Thursday, March 31, 2016

Smashing Into Action...

Neon Burton - Neon Burton EP (2015)

Neon Burton are a three-piece from Germany which came together a couple of years ago, and are now making their debut with this ~20-minute EP of heavy stoner rock with lurking aggression.  Using the traditional line-up of drums, guitar, and bass (though it sounds like they also bring in some keyboards on "Hollow Words"), the group strikes a nice balance between angry tones, hooky riffs, and red-eyed grooves, throwing in enough spontaneous-sounding tune exploration to keep things vibrant without wandering off into jam band territory.
As a debut, it does a good job of showing off a number of the band's strengths, hinting at further possibilities, and offering some earworms melodies that'll be floating around in the back of your brain until you give in and give the EP another spin.  Care with building up the songs while letting their core structures have room to grow seems like one of the band's biggest draw-points at this stage, and hopefully they'll find room on their forthcoming LP for a track which lets them really dig into that exploratory inclination.  All in all, Neon Burton has put together a great introduction of themselves to the world.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Demon Head, Fakir Thongs, Frank Sabbath, Muddy Moonshine, Olde Growth


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Black Magical Powers...

Brimstone Coven - Black Magic (2016)

Harken back to 1969.  Doom and gloom was early enough to be refreshing, albeit associated with a lifestyle hellbent on the idea of destruction and filth.  Brimstone Coven would fit perfectly with any forerunners of the genre.  Black Magic is the name of the album at hand and perfectly describes the obsession put into the lyrics.  So fill your bong with whatever you prefer and step into the realm of fairies and black unicorns. 
The band has a half-decade-long story started from guitarist Corey Roth writing the first five songs and recruiting "Big John" Williams for vocals, Andrew D'Cagna on bass and Justin Wood on drums.  These five songs appeared on the band's self-titled debut album, along with five more tracks and seven bonus tracks.  Check that monster out.
Plunging into opening track "Black Magic", we are greeted with demands to gain power to raise an ancient demon, to boil over a cauldron for potions and to complete incantations promised, most likely, from a spell book bought from a traveling blind salesperson in exchange from the purchaser's first-born son.  The following track, "Black Unicorn", to me, seems like a continuation to better understand the black arts mastered with an army of "a thousand demons" at the narrator's beck and call.  "As We Fall" is a strikingly slower song with continuing themes of a dark power, but with the addition of reaching out for wanting to share this new-found power with another.  But the entire time, there's a sense of wondering whether it's right to share it.  The album then delves into a better understanding of magick until the track "The Plague" and its sense of near-regret continues into "Forsaken".  Ending our tale of demons and minor control of the underworld is "The Eldest Tree", and our sights of destruction and doom bleed into the world we physically inhabit.  A reign of terror is sure to follow. 
A fantastic second album with hopefully many more to follow.

For Fans Of; Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Alice in Chains, Coven, Lucifer's Friend


Saturday, March 26, 2016

Majestic And Monstrous...

King Goblin - Cryptozoology (2016)

This album has been sitting in our submission pile for too long, a consequence of the high number of interesting things we get sent, and as I looked it over in preparation for writing this review, I started getting pretty excited.  A Japanese band grounded in doom metal, but with a spread of other influences, and operating (so far) on the schedule of releasing an album once every nine years?  Promising stuff, and as the album rattled into life with the noisy opening track "Return to the Planet", I felt pretty confident that they would deliver.
And they certainly did, in ways that I didn't expect, though I have to say I'm happy about that.  Had I gotten exactly what I thought was coming, there would have been some disappointment, silly as that is.  Instead, King Goblin brought out song after song of twisted ingenuity, soldering in a sweet melody here, a crank of dirty rock there, some psych-like guitar meltdowns, bluesy progressions, jazzy fusions, and more, until I just relaxed and went with it.
Once I slipped into that mode, everything was slick.  Riding with riffs as long as they lasted, bouncing from one rhythm to the next, and nodding along with whatever rebellious lyrics were being delivered made for an unpredictable but always enjoyable trip through the hazy combo of the band-members' imaginations and musical tastes.  And hey, that's not even mentioning the bizarre but delightful cover of "Mississippi Queen" they throw in towards the end.
It's been a while since I've had so much outright fun with an album, let alone one with so much inspired, creative flair and freedom of style.  Top-notch stuff, through and through, and an album which I'm looking forward to playing over and over again.  A limited number of CD copies are available from the group's BandCamp page, or you can snag a digital copy; and don't get scared off by the price, I'll swear right here that it's worth every penny.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bi Kyo Ran, Demon Head, Mondo Drag, Santana, Wicked Lady


Friday, March 25, 2016

Seas, Sins, And Stones...

