Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Somewhere In Space This May All Be Happening Right Now

Farflung - 5 (2016)
FARFLUNG - "5" cover art

When I hear the term "space rock" my mind immediately fills with images of cosmonauts completely engulfed in the near vacuum of space as each sound you hear is each member's attempt to make some sort of sense and order out of their surroundings.  Farflung have mastered this perfectly throughout their career, and especially with their new album 5, on the Heavy Psych Sounds record label. 
Farflung are a legendary heavy underground project who care not about their homeland of Los Angeles' gravity and have chosen to make their own.  Members include Tommy Grenas, Michael Esther, Paul Hischier, Abby Travis, and Chris Nakata, with guest appearances from Hawkwind‘s Nik Turner and Queens of the Stone Age/Eagles of Death Metal affiliates David Catching and Gene Troutman.  They began as pioneers of the genre in 1992, and over the course of 20+ years they have released 8 albums and split releases with White Hills, Black Rainbows, and Fatso Jetson.
5's beginning track, "Hive", sounds like an astronaut's descent onto a distant planet's surface as their brain scrambles and regroups.  All the while guitar chords are repeated along with what almost sounds like looping, near-fragmented words which occasionally change.  "Proterozoic" is a schizophrenic, multilayered cluster freak-out with meteoric instrumentals, keyboards reminiscent of lasers, and vocals that begin despondent and then transition into a fevered scream.  Beginning with more coherent guitars is "Lupine", and while the instrumentation is more grounded than before, the vocals are so damn distorted they almost sound like they were recorded inside of a microscopic echo chamber with each passing word engulfing you and not letting go until your head melts into, in a sudden change of pace, equally distorted guitars.  "Being Boiled" has a maddening beginning until tale woven around "Buddha Watching" with a mesh of guitars and synthesizers rising and falling until they hit an abrupt end. 5's closer "The Retreat" begins with what sounds like an engine struggling and then gaining momentum is almost a return to "Hive" in structure, but lacking that overwhelming intensity in favor for a more mellow vibe and leaving you with an insatiable urge to re-listen, and dissect all the layers of this complicated album. 

For Fans Of; Hawkwind, Failure, Cave In, First Band From Outer Space, Secret Saucer


Monday, May 30, 2016

High Times...

Electric Citizen - Higher Time (2016)

There's no shortage of impassioned heavy riff rock bands around at the moment, and that's no bad thing, but it does mean that it can be difficult for bands to stand out from the crowd.  Electric Citizen manage to do this through the fact that they're simply very good at what they do.  I was first drawn to the band through their self-titled EP; over the four songs on that release, Electric Citizen proved themselves to be one of the most exciting riff-centric heavy rock bands of the last few years.  Their debut LP, Sateen, capitalised on the promise with a collection that was perhaps a little samey but certainly had no shortage of quality rock songs.
High Time is the Cincinnati quartet's sophomore effort, and one that manages not only to avoid the difficult 'second album syndrome' but also to surpass its predecessor.  It's a consistent and sometimes even thrilling collection of anthemic, driven retro rock songs that flirt with elements of psychedelic (and at times even doom metal) without ever embracing them wholesale.  The fittingly named album opener, "Evil", starts on a series of ominous, clattering chords.  It takes those already familiar with the band's melodic rock-based sound by surprise - these first chords are uncharacteristically and utterly unashamedly doom metal.  If it's the band dicing with the devil for a moment, then it's short-lived; the song properly kicks in after a short intro, and the group's distinctively energetic hard rock starts up.  This isn't a problem though, as Electric Citizen do energetic hard rock very well indeed.
The beginning of the title track features a moment of sonic experimentation for the band - a hazy, screeching guitar builds atmosphere, while the rhythm track fades into the song.  The songs also feature a spoken word segment, complemented with an iridescent psychedelic backing.  Both are small touches, but they really add to the song.  They positively embellish the song so well in fact, that it can be frustrating to see such techniques hinted at but never fully exploited.  It can be tempting to imagine what Electric Citizen might sound like if they were to start taking a bohemian attitude towards studio experimentation in all of their songs.
It's not impossible to fault the album if you're looking to do so.  Apart from a few all-too-brief flirtations with other styles, Electric Citizen largely stick to what they know, and if you've heard Sateen, you'll know exactly what to expect for the most part.  The bulk of Higher Time is uniform in its approach, and it's hard not to feel that the album would benefit from a few more risks being taken. 
Even for its lack of variety, Higher Time fulfills its goals as an album.  The riffs are great, as are the vocals, the rhythm section provides a rock solid base, and, after a few plays, the songs are memorable.  While it's an album recommended not entirely without caveat, Higher Time is a collection of songs that's hard not to enjoy.
~ Martin

For fans of; Lucifer, The Well, Purson, Ruby The Hatchet, Mount Salem


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Gold Shines Through...

