desert rock with some heavier inclinations, bringing drifting riffs in line with a sharp percussive edge while taking the main melody through several twisting turns.  A bridge of sustained feedback and a casual bass groove gives things time to simmer before the band launches back into faster territory, and the grimy climb towards the finish takes a mean turn before the bottom drops out.
"Alienación" takes things down a heavier road, with a spaced-out opening riff leading into hard-thumping beats and a sinister fuzz undertow.  Subdued rumblings build into a powerful wave of converging hooks, and as the guitar wails off over the rising rush, it's all good.  The two songs make for an EP which should have any fans of heavy music who hear it looking to find more from this talented group, and stoke anticipation for whatever their next release might be.  Don't skip over this one.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Frank Sabbath, Gripe, Mondo Drag, Persona, Weedpecker


Thursday, February 04, 2016

Ride The Tide...

Lint - Fleeting / Into the Tide (2015)

The Australian fuzz rockers of Lint are back to give their fans a treat with this pair of songs, which together constitute over a quarter of an hour's worth of psych-tinged desert vibes with a grungy edge.  Playing with strong energy and aggressive riffs, the trio of Lint show that they're still going strong after the release of their 2013 LP Existence (our review for which can be found right here), delivering some tasty grooves and mellow bridges put together with care.
Those who've been waiting for something new to emerge from the group since the album will be pleased by what's on display with these two songs, and while a larger release is (hopefully) on its way, there's enough replay value to these tracks that (as long as you don't leave it on loop) you shouldn't burn yourself out too soon.  Just let the band take you off on this rumbling trip, don't get freaked out when they start yelling, and you'll have a good time.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Alice in Chains, Hemptress, Hijo de la Tormenta, RHINO, Tuber