Over Sea, Under Stone - Sinner EP (2015)

The five tracks of this debut EP from the Seattle-based group of Over Sea, Under Stone bring the band out into the public eye with a set of retro hard rock/stoner rock tunes built on strong rhythms and gnarled riffs.  The seven-minute "Vlad" is the big stand-out, running at about twice the length of the average, and forming what I guess is a vampire romance tale with its lyrics of "I have crossed oceans of time for you!", but there's good work put into each of the EP's tracks.
One of the high points is the clarity of the beats and chords, even at the band's fuzziest and most unchained moments.  There's a firm pulse to the songs which makes them easy to remember after you've finished playing them at high volume, while the noodly guitar-work does its job of pulling listeners into the moment.  Fans of heavy hard rock will find their needs well-satisfied by this group's first effort, and should anticipate a follow-up in the near future.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Clutch, Desert Suns, Father Sky, Lords of Beacon House, Queens of the Stone Age


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Terror in the Cold... (Exclusive)

Abest - Ligatur (2016)

Abest are a new name to me, but certainly not one I'll be forgetting too soon.  Their distinctive sound blends hardcore and swirling, intense post-metal into a concoction that may not be easy listening, but certainly is striking.
Abest's new single, "Ligatur", packs in a huge amount of action in its three and a half minute run-time.  The song's initial searing wall of noise approach gives way not long into the track for a subtle, menacing riff that leaves the listener with an ominous sense of worry before crashing once again into heaviness.  This use of dynamic might be tried and tested but Abest really make it work here.
"Ligatur" is a striking song, there's no getting around that.  While its blaring aggression and all-out intensity might not be for all, those with an interest in hardcore that has a sense of mystery and atmosphere should find a lot to enjoy here.
~ Martin

For fans of; Alaskan, Downfall of Gaia, Planks, Red Apollo, Light Bearer

Facebook  Bandcamp


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Desert Rock Ear Candy...

Burn Thee Insects - Droid Intelligence (2015)

Doom metal is always going to be best experienced by being played with headphones alone late at night to create the perfect atmosphere to drown out the physical world to make a type of personal journey through bleak landscapes, in my mind.  And the album Droid Intelligence understands that concept to a T.  Burn Thee Insects are an extremely talented duo consisting of father and son Lucust and Mitchell French, who hail from the Mojave Desert, where the heat and sweat just burn through your head leading into madness and destruction or leave you a withered shell. 
Constant expansion and retraction of every instrument are a basic theme present throughout the album, but with enough variation in sonics and mood that it never seems tired or monotonous. 
Album opener "Hydroponics" evokes the study of a dissonant mood with powerful drums and guitars, combined with a despondent vocal style not dissimilar to that of the great Josh Homme, although out of inspiration, not mimicking in any way.  The general feeling and mood never lets up or changes from a building charmed primal drive for creating psychedelic tones, not like 'flower children of the hippie era,' but more like those searching for euphoria from bending and cutting mundane living down to a bloody pulp to make it their own. 
"Distorted Seclusion" continues with drones and a magical boredom only formed from seeking more from staring at oblivion and carving out a way to find solace in a world that casts you out.  "A Swarm Of Bees" ends the album with the whining screech of a motor finally burning up after traversing through the Mojave itself, reminding us not to stare too deep into the sun.  You might just burn your brain out. 
Currently the Burn Thee Insect's Bandcamp feature not only this and their debut album, but also their EP entitled Head to the Floor, where they began to carve out their new genre-defining sound.  

For Fans Of; Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, Them Crooked Vultures, Sleep, Goatsnake


Monday, March 21, 2016

Merlin Interview

Merlin are, quite probably, the top group playing heavy music in Kansas City these days.  They first caught our attention with the release of Christ Killer, a concept album with time-travel, powerful song-writing, and exactly what the title promises.  Shortly after that, they followed with the Night Creep single, which gave fans more of the heavy psych spookiness the band does so well.  And most recently, Electric Children brought its mind-melting set of tunes to life online and on CD (the latter from 4ONE8 Records), which seemed like the perfect time to get in touch with the group and pick the thoughts behind their stew of horror, humor, and heaviness.