Mondo Drag - The Occultation of Light (2016)

We last heard from Mondo Drag with the release of their excellent self-titled second album last year, and since then, they joined Riding Easy Records (spurring a re-release of that album) while working on putting this third album together.  The group's heavy psych/prog/krautrock style is still intact (with some of the desert rock influence of the last album dropped out for jazzier material), though they've made some experimental adjustments.  The chemistry shown by the musicians on previous albums is thankfully still going strong, and the songs are fleshed out well without getting over-bulked.  Powerful performances all around, with fluid drumming, throbbing bass, agile guitar-work, and sweet-toned keyboards complementing the soulful vocals as the songs build, burst, flow, and flat-out rock.
As good as the voiced sections are, for a fair amount of the album, the vocalist steps back to focus on his keyboards, and the instrumental jams that result are some pretty fantastic stuff, full of sharp hooks and counter-point melodies.  Had the album been done fully voiced or fully instrumental, things might easily have run a little dry, but the balancing of the two is done to very nice effect, helping the music hold up to heavy listening.  Fans of heavy rock with genuine creativity to it instead of just emulating the '70s should do themselves a favor and snag a copy of this one, check out Mondo Drag's past releases, and wait tight for their next batch of excellent tunes.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Broughton's Rules, Crown Larks, Deep Purple, Rhinoceros, Witchcraft


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Turning Water Into Weed...

Green Fiend / Toke - Ritual Substance Abuse (2016)

Teaming up two groups from North Carolina, and delivering two tracks from each, this split of stoner-toned heaviness (as if you couldn't guess from the band names, release name, and artwork) bubbles into action with a sound highly familiar to its target demographic before launching into the hard, chunky riffs.  Green Fiend take the A-side with "Purge", a blistering heavy-tear ride through extra-tuneful riffs and swampy bass menace; and "Cocaine", which lays out a more traditional BSabbath-influenced lick before giving J.J. Cale's classic tune a thoroughly sludgy treatment.
Over on the B-side, Toke pack "Four Hours For Hours", a low-swinging doomy track with some sludge to the vocals and guitar tone, throwing in some rougher breakdowns before its end; and "Legalize Sin", a stormer with what some might hear as DNA from Weedeater's meaner moments flowing through its beats, riffage, and howl-growls.
Good licks to both sides, room for some instrumental exploration, and rhythms to get your body swaying along make this a good set of tracks for those looking to get introduced to either band, and while the original mercury silver cassette run has already sold out, there's rumors of a vinyl pressing in the works, so keep your ears tuned for chances to pre-order that.  In the mean-time, you can snag digital copies of the tracks from the respective BandCamps of the two groups, so get on that if you're in the mood for some dirty, hard-edged stoner doom.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Acid Witch, Chronobot, Fudge Tunnel, King Heavy, Weedeater


Friday, May 27, 2016

Burrowing Through Muscles...

The Conqueror Worm - Demo (2015)

Coming to us from the much-loved city of Milwaukee, Conqueror Worm and their three-track demo make a solid first impression by laying out their policies on hard riffs, heavy atmosphere, and a willingness to move beyond slow tempos.  Sharp guitar tones (put into some tasty shredding that's infrequent enough to keep its edge), a bass presence that can flex out into bigger bulk when needed, and drums which seem to be taking a few pointers from classic NY punk for the faster sections come together in a bash that grabs the attention with its unruliness, and holds it with strong song-writing.
Though it's a little premature to start talking about the band's style, as it will surely be altered over the course of writing more songs and putting together further releases, I feel pretty confident in saying that this group is one to keep an ear on.  They're already showing that they know how to play the Hell out of a song while keeping the essential melody going strong, and though 2/3rds of the songs on this EP are in the 4-minute range, the closer, "Oceans Rise", shows that they can just as easily work stuff of longer length without losing that powerful drive.  Good tunes, certainly worth your time to check out, and if you like what you hear, you can support the band by snagging a cassette copy, a T-shirt (featuring the demo's cover art), or a die-hard combo pack limited to 13 copies with the cassette sealed by blood into an exclusive wooden case.  Stylish, yeah?  You bet your ass it is.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    early Exciter, Heavydeath, The Munsens, Stoneburner, Wolf Blood


Sunday, May 22, 2016

High On Rocket Fumes...

