Saturday, August 12, 2017

Roots Buried Deep...

Warrior Pope - Anchorite (2017)


With their debut album a couple of years ago, Warrior Pope delivered one big track to serve as the whole of the LP, a mammoth they steered through experimentation on a doom foundation. With this new release, the band has opted to split their efforts into four tracks, and with that reworking of the structuring comes a wider range of styles drawn into the making of the music. The doom is still there, and strong, but there's also touches of desert rock, prog, post-rock, and psychedelic, all woven together in ways that neatly avoid feeling forced or heavy-handed.
And the development of those chords and riffs? Damn tasty. The group has quite a way with building tension and subtle layers while grinding down on a heavy progression, allowing their instruments to do all the singing and howling. The title track almost feels like an album unto itself, between the ~17-minute duration and the labyrinth of twists it follows. But by surrounding it with distinctly separate (and excellent) songs, Warrior Pope have side-stepped that semi-problem from their first album, where the waves of song growing through their changes made it difficult to recall the original forms or particular passages with clarity. Here, they take a trek that's easier to trace, without compromising the depth of the songs. And it is good. Hell, it's pretty damn great.
The biggest strike against it would be the clip-off endings for the songs. They reach satisfying endings, but then cut the track before the tones finish trailing off, generating a little amp pop in the speakers. It's not a big fault, since it fits somewhat with the organic atmosphere, but as the one thing I'd pick out against them, it does stand out. On the whole, it's hard not to recommend; the album is epic without being ostentatious, experimental without losing its way, and the savagery the music sometimes generates makes for a great contrast with their song-writing techniques. Keep your fingers crossed for this one getting physical release.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, Broughton's Rules, Dead Hand, Reptensol, Venus Sleeps




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Saturday, August 05, 2017

The Great Enchainment...

Earthling - Spinning in the Void (2017)


I first heard Earthling when Forcefield Records was kind enough to include a promo CD copy of their first album, Dark Path, with one of my orders. I eventually listened to it, and shortly after that, ordered the vinyl. That first album has continued to grow on me with every listen, and I've been waiting for this follow-up to emerge for quite a while. Now that it's here (four years after that debut), I'm thrilled to hear the band still going strong, with some adjustments and experimentation finding their way into the band's blend of black/death/thrash/doom (and just a touch of well-handled power metal).
Leading with “Clay in the Hands of Evil”, Earthling load the bases with touchstones of the full album, including sharp guitar shredding, ragged growling howls, quick shifts of rhythm and tempo, and some deviously gnarly riffs. From there, they build up more and more venom with the songs, carving away, laying down hard beats, hammering and smashing when needed, and gradually reducing the amount of breathing room listeners are given. That control of intensity is a welcome retainer piece from the first album, and while the group doesn't follow the same arc of rising abandon for this set of six songs, they do bring more power to the music with each successive track. It's not just in the escalations of speed, fury, drum-pounding, and general volume, but (perhaps) most effectively in the way the instruments join together to hit a commanding, keening focus of tone and style.
I could go on about the other great parts of the album (like that suspension tension to the intro of “The Helm” – oof!), but taken out of the actual experience, the words just wouldn't be doing it justice. To make it simple, if you dig on high-power metal fierceness that doesn't feel the need to restrict itself to just one of the style's sub-groupings, grab yourself a copy of this album (and the first, while you're at it). High quality, showing signs of good growth while retaining the essential character, this is a sophomore album to inspire envy in similar bands and solid replays for fans.
~ Gabriel


For Fans Of; Atrocity, Battle Path, Lesbian, Necrophobic, Weapon




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Saturday, July 29, 2017

Melting The Desert...