The Burning Beard: Hi there, and thanks for giving us some of your time for this interview. Let's start out with the basics, since there were some changes in the time between your last two albums; who was in Merlin's line-up for the making of Electric Children?

Merlin: Carter Lewis - Guitar, synth
Caleb Wyels - Percussion
Jordan Knorr - Vocals
Joey Hamm - Bass

TBB: You've already made some more adjustments to that line-up, is that correct?

Merlin: Yeah, we have since added Chase Thayer to replace Joey. He is our Fourth bassist. Merlin's Fourth Dream.

TBB: Could you give us some musical background for each of those members, along the lines of what bands they've enjoyed currently or in the past, how they got into playing music, and any other relevant stuff?

Merlin: I think we work as a band mostly because all four of us have wildly different musical inspirations, while simultaneously uniting over the greats like Pink Floyd, Hawkwind, King Crimson and Uncle Acid. We in Merlin haven’t quite studied Chase enough to know what his deal is yet. Perhaps it is better left a Mystery to be revealed during his stay with us.

TBB: How did you arrive at the title for the new album?

Merlin: It was originally called Tarantula Hawk, which was going to be two albums, one very Doomy, and the other Very Experimental. Then Carter brought up the Idea of Electric Children and then bam we had a concept. But with that said, the album itself is rather influenced off the ideas of brainwashing children into religious cults and using them to carry out the masters wishes. With a spice of the Apocalypse.

TBB: And how did you settle on the cover art, since you seem to have a different one for the digital and CD releases?

Merlin: Mostly using the ideas of movie homages, hopelessness and brainwashing cults the two artists did everything from their heads. And they both equally represented the album perfectly. The Company Design’s shows a little Rosemary's Baby Vibe and Harley and J's cover shows a lot of Jorodowsky's Holy Mountain in it. Perfect!

TBB: How would you compare the making of Electric Children to the work that went into Christ Killer?

Merlin: With Christ Killer, it was very planned out to be 4 Tracks; each telling their part of a singular story. So when we wrote and practiced it, we played it all the way through. So going into the Studio we had a firm grasp of how everything was supposed to be and recorded it all in in four sessions in February 2014.
With Electric Children, we knew we were creating something really big with it. So starting with “Night Creep” and “Robe of Bones” in September 2014, we decided to write and record in pairs. This gave us time to let each song breathe on its own. It took a year to do, a couple Bassists and a few live shows playing all different versions of them, but it paid off.

TBB: Any good stories behind individual tracks?

Merlin: “Will o the Wisp” was actually conceived as “Willow the Wisp” and we were gonna play it when we opened for a screening of Willow at a KCMO Alamo Draft house. But that fell through.

TBB: As previous releases show, Merlin has no issue with handling long songs, but how did "Tales of the Wasteland" come to be? Was it planned from the start to have the closing song be that big (23 minutes!), or did things just work out that way?

Merlin: Oh yeah we definitely planned for it to be huge. It was actually very planned out from start to finish. Of course there was some improv done the day of recording. Like the flute Carter randomly added during "Gunslinger lives!" was done on the spot.

TBB: Is the fondness for occult horror and the like a band-wide thing, or is that coming from a couple of really enthusiastic members?

Merlin: We like creepy spooky stuff. We have a coffin in the Wizard's Lair.

TBB: Going by the titles, mood, and the excellently-designed liner notes for your albums, Merlin likes to mix some humor in with the dark vibes, which calls to mind stuff like Creepshow, EC Comics, tons of Vincent Price movies, and a bunch of other entries in that line of mixing macabre subject matter with off-beat amusement. What would you say are some of the band's biggest influences in this regard?

Merlin: We don't like to seem too serious.. there's plenty of that in the heavy scene. We may all just have a dark sense of humor. There’s a photo online somewhere of our original single art for Execution, featuring Jesus in an Electric Chair… GOOD STUFF!

TBB: How has Kansas City handled being the home of Merlin?

Merlin: We have a few fans that come out to mostly all our shows, and some very nice record stores that always buy anything we have… Anne and Marion at Records with Merritt in Westport, KC and Kelly from Love Garden in Lawrence have supported us from the very beginning. Which feels nice. While you won’t see us featured in the local papers, we genuinely feel great to have the small few believe in what we do.

TBB: Are there any misconceptions about the band that you find a lot of people seem to have?

Merlin: People like to say we’re a doom band. We feel like we aren’t. We have always been Psychedelic. Doom probably is on our Bio though.