Spaceslug - Lemanis (2016)

Anyone who's been following our reviews for a decent amount of time knows that we consider Poland to be one of the top countries around when it comes to doom, especially that of the stoner/psychedelic variety.  So when we were sent this debut album from the Polish trio of Spaceslug, tagged as "Heavy Space Doom", I was excited, to say the least, despite not really having a clue what the title meant.
And practically as soon as I had the album loaded up and hit play on the opening track, "Proton Lander", I felt justified in that excitement, as a thick wave of bass rolled right out with treacly strings warming up alongside it, and a leisurely drum-strut soon popped its head in.  As the song grew from this laid-back start to a heavier, harder, and headier space, picking up some powerful cymbal clangor on the way, I found myself grinning in anticipation of the rest of the trip.
Thick grooves, compelling riffs, and the sound of musicians losing themselves in their instrumental output were the soundtrack for the rest of the cruise, while track titles such as "Supermassive" and "Grand Orbiter" helped chart the star-bound atmosphere.  Kicking ass whether rolling slow or burning through some of the higher speeds, the album never once had me feeling bored or disengaged.
And, at the end of it all, after the title track ushered in the finale, I wanted more.  That's always a nice feeling with albums, but as this is the group's debut, it bodes well for future efforts (and hey, maybe we'll be lucky enough to get a split or EP in the time between now and their next full album).  Great stuff from start to finish, earmark this as one of the year's best.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bomg, Desert Crone, Gallileous, Goya, MotherSloth


Saturday, May 21, 2016

Void Meditation...

Nonsun - Black Snow Desert (2016)

Running almost 90 minutes, this third album from the Ukrainian duo of Nonsun is ambitious in many ways, from that daunting duration to the work put into making those lengthy tracks deliver some incredibly moody, heavy, and stark atmospheres, as well as crafting in moments of poignancy and pressurized aching.  Though the music moves slowly, for the most part, it rolls along with such weight behind its momentum that it's hard not to get caught up in the gravity generated by the massive presence, particularly with the way the notes at the end of one song will flow right into the start of the next (or silence into silence, as with "Peace of Decay, Joy of Collapse" into "Heart's Heavy Burden").
Each listener will have their own associations to go with the slow throbbing and echoing resonance, distant percussion, and peals of guitar tone, of course, but for me it pulled up images of lunar landscapes and ruined architecture.  Something about the somberness of the tones, even when the music was at its most brazen and metallic, feels so forlorn that the mood stays rooted in longing, rather than anger.  Picking apart the thoughts behind the music is difficult, and probably a big part of the appeal for relistening, but influences from drone, funeral doom, and (restrained) noise rock are evident in the heavy chords and crumbling tones, making this a nice gateway for anyone used to regular doom to test the waters.
Like deciphering the process behind building these tracks, weighing the album as a whole is difficult, and not just because of its length.  There's so much shape-shifting and subtle orchestration at play that even tracing one song's route from start to finish is a challenge without abstracting away key moments, allowing this to be one of those rare albums which actually makes true that old cliche of 'it has to be heard to be believed'.  So the next time you've got a couple of hours clear (gotta budget in some recovery time), and you're in the mood for some carefully-plotted doom and desolation, give this one a try.  Excellent stuff, expect to see this on my year-end Top 20 list.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bell Witch, Death Cube K, Earth, Ksyatriya, Lustmord


Friday, May 20, 2016

Nice Slow Bang...