El Jefazo - El Jefazo (2017)



With their first studio album, the Peruvian group of El Jefazo come out packing some mean heavy rock with a psychedelic strain, letting their strings snarl while the drums lay down some hard grooves. Twists into pedal effects add some extra panache, and while they're fun little bursts, the music is solid enough (and the band's confident enough) that they're not allowed to rob focus from the powerful riffs, only to kick things up when they need that boost into wilder riding.
The group keeps things instrumental for this batch of six songs, freeing them from having to stretch measures out to cover verses, and a lot of that freedom is used to focus on ramping up from a base riff to a more intense form of it (my favorite example of this being “Rio Tinto”). But the psychedelic element is more than just some flange on the guitar; while things are certainly heavy, they're also pretty damn spacy at times. Stuff like the double-down grind of “Megalodonte” shifting into slow-melt sustain shows how adept the group is at bridging those two sides, but they use that play sparingly enough to keep it fresh when it does arise. The expansive close-out of “El Cañón de la Eternidad” simmers it down to a fine finish, and all around, the band's first full LP is a satisfyingly diverse and ambitious effort, with plenty of raw energy evidenced in the playing. Here's hoping a follow-up emerges before too long, as I'm really curious to hear what other ideas this group has rattling about in their strings and skulls.
~ Gabriel


For Fans Of; Frozen Planet....1969, Gripe, Groggy, Humbaba, Persona




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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ripping Back Out...

Zaraza - Spasms of Rebirth (2017)


It's been a while since Zaraza's last album. Almost a decade and a half, actually. But with the two-piece's return, they show themselves to be firmly on top of the filthy sludge/doom (with a few industrial slams) style as it lived in the mid-'90s days of the band's birth, when Godflesh, Fudge Tunnel, and others were slogging away at the height of their powers. The blear of feedback from bass, the clang and punch of the drums and cymbals, and the snarling gutturality of the vocals come together in a nasty piece of work that's pretty damn compelling in its slow-moving roil of dissonance and dirtiness.
The slow-burn dredging of the instruments gets a lot of focus over the course of the album, and accordingly, the sustain on the strings is matched by a wide impact from the drums. It feels big even while building up to the outbursts, and the weighty crashes from both sides do a great job of hammering down listeners who've got it turned up to suitable volume. There's shades of early black metal to the seriousness of the lyrics' promises of violence (not to mention the buzz-saw grinding), most pronounced in “Blood.ov.Psychiatrists” and its nasty gnashing. Over the whole of the album, there's a grimness that tends to be lacking from most of the modern sludge emulators, and the songs practically drip with miserable abandon, so while there's not much range to the tempos, the heavy oppression of the music draws in enough variation in other aspects to squarely hit the mark. Mean, heavy, and almost unbearably slabby, Spasms of Rebirth firmly reestablishes Zaraza as a force to be reckoned with on the less amiable side of sludge.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dead Existence, Fleshpress, Fudge Tunnel, Mudbath, Skin Chamber




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Saturday, July 15, 2017

Filling The Skies...

Crown Larks - Population (2017)


Having established themselves with a debut EP in 2013 and their first LP two years later, Crown Larks are back after another two years to further adapt their flexible musical style. Where Blood Dancer was a funky fusion of dream pop, space rock, and jazz (with a few more odds and ends stirred in), Population bends things further by ramping up the psychedelia into echoing outbursts and roiling riffs, letting things flow from there as the other influences settle in where they can.
This leads to bouts of prog meshing with world music, heavy psych dovetailing into orchestral shoegaze, and hot jazz brass bursting out of drone-underscored drum solos. But with the dream-like atmosphere that coats the music, they somehow stitch it all together in a way that not only works, but flows from one section to the next with unpredictable impulses that always seem just on the verge of losing balance. It's a strange ride, but one with a lot of appeal, whether you're digging the ambitious combos, bobbing along with the wild beats, or just zoning out to the stream of sound. Check it out if you're down with music that blurs the lines and expectations, but be prepared to invest more than a few sessions with the album before you can really pick out everything that's going on within it.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Daisy Chainsaw, Knifeworld, Terminal Cheesecake, Vanilla Trainwreck, Witchcraft (Sweden)




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Monday, July 10, 2017

You Aint In Kansas Now...