TBB: Any stand-out memories from being on the road, good or bad?

Merlin: We haven't really toured so I'll just say we've had a really good time playing with out of Town bands such as Grel, who were kind enough to invite us out to play in Lawton, OK, which is actually one of our favorite shows to date.

TBB: Given that Christ Killer got some very nice vinyl versions put out by Poisoned Mind Records, is there any chance of seeing a release on that format to go with the CD for Electric Children? And if so, will it have its own cover art?

Merlin: There is definitely a Poisoned Mind Records release of Electric Children coming out on Vinyl in the very near future. Both covers will be implemented in the packaging depending on the version you get a chance to buy. We have some really special plans for the vinyl release that we will not expose to you yet. In due time, but for now I can assure you it'll be amazing.

TBB: Merlin's shirts always seem to sell out really fast, and it's easy to see why. Any plans for future shirt designs (or any other merch) that you can share with us, or do you intend to keep those a surprise until they materialize?

Merlin: When you see a Merlin shirt online or at a Show get it. We never repress a design. Here's the two 2016 shirts: 

TBB: What are Merlin's intentions for the near future?

Merlin: We are doing a full length Soundtrack to a movie...

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

Merlin: Be patient with us, I know it takes a while to put out a Merlin album. We can't all be Ice Dragon. But the future of Merlin has some really sweet stuff on the horizon.

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

~ Gabriel


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Mystical Spells...

Burn The Chapel - The Mystic (2015)

Detroit is a famously hard city.  It's also one with a great musical heritage.  Some say the blue-collar work is what gives the city is musical flavour.  Whether that's true or not, Burn The Chapel make it sound like it is.
The Mystic, Burn The Chapel's second effort, is a real beast of an album.  Thick guitar tones and no-nonsense drumming give proceedings a real grunt to them that can be difficult to capture outside of a live setting.  The album's six songs are based around the sort of sludgy, unforgiving riffage that makes it seem as though the guitarist who is producing the noise would like nothing better than to stalk you, follow you home and then kill you in a dark alleyway.
There're also some well-played solos here, which embellish the songs well.  Occasionally the somewhat '80s-sounding solos are a little at odds with the far sludgier rhythm guitar, but they give the songs an unexpected duality that ends up working in the record's favour.
When the riffs are as good as they are on The Mystic, you'll have no inclination to pick holes.  This is a great record and showcases fine riff-work.
~ Martin

For Fans Of; Bongripper, Conan, Cough, Iron Mtn, Megalodoom


Saturday, March 19, 2016

Earth From Above...

Montaña Electrica - Sobre lo Sagrado (2015)

Coming to us from the hotbed of heavy rock that is Argentina, Sobre lo Sagrado is the debut album from the group of Montaña Electrica, and with ten tracks of earnest grooving, the album does a nice job of introducing this group to the world.
Things start out on low simmer with the intro track, but before too long, the ME crew has tasty licks coming out of their strings and through the amps, garnished with keyboard drizzles and picked up by the funky drumming.  There's a wide streak of cool bluesiness to the music, so that while the riffs have a loose-bodied freedom to their playing, the swift shifts into tighter and more nuanced sections firmly demonstrates that the musicians know their way around their chosen instruments.
There's also a pleasing freedom of style to the songs, feeling hard and fuzzy at one moment, throwback psych the next, then suddenly Santana-like exploratory jazz rock, all of it swirled together into a tasty treat that makes its unusual combinations work by just rolling with it.
On top of that, there's the vocals, which make for a sense of comforting familiarity to keep listeners grounded through the ever-changing sounds.  While we get a lot of great stuff coming through our inbox, this is one where I feel I really need to call on you readers to check it out, especially if your tastes run to the chiller side of heavy rock.  And give it more than a couple of tracks to grab you (hey, go for the whole album if you have the time); there's enough variety here that I'd be shocked if you didn't find something to dig.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Craneon, Fakir Thongs, Gripe, Manthrass, RHINO


Friday, March 18, 2016

Burning The Cairns...