The Rococo Bang - The Zodiack EP (2016)

Coming to us from Boston, The Rococo Bang are a two-piece working guitar and drums, making the two-track nature of this EP all the more fitting.  Held by the EP are a pair of totally improvisational tracks from a live performance on the WEMF radio station, but despite the off-the-cuff nature, the songs present the band in a strong light.
First of the two tracks is "Abrams", which rolls out a slow build towards thick blankets of notes from the strings, layering over themselves as the song grows, gaining firmer distinction and heavier weight.  Pedal effects are present, but kept from overwhelming the focus on melody, and the drums work the space between back-beat and attention-grabbing quiet well.
Track two, "Guy Talking to Abrams", takes a similar approach, though it starts out slightly harder and shifts into more of a dreamy psychedelic mode with the guitar, trailing notes and slightly phasing or flanging the reverb for an interesting wobble effect.  Again, a lot of the charm comes from how the musicians work the melody into larger and larger form over the course of the song, but there's also a fair chunk of it coming from their care for each measure.
Despite the EP length, it's an engaging trip through the two songs, one which should linger in your ears after it abruptly cuts off.  Check it out, along with the group's other releases (all of which are up on their BandCamp), the next time you're in the mood for something spacy but heartfelt.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Broughton's Rules, Lint, Montana Electrica, Moon Curse, Wyatt E


Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Three Angry Lads

Trevor's Head - Tricolossus (2016) 
 Tricolossus cover art

Trevor's Head is a punk outfit soaked and drenched in bong water, and hailing from Redhill, a borough of Surrey, England which was from the years 1881 to 1884 was the home to Aleister Crowley and his loving family.  If you don't know him please Google him, read a book, draw a pentagram with goat's blood, bring up the devil, and ask "Hey there Satan, would you be so kind as to tell me about the third coolest British guy ever behind the Davids Bowie and Beckham?".  But I digress.  They're a trio consisting of (I'm choosing to believe the names provided on the band's Facebook page are the band member's real names and what their moms call them) Riffs McGregor on guitar, Clive Beats on drums, and DB Grooveson on bass.  But the Bandcamp is probably more accurate.  There, their names and positions are Roger Atkins on guitar and vocals; Matt Ainsworth on drums, flute, synthesizer and vocals; and Aaron Strachan on bass, acoustic guitar, organ and vocals.   They've had a few releases since 2012, including a self-titled eight song collection, and a couple of singles, called Juice and Otherside. But this here is a review for their newest album, Tricolossus
Kicking off the album is "Blood Moon" with steady drums and confidently angry vocals, which turns into a bluesy jam with flutes and a stomp-inducing riff.  "Government Whores" talks about my favorite subject in metal, collecting a black magical force.  But the woven segments of each instrument take on a psychedelic edge that consistently collect and divide throughout.  "Deep Blue Fish" and "Idiot Time" are mixed with various stories I was told while being tucked into bed when I was a child, bastardized together with powerful punk rock themes in a wonderful way until a more personal side is displayed for "Ordinary Kind" and "But a Scratch", where the fury of the singers is fully portrayed.  And these ideas of anger, of fairy tales, and of relationships are all stuffed full of those riffs and beats and various singing styles that rip you in every direction imaginable.   An album highlight is definitely closer "Casa De Eduardo", a track that's so fun and completely devoid of caring about conforming to a singular idea or song structure.  And that's exactly what I've taken as the point of this album. They're a group of three experimental and talented  friends who've completely found themselves and throw any form of normalcy and thrown it to the wayside.  And the journey they've taken on the album in incredibly enjoyable.
For Fans Of: Mr. Bungle, Rancid, Tomahawk, Faith No More, Dog Fashion Disco 


Higher Than The Sun...

Color Horror ~ Color Horror (2016)