Youngblood Supercult ~ The Great American Death Rattle (2017)


I've been sat on this record for a good couple of weeks now. Staring at it in my iTunes, patiently waiting for the first of this year's batch of shrooms to mature so I could give it the full psychonaut experience I reckon it truly deserves... So, while it maybe the psilocybin talking now, I can say with little trepidation, it was well worth the wait!

For those of you living under a rock for the couple of years or so, Youngblood Supercult suddenly appeared on the radar in 2014 with their first stellar album, Season Of The Witch - as strong a debut as ever you'll hear. Followed up in 2016 with their release High Plain's, which was picked up by the great DHU Records and given a fantastic vinyl treatment, as is the label's style.
One year on and DHU have once again backed the Topeka (now) quartet, to offer up yet another blistering release, this time handing over art direction to Joshua over at The Company, who's done nothing short of a superb job. 

Right from the get go, YBSC reveal their intentions and instantly begin to bathe your ears with a heavily blues influenced dirty psych tone thats absolutely second to none - easily one of the best I've heard in recent memory. The title track really paves the way for the rest of the album. As if Kadavar had resurrected the spirit of Cream and come back from the dead just play an Aleister Crowley tribute concert. It's so dark and sombre, yet eerily beautiful and haunting in the way it's put together and mastered. No album this year, at least to my knowledge, as really encapsulated the retro feel like this does. Not only managing to pay homage to the classics like Sabbath and Sir Lord Baltimore but also Graveyard and Serpent Throne - all while successfully carving out their own unique niche.
With LoFi fuzzy riff's by the bucket load, topped off with a subtle acid rock foreboding, The Great American Death Rattle really shapes up to be one of the best psych albums of the year. Easily holding their own against the likes of Elder's 'Reflections Of A Floating World' and All Them Witches 'Sleeping Through The War'. That's some going too, as both of those releases have garnered some remarkable reviews.
If you're looking for a new album so smoke to, look no further!
~ Jay
For Fans Of; Black Sabbath, Moon Curse, Wicked Lady, Black Pyramid, Asteroid





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Saturday, July 08, 2017

Pain and Prescience...

Descend Into Despair - Synaptic Veil (2017)


With their second album, the seven-piece Romanian group of Descend Into Despair have delivered a monstrous mass of funereal doom, broken into five uneasy pieces for slow digestion. A variety of vocal approaches complement the broad range of instrumental tones and techniques, with slow-boiling rage, desperation, despair, and anguish brought to light over the course of the album. There's a bit of an early Opeth feel at times, though more grounded, not only in terms of solos and riff expansion, but in the balancing of instrumental work as well. The guitars don't run off with the show, as all of the members have vital parts in developing the atmosphere and musical punch. Most of the album can't really be pinned to any one band for comparison, but the fluidity and general vibe did have my mind flashing on the Hungarian group Dreamgrave, whose sophomore album Presentiment managed a similar sort of sprawling darkness with points of gentle exquisiteness.
There's such a sense of careful construction to the songs, with their shifting inner structures, that it occasionally feels operatic, or at least just majestic. The ringing out of individual notes allowed full focus, the undercurrents of swirling bass, assemblages of quick-turn dramatic breakdowns and hard impacts, and on and on... DID have turned out an excellent and impressive album here, and having it be just their second full-length points to a compelling future for the group. Fans of ambitious metal that doesn't allow itself to be boxed into the usual traditions, do yourself a favor and get a copy of this album, then set aside some time so you can listen to it with full attention. Damn good.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dreamgrave, Funerary, Temple of Gnosis, Thergothon, A Thousand Sufferings




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Saturday, July 01, 2017

Casting Black Stones...