The Mound Builders / Pale Horseman - Split (2016)

Coming together to release this split through Failure Records & Tapes, The Mound Builders and Pale Horseman have joined their distinctive sounds for two tracks each of doom-laden tunes to throw a spanner in the works of the usual Record Store Day pop appeal fare.
The Mound Builders take the A-side, dedicated to the memory of former band-mate Nate Malher, and start things off with the slow-mounting intensity of "Hashashin", growing layers of instrumentation and pedal effects before erupting into full-bodied slams of chords, beats, and vocals loaded with anger.  Classic-sounding riffs pull things along with serrated hooks, some special studio-work adds touches of mystery, and a raging crescendo cranks into increased bass presence before drifting away.  "Black Drink Ritual" picks up from there, holding the bass out a bit more in the mix, but picking up tempo for intermittent headbang speeds and a smasher of a finish.
Over on Pale Horseman's side, "Ghosts of the Gallows" lumbers into action on the strength of a heavy lead riff, twisted and expanded through the song at comparatively slower speed, though they make up for that by bringing a stormy presence.  The group's style is augmented by Dennis Pleckham's work at the mixing-board, bringing some bonus value to careful listeners who want to directly compare his style to that of Dan Precision's on the A-side.  After the thick grooves of PH's first track are concluded, "Long Way Down" brings up the heat with some sludgier style, complemented by increased gnarl and snarl in the vocals and tighter squeeze on the strings.
Across the four tracks, there's a nice spread of dirty-sounding doom, with very little tongue-in-cheek attitude to make these pills easier to swallow.  This is a set of tunes intended for days when you're feeling like shit, and want to hear something to let you know there's things to do with that feeling beyond wallowing in it.  Get in touch with your local record store and tell them to stock some copies for RSD, pop it on when the mood is right, and soak up some bad vibes.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Dead Existence, R.O.L.F., Shrine of the Serpent, The Wounded Kings, Zeppheroin


Thursday, March 17, 2016

When Devils Cry...

Ghost Witch - Demo (2016)

Coming from Santa Rosa, CA, with their first public demo, the quartet of Ghost Witch offer up a pair of tracks with astral themes recorded direct from the group's practice space.  As a result, there's some rawness to the experience, but that gives things a nicely authentic vibe.  With distant vocals calling their way up from the slabby masses of bass and fuzz, drums thumping their way along, and big riffs shoving their way along, Ghost Witch make a nice introduction for themselves.  There's also some synth/keyboard touches in the quieter sections, giving those parts a more overt connection to the starry song titles, something I hope will be expanded on with subsequent releases.
Though it's a short ride, it's a fun one, and Ghost Witch show that they've got the chops and creativity to make some solid stoner doom happen.  Check 'em out, and if you happen to be in the nearby Californian region, give the group support by attending any live shows they might have in the near future.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Demon Head, Magic Circle, Mist, Toke, Wolf Blood


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Picking New Fights...

Goya - The Enemy EP (2016)

Not content to rest on the praise for their album Obelisk, released last year (with our review for it right here), Goya have put together about a half-hour more of stoner doom metal to satisfy the cravings of their fans.  Opening with "The Enemy" and closing with an extended version of that same track, the band delivers crunchy bass-lines, crisp drums, and clanging cymbals over lyrics of loss and despair.  Throw in some shreddy, mean-toned electric guitar with pedal effects, and you've got prime material for this genre.
In between the two enemies, "Last" and "Light Years" provide their own growls.  The first gives a more '70s-metal-flavored set of grooved aggression, sporting some gnarly riffage against singing with a modern level of menace. "Light Years" digs into a deeper riff, one that could almost be adapted from the main theme of a grimy old horror movie, and put the guitar-work on higher display while keeping the other elements strong.
The extended "Enemy" comes in at the end, making for a nice way of giving listeners the further experience they'll surely be craving after those first three tracks, while also pointing the way to satisfaction by just giving a closer ear to the tracks already available.  More guitar, more bass, more beatings from the drums right to your brain, and more manly wails of desolation.  The EP will go live on Goya's BandCamp on the 15th, with a physical release possibly in the works, so start warming up your speakers to play this as loud as it deserves.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of:    Ladybird, Merlin, Salem's Pot, Sinister Haze, Sleep


Friday, March 11, 2016

Dirty Night In Town...

dOwnhill / Hippie Doom Squad - Split (2016)