Way way back in 2010 while trawling through the usual avenues I stumbled upon an absolute gem by a little band from Uruguay by the name of Ufesas. These guys were awesome. Right from the opening riffs of The Destroyer, the opening track of their initial debut, they buzzed, hummed and fuzzed a solid LoFi mix of gritty rock and roll and traditional desert psych. The following year the band recorded their first full length self titled album which had been penned to have been released on the now sadly defunct Droehnhaus label, who'd previously put out the first two Mountain Witch releases. Even going as far as having the LP's artwork fully mocked up, which strangely I still have a copy of somewhere. Alas, the physical release never came to fruition, but you can still download the album for free here, and I strongly urge you to do so.
So cut to this week and I get dropped an email out of the blue from former guitarist Leandro, telling me that three of the members have a new band. So, with much excitement, ladies and gents, I give you Color Horror...
Taking many of the aspects they picked up in their previous incarnation Color Horror really share much of the same vibe as the illusive Ufesas self titled, which was to be expected. Besides, why change a winning formula? Right from the get go the guys lay down exactly what you can expect from the rest of the album. Opening track Más Alto Que El Sol bares all the hallmarks of classic desert psych, while at the same time echoing a certain something of The Doors. Despite having listened to the song 14 times now, I'm still unsure exactly what it is about it. Either way, I reckon they could easily pull off a cover of Riders On The Storm. I think it's the trippy blues influenced psych that they have in common. I am glad to hear that that haven't strayed too far from they're heavy garage rock roots though, at least based on a cursory listen to the second track, Burning Trees. It's a slightly rawer take on their psych approach, etched with a heavy blues tone a bit like Hanni El Khatib and some of the early Black Mountain releases. Either way, it works, and works well. But enough of my rambling, go hear for yourself and be the judge. While free to download, I'm afraid you're gonna have to wait until a little later in the year for the full length album.
~ Jay

For Fans Of; Mars Red Sky, Causa Sui, 1000Mods, Ethiva, Black Mountain


Monday, May 16, 2016

Getting Freaky...

Mothership - Live Over Freak Valley (2015)

 The raw energy of great rock 'n' roll can be a hard thing to capture on tape.  Many of the great rock bands are as famed for their live shows than their studio material (if not more), irregardless of the quality of those albums.  And yet, for so many bands, live albums are a hard thing to get right.  Perhaps the sheer dynamism of a scorching rock titan is too much for the limits of the recorded album, but many great bands and concerts have sounded less than scintillating when played back at home.  By the same flip of the coin, when live albums work they can show a ecstatic explosion of energy that is almost impossible to produce in a studio environment.
Thankfully for both fans and newcomers (of which I am one), Mothership's Live From Freak Valley is one of those live records that not only does justice to a furious rock 'n' roll monster, but gives the band an energy that really can't be captured outside of the live environment.  The six-minute swirl of high-energy rock that makes up the opener, "Hallucination", is the sort of joyous revelry in noise that defies critics by battering them into submission.  It's almost impossible not to be swept up in the excitement of no-BS rock of "Lunar Master" and "Cosmic Rain".
Audience interaction walks a fine and effective line between atmosphere-building and indulgence.  If too gratuitous, audience interaction can be great at the show but dull when listening at home.  Mothership strike it just right here though as shouts of "Hello Freak Valley!" convey enough of a sense of excitement to enhance the album but are brief enough that they never get in the way of the music.
Another common pitfall of the live album is poor mixing and, again, it's one that Mothership traverse safely.  Vocals are clear in the mix, with both bass and guitar occupying their own space.  The drums are clear and well-mic'd.  It seems simple on paper but far too many good live albums are crippled by poor production.
Mothership manage to tick all the boxes with Live Over Freak Valley.  Negative criticism, if there is any, would be more with the songs than the live format itself, which the band execute very ably.  The songs they play perhaps won't win any award for originality, but if that's their only flaw, then they're doing pretty good.
Live Over Freak Valley is an album of well crafted, infectious rock songs that, had they been recorded a few decades ago, may now be revered as classics by many.  It doesn't push the boundaries, but it's great at what it does.
~ Martin

For Fans Of; Wo Fat, Egypt, Led Zeppelin, Red Desert, Mos Generator


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Truth In The Chords...

Stone Machine Electric - Sollicitus Es Veritatem (2016)

We last heard from this Texan two-piece with their EP The Amazing Terror back in November of last year, and they're back now with this five-track album to keep their heavy psych/stoner rock train rolling steady.
Opening with "I Am Fire" (a reprise version of which also closes the album), SME build atmosphere with a few minutes of slow warm-up, gradually increasing the throbbing bass presence with strains of tight strings before launching full on into the beats.  Kicked up another notch by the arrival of the vocals another minute later, the song hits full stride and pulls hard rhythms together to deliver its message of burning consumption.  With a smooth transition back into subtler harmonics, the duo carries momentum on into their next song, "Dreaming", with its understated main riff getting fleshed out more and more each time it cycles through its notes, growing to wild tears of notes and stone-speed shredding before letting the heaviness pull it back down to slower tempos and a thoughtful bridge.
From there, it's on into "PorR", holding on to some of the elements while weaving new arrangements and going deeper into psych territory.  Thicker, broader, and crunchier riffs pile up into craggy formations, gaining a light fuzz coating and tightly-used reverb/echo effects, with some even harder drags rising around the 10-minute mark.
"Demons" takes things from there to the last track, using careful signal interference and synth atmospherics to create a heavy but dream-like setting with guitar notes drifting in the haze and taking unpredictable turns towards sharpness.  "I Am Fire (Slightly Burned)" carries through to the very end with a return to the relative steadiness of the first song, something like surfacing from a bout of fitful sleep into tornado sirens.
Each song has its own energy explored thoroughly, making sure that they aren't lengthy just for show, but they also all fit together in a way that makes for an uncommonly cohesive album experience.  It's a strange ride, no doubt, but one that makes sense if you just go with its mad flow and savor each track's style in turn.  Strong stuff from Stone Machine Electric, and something with enough depth to it to keep plays fresh until their next batch of music hits the public.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Deep Purple, The Heavy Co., Merlin, Mondo Drag, Telstar Sound Drone


Saturday, May 14, 2016

Breathe It In...

Deadsmoke - Deadsmoke (2016)

Deadsmoke's debut album comes to us from the carefully-curated catalog of Heavy Psych Sounds, and the five tracks (along with their titles) establish a clear sense of how the Italian band drew that label's attention, as names such as "Eyes of the Blind Man" and "Branches of Evil" build a retro horror sensibility before it even begins to pour out of your speakers.
As you might expect from their name, Deadsmoke specialize in stoner doom, with a lot of their personal brand on the style coming from the gruff vocals and spacy treatment of the chords, along with the genre's under-used features of samples and synths and some outbursts of sludgy misanthropy.  Setting up swirling riffs with thick bass undercurrents, dragging listeners down like a swamp's undertow.  It reaches an excellent final gasp with "Night of the Vipers", a terrifically filthy-sounding crush of low bass and penetrating heaviness, bringing the band's first ride to a close in excellent form.
For a first album, it's some great stuff, enticing at first listen and more magnetic with repeated plays.  It's not quite a head-banger, thanks to the low tempos, but played at sufficient volume, it'll grab hold of your spine and nerves and do the same work.  Dirty, grimy doom that lives up to its name, this is one of those albums that has me longing to see the band live, with hopes that the atmosphere at one of their shows is as oppressively heavy as the studio performances suggest, with "Tornado" in particular standing out as one which must have some crazy fire applied to it when rendered live.  If you've found yourself disappointed by the friendly tones of the doom you've been picking up lately, throw this one on to muscle out those happy vibes and replace them with some burning smoke.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Church of Misery, Desert Crone, Gallileous, Major Kong, Raedon Kong


Friday, May 13, 2016

Battles with Winged Angels from Hell

Red Wizard - Cosmosis (2016)
 Cosmosis cover art

Red Wizard are a Satanic-themed band of five disciples, as they like to be called, consisting of Travis Baucum on vocals and harmonica, Miles Von Ricketson on lead guitar, Casey Lamontagne on guitar, David Wilburn on bass and Shane Kepler on drums, all five hailing from San Diego, California.  Their first release, a self-titled EP linked below and released in 2014, is a stellar beginning, but here on their debut LP, Cosmosis, they have created a signature heavy psyched-out, stoner, doomy tale of hate and destruction. 
Starting out, we have "Tides of War" with a pummeling bass chord with lyrics that hold me in every word about following about a pact to meet in the promised land to obtain control over the landscape.  Thus begins, now I know some bands hate this, but, a classic stoner concept album about a deal with some nefarious power and how that builds and builds until the bitter end. Reading the second track "Temple of Tennitus" sent a smile over my face.  As a frequenter or many metal shows I can tell you first hand 'tinnitus' is something that crosses my mind when certain amplifiers, namely Maverick or Sunn O)), are anywhere to be seen, and this song strums almost attempting to leave the listener with a ringing in their ears that last for days.  The track "Cosmosis" is my personal favorite.  It begins with gnarly chords made for head-banging glory, and then quickly begins an amazing groove.   The whole track is a perfect mix of all of the band's talents with enough to keep me on the edge of my seat for the entire ten minutes of slow tension-filled doom.  The final three songs are woven together as "The Red Wizard Suite Parts 1, 2, and 3".  Part 1 howls with a tale of supernatural murder where Satan is called upon by our antagonist to lay to rest any unwise enough to fight against him.  Part 2 is the instrumental track to flow brilliantly into Part 3, where complete power is obtained with lyrics pleading for anyone to run and hide to avoid a merciless death by our Red Wizard.  Hell has been brought to earth in this record, a bloody treat filled with threats of a promise that will be fulfilled. 
One more thing I have to mention is the cover art that is the epitome of what wizard rock should look like and what you're in for.
For Fans Of: Electric Wizard, Merlin, Sleep, Black Sabbath, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Down By The Water...