Bringing together dOwnhill's self-titled EP and Hippie Doom Squad's Live Volume EP (and adding a couple of cassette-exclusive tracks in the process), the Belarus-based label Riff Dealers assembled this split to show-case these two bands to new listeners, as well as those who may have heard one band but not the other.
dOwnhill leads first, opening with a deep fuzz rumble on "A Rake's Progress", and soon moving into full deployment of their sludgy/stoner/doom blend of music.  Shredded vocals arc over the bass-strengthened riffs and heavy rhythms from the drums, keeping things gnarly but violent as the group delivers their spine-jangling beats.  They also avoid locking themselves into a single mode, as change-ups like the acoustic (but thoroughly low-tuned) opening of "Nvnces†" and the clean/dirty switches of "Burial at Sea" make obvious, but there's a darkly psychedelic under-current carrying through most of their material.
On Hippie Doom Squad's side, a corroded sample loop carries the intro through industrial clanking and on into some live crusty sludge with a high slide towards punk.  Near-gurgled vocals and cranked-out bass ensure adequate grime, a few more dirty-sounding vocal samples get dropped into the grinder, and squeals of feedback cut in semi-regularly.  Throw in a crushed cover of Queen's "We Will Rock You", and HDS turn out a seriously debaucherous set of songs.
Physical copies of the split are still available for order through Riff Dealers' BandCamp, or if you're more digitally-inclined, you can pick up each side individually (though you'll miss out on the bonus tracks that way).  In any event, be sure to check out these two up-and-coming sludge collectives, and play it loud.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Dead Existence, Grey Widow, Hypnochron, Legalize Crime, Sea Bastard


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Torn With Teeth...

Groak - Masticator EP (2015)

Coming out the month before their split with Lugubrious Children, this EP is the first release from the Leeds-based sludgers of Groak, with four tracks of harsh tones from vocals and strings, hard-bashing drums, and plenty of fuzz and feedback.  Deep, slow-moving grooves help pull the tooth-gnashing enthusiasm together into a more compelling experience, but the aggression of it all seems to be the main selling point, with grime and crustiness caked in a thick layer over every moment of the songs.
It's a fairly continuous roll from one song to the next in terms of style, with no drastic jumps in execution or production to cause double-takes.  If you want a physical copy to experience the ride, FHED Records have cassette copies in stock; if digital will do, hop on over to the BandCamp page.  In any event, check this release out the next time you're in the mood for some dirty sludge sounds.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    early EyeHateGod, Gilla Bruja, Gurt, O.D.R.A, Uroboros


Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Smokey Blues...

Chris Rolling Squad - Chris Rolling Squad (2015)
Greasy, sweat-covered psychobilly blues with hints of psychedelia encompass all projects from vocalist and guitarist Chris Rolling.  Having previously playing alongside The Heavy Manic Souls, he's now joined by Brice Duval on bass, and Romain Cauneau on drums to create the trio Chris Rolling Squad, and this is their debut EP. 
The production by Fabien Guilloteau at NomadAudio on this is simply incredible.  The styles of their influences, such as ZZ Top, Jimi Hendrix, and AD/DC, are used as the guideline to give a grimy polish that never once leans on overproduction as a crutch. 
Masculinity immediately engulfs the band's signature sound-exploding intro track "Whore" with squealing steady intensity that keeps a marching beat throughout which doesn't need to build to keep your attention.  Instead, it marches steadily into a hypnotic and intelligent example of how they set themselves apart, proving they won't soon be lumped into the dime-a-dozen blues rock bands.  "Help Me" changes the structure and adds more diverse guitars while adding a level of distortion which flavors the lucid story with depravity, guilt, and disconcerting content.  The hook on the following track, "Redemption", is as addictive as it is complex; excellent for repeated listens.  "Vampire Blues" delivers bluesy riffs flowing perfectly into the closer "Janet Says Go Go Go", concluding with musky sounds which belong in a smoke- and liquor-filled bar. 
An impressive collection, albeit critically short at 16 minutes. 
- Richard

For Fans Of: Grand Funk Railroad, MC5, Cream, Albert King, Son House


Sunday, March 06, 2016

Out In The Glen...