River Cult - River Cult EP (2016)

Located in Brooklyn, this trio of musicians have put together three tracks with which to introduce themselves to the world, and on this EP, those tracks share the group's style without hiding behind layers of gloss and over-production.  Instead, River Cult aim for immediate, fairly raw-sounding level of production, one which fits with their blending of garage rock and psychedelic doom, keeping the gritty roots exposed while the band focuses on the music.
And that focus delivers some great results, with long-curling riffs, slow-shift percussion, feedback to fuse your looser neurons, and a bluesy acceptance of the strange as they keep it all cooking.  Between the three tracks, the EP hits about half an hour in duration, and with that time, the group explores their unusual territory in fine detail, with results comparable to the free-trip excursions of the heavy psych bands from the '70s, enough to raise goosebumps as they fuse their instrumental output in ways that seem both improvisational and totally in-tune with each other.
While there's moments that can be picked out and pointed to as evidence of the group's strengths (one of the subtler one of these, all the more impressive for how well they pull off such a non-overt section, is the burbling disquiet at the end of "Shadow Out of Time"), it's the way it all flows together that should really be earning the group the ears of those who consider themselves well-versed in heavy psych.  There's little of the bluster or posing that so many groups in that genre seem to trade on these days, as they seem to know that if you make the music strong enough, the respect will follow naturally.  And as long as this EP and its (hopefully inevitable) follow-up get the amount of listeners they deserve, that respect should be overflowing.  Fans of heavy psych that keeps it real without worrying about the glitz, get on this.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Blood Farmers, Blue Cheer, Eternal Elysium, JPT Scare Band, Wicked Lady


Saturday, May 07, 2016

Fiery Cleansing Grounds...

Holy Grove - Holy Grove (2016)

Coming from the fertile musical environment of Portland, Oregon, the four-piece of Holy Grove make their debut with this seven-track album, roaring into life with a blaze of strings and fuzz.  With a heavy rock base tempered by traces of doom and desert rock, the band plays hard and puts all of its members to good use, spinning together sharp guitar solos, swampy bass, soaring vocals, and slamming drum-work for a first album that finds them already shifted into full gear, but ready to deploy some nitro for extra kick.
Holy Grove show themselves to be just as adept at handling hard'n'heavy (as in the opening track, "Death of Magic", and the last one, "Safe Return") as they are with the more melodic ("Death of Magic"'s immediate follow-up, "Nix"), and they put in the care and effort to have all the different approaches flow just fine from one into another.  Deftly handling their flare-ups into vibrant stomping ("Huntress", "Caravan"), the group shows a knack for keeping riff under-currents alive while diving headlong into break-downs and semi-improvisational-sounding bursts of thunderous, wild rocking.
The one down-side I can pick out of the album is that the lyrics tend not to reach the same level of distinction as the rest of the music, though in fairness, they do match with the semi-mystical vibe that's brought to life.  And considering that there's just that one point of roughness in the group's first album, that's pretty damn good.  If you enjoy ambitious, sky-wide rocking with some magical trappings, be sure not to let this one slip past you.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Demon Head, Disenchanter, Electric Citizen, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Sungod


Friday, May 06, 2016

Shades And Specters...