Hair Of The Dog - Hair of the Dog (2014)

Retro rock is a busy genre.  In this age of smartphones and social media there's something hugely appealing about a set of good old-fashioned rock songs and, despite occupying a genre bustling with worthwhile groups, Hair Of The Dog stand out.  The Scottish trio's self-titled debut is a collection of songs that really can't be argued with; memorable riffs, powerful vocals and a quality rhythm section give this set of seven songs a real sense of quality.
At times there's a hint of late '70s proto-metal in Hair Of The Dog's sound, but for the most part, they bring to mind the pioneering early '70s heavy blues rock work of groups like The Groundhogs.  The band play with aptitude and energy throughout; the impassioned energy of "Empty As The Wind" is proof enough of that.  "That Night" earns its distinction as one of the album's best songs through a compelling riff and memorable chorus.  It's not all cult early '70s heavy rock though; the strutting groove of "Concrete Waves" invokes AC/DC's classic "Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution".
Hair Of The Dog's debut album is not one that will stagger with never-before-heard sounds but, far more importantly, it is one that manages to be an excellent listen through virtue of quality songwriting, good musicianship and rock solid execution.  What Hair Of The Dog do, they do very well - and anyone who digs quality heavy rock should check this out pronto.
~ Martin

For fans of; Golden Earring, Groundhogs, Nazareth, Uriah Heap, Budgie


Saturday, March 05, 2016

Dread, Death & Doom...

The Maledict - Dread (2015)

With about an hour's worth of tunes to it, this debut album from Australian crew The Maledict is a powerful step forward from their 2013 demo Salvation in Yielding.  Running majestic-sized doom metal powered by death metal craft and chords, both old-school and modern, the group brings somber musings on mortality together with high-octane shreds, thunderous beats, and savage bass-lines, and makes it work damn well.
The track titles also do a solid job of reflecting the fusion of styles, with names like "Column of Voracious Souls", "Deadened Eyes to the Horizon", and "Tenebrae" (c'mon, gotta give bonus points to a metal song sharing a name with a Dario Argento film) providing grandeur to match the music.  There's also some sharp attention to album-crafting going on, opening up in long songs for the first few tracks to establish a heavy base, tossing in a few shorter ones here and there, and anchoring things with monster-sized jammers around the mid-point and end.
As the album continues, the atmosphere and power built up by the band only increases, with compositions that'll give you chills before spinning around into ravaging assaults.  The last track does a great job of pulling in stuff from previous tracks, adding in new spine-grabbing tricks, and culminating in a powerful blast, all of it without seeming bloated or forced.
The Maledict have done a great job of establishing their chops and inclinations with this album, and hopefully it'll get the wide attention it deserves.  Very highly recommended to metal fans of any stripe, consider this a retroactive 2015's Top 20 entry.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Earthling, Heavydeath, Necrophobic, Uroboros, Weapon


Friday, March 04, 2016

Coated With Grisly Slime...

The Whorehouse Massacre - Altar of the Goat Skull / VI (2015)

Combining two EPs into one big release (as something of an appetizer to their upcoming full album), Canadian group The Whorehouse Massacre show off their doom/sludge hybridization with thirteen tracks (including a cover of Sloth's "Sassy Pants").  Thick fuzz on the bass, cutting tones from guitar, heavy drum-beats, and low-pitched growls come together with a cohesive thrust of sonic grime.
Things are kept mean and gritty, and it's clear that the group isn't looking to win over anyone not already attuned to their vicious doom frequencies.  Personally, that's a refreshing change from the friendliness of bands whose sole inspiration comes from '70s heavy rock, and it gives TWM a more immediate and vitalized musical character.  A number of the songs forego vocals entirely, letting the swampy tones well up in stereo-corroding intensity, and with these the band does a solid job of showing their song-writing skills, but the voiced tracks have a harder drive to their animosity.
If you find yourself craving some sludgy doom that blares out with little worry of whether their sounds might scare weaker listeners, throw on some Whorehouse Massacre, see how it grabs you, and if you dig it, be sure not to miss the release of their full album.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Fleshpress, Heavydeath, Moloch, Valtiel, The Wounded Kings


Thursday, March 03, 2016

Frost-Covered Arbor...

Valtiel - The Druid EP (2015)

The three tracks of this EP form the first public offering from the Alaskan doom group of Valtiel, with harsh vocals joining the heavy instrumentals from two guitars, bass, and drums.  Solid riffs and blaring tones are evidenced from the first track onwards, making good use of momentum and volume management as they roll through murky terrain.
There's some strong grooves visited along the way, stuff to get you by the shoulders and start swaying along before you know it, and with a couple of fake-outs and wide break-downs along the way, they also keep you pretty engaged without just hypnotizing you into submission.  Personally, I was digging the old-school tempo of closing track "Cult of Valtiel", which had my head ready to bang before they dropped back down into the tarry grind.  All in all, a very promising start for the band, here's hoping their next release comes together soon so that they can keep their momentum going!
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Chronobot, Goya, Green Druid, Moloch, Weedeater