A Thousand Sufferings - Burden (2015)

Coming to us from the Russian label of Satanath Records, this album is the first from the Belgian quartet of A Thousand Sufferings.  Not letting that hamper their ambitions any, they've put together a solid concept to the album, one which deals in tying colors to emotional states.
To start things off, there's the intro track "Once in a Blue Moon", providing a few minutes of sonic warm-up to slide listeners into the right mood by way of distorted spoken-word and subtle atmospherics.  Once the moodiness is set, the stability crumbles into rasp-edged blackened doom, with carefully raw production helping the bash of drums, saw-toothed guitar, and harsh vocals take things over in "Red Is Redemption (Bloodletting)".  Picking their way through snarling griminess as well as more melodic sections, the group establishes their sound while making clear that they'll continue to change and rework it for the rest of the album.
"Black Is Burden (Lamentation)" carries on from the aching end of "Bloodletting", bringing up the traditional doom levels while speeding up the beats, and integrating black metal tremolo in the second half.  Lastly, the album's longest song, "Blue Is… (Remembering Treasures)" takes a thunderous path through misery and desolation to reach its finale.  Shifting like a slow kaleidoscope through the facets of their musical blend, ATS conclude the album with a well-done summation, and exit the album on a high note.  Fans of blackened doom, be sure to check this band out, and keep an ear tuned for further releases (they've already got a new live track recorded, so hopefully an EP or something similar isn't too far off).  You can pick up the CD at Satanath Records' BandCamp, or get the digital version (or a T-shirt, or tank-top) over at the band's BandCamp.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Black Magician, Earthling, Ensorcelor, Grey Widow, Uroboros


Thursday, May 05, 2016

Ominous Astral Fluctuations...

Wayworn - Rise•Descend (2016)

This demo from the Ohio-based group of Wayworn packs an earnest, bleary-edged punch of blackened doom, rumbling and shuddering with amp savagery turning out abrasion while the drums beat away and raw guitar tone oscillates in its chords.  Firm riffs lurk under the mass of noise, with a couple odd samples in the mix, and the recording flows naturally from the first track, "Scorpio Rising", into the second, "Aries Descending", picking up some firmer doom tones in the latter.
Even though it's just a demo, I was still disappointed when things ended after just ten minutes, but then again, that's a pretty telling reaction for the quality of the band.  They've got strong atmosphere, good band chemistry, solid riffs, and a good dose of venom to their playing, so whenever their next release arrives, I'll be eager to get it blasting through my speakers.  If you have a taste for harsh doom with an infusion of black metal's attitude, be sure to check this crew out, and remember to play at high volume.
~ Gabriel
For Fans Of;    Abstracter, Hypnochron, Moloch, O.D.R.A., Trees, Trinacria


Sunday, May 01, 2016

From Deep In The Woods...

Birnam Wood - Warlord (2015)

With Warlord, Birnam Wood serve up a slight but sweet course of lysergic, adventurous doom that has roots in the same soil as most other doom bands (the spirit of Iommi is never far away here) but has branches reaching into more left-field territory.
The Warlord EP has an almost restless sense of exploratory wandering.  The 8-minute "Wizards Bleed" has sections with a compelling, melodic vocal line that sounds more in line with what you'd expect on a 1967 psych-rock album than a 2015 doom metal one.  The song continues ever onwards in search of some inexorable musical power through relentlessly heavy jamming.
The zonked-out blues doom of "Two Ravens" soon gives way to a frantic onslaught of cascading drums on a dual-guitar lead lines, that again defy expectations by sounding more like the work of a late '70s stadium rock band than that of a band of intrepid doom-mongers.
"The Forge" throws the band in an altogether sludgier light, or at least the first three minutes do.  Even though by this point the band have settled into a nice groove, they once again chop things up by breaking into a bout of vaguely spacey jamming before again transforming the song into a whirlwind of high octane solos and tripleted back-beats.
This seemingly compulsive need to throw everything but the kitchen sink into their songs is certainly to Birnman Wood's credit.  It shows a real willingness to explore the sonic possibilities of a traditional heavy rock configuration and - at the very least - it stops the songs from ever getting stuck in a rut.  At times, ideas can feel a little underdeveloped with certain sections of songs understaying their welcome, and others not being exploited to their full potential.  If anything though, this only serves to highlight what potential Birnam Wood have. 
In Warlord, Birnam Wood have given us a memorable and highly worthwhile EP that, in a genre where too many groups lack their own ideas, is never anything less than challenging to try to pigeonhole.
~ Martin

For fans of; Sleep, Black Sabbath, Ufomammut, Cough, Elder