Altar of Betelgeuze - Among the Ruins (2017)


Altar of Betelgeuze have been picking up plenty of acclaim for this album already, but the constraints of time being what they are, we've not yet had a chance to feature them here on The Burning Beard. That long-running mistake is now corrected, and the seven tracks assembled by the Finnish quartet for Among the Ruins decisively show that all the hype is founded on worthiness. Mixing sludge, doom, heavy rock, death metal, and more, the group goes for a free-rolling trip through heaviness and taut grooves, generally feeling more warm than vicious, but keeping a sharp edge to their instrument tones and performance.
Though over half of the songs break the six-minute mark, the album rarely feels as though it's dragging, thanks to some tight use of melody shifting and clever bridge twisting. There's enough variety to the moodiness that while it initially feels like a summer head-banger, the anger and snarls could work just as well in a depressive winter context, so there's some all-year value for you. And while the descriptions of the musical style mix had me expecting (unfairly, I admit) some Acid Bath-like mania, AoB keep things on a comparatively tight leash, spooling out their transitions in a form that can be followed without too much trouble. The road to the end comes with its fair share of bumps and bruises, throwing itself between wild and measured expressions, but on the whole, it's a trip on which listeners are invited to ride along with the band. Throw it in your deck, play it at high volume, and take it as it comes.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Desert Suns, Lesbian, Norska, Wolf Blood, Wounded Giant




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Saturday, June 24, 2017

Ophidian Interment...

Shrine of the Serpent / Black Urn - Shrine of the Serpent | Black Urn (2017)


When we last heard from Shrine of the Serpent, it was with their debut EP, back in 2015, so it's nice to see that the band is still going. They've resurfaced to do this split with Black Urn (a band new to me personally, though they've been around since about the same time SotS started), with just over half an hour of material between two tracks from each band. Shrine take the lead with “Desecrated Tomb”, a grim piece of exquisitely heavy doom spiked with sludgy feedback on the strings and a gurgling rasp on the vocals, drums pushing back against their near-burial in the low-end resonance. Snarls of melody claw out from the persistent pressure of the thrumming strings, generating a pull that's hard to resist and effectively drawing listeners along into “Catacombs of Flesh”, their second contribution to the split. The catacombs bring a bit more of a death metal influence to bear, though it still has that near-funereal doom feel of being submerged underground with the weight the band brings to bear, and SotS burn hard until the end comes with a decisive impact.
Black Urn's half of the split brings cleaner tone for the strings, with the finger-slides audible and emotive in their opener, “My Strength Lies Within Heavenless Plains”, which amplifies the funeral doom vibe before bringing the death back with a crash and violent escalation. That rage carries on through the rest of the track, never falling back into restraint until they've exhausted themselves. And when that time comes, it's picked up by their heavy sludge cover of Alice In Chains' “Junkhead”, the lyrics turned into unintelligible rasping howls. After hearing the laughable 'doom' cover of Pink Floyd's “Money” from Doom Side of the Moon recently, it's refreshing to hear a doom cover of a song that doesn't drop the ball, and while it would have been fun to have some of the original's harmonization for the choruses, Black Urn bring a strong sense of non-faked character to their rendition.
Between the two bands, it's a damn good time for those of you who like your doom dirty, kind of depressive, and heavy as fuck. General advice of not operating heavy machinery while using this applies, but if you do, be sure to play it loud enough to scare anyone in range of your vehicle's speakers.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, Heavydeath, Hesperian Death Horse, Jupiterian, Mörk Gryning




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Saturday, June 17, 2017

Interpreting Spilled Blood...

Dirt Forge - Soothsayer (2017)


Hailing from Denmark, Dirt Forge are a fresh new band making their debut with this album, packing a solid forty-five minutes of sludgy doom metal (including a three-part title track) into the spaces of Soothsayer. There's some upbeat aspects to the music, mainly in the hooky melodies that are threaded throughout most of the songs, but on the whole, the music comes out swinging low and hard, with the vocalist's growls nicely complementing the snarling guitar and head-bash drumming.
By the time the band hits their second track, “Fortress Burning”, they're well in swing with the beats and grooves, with the thrashing and chord-clawing fitting together in a nasty mash which hints at some death metal fondness in the members' tastes. It's not high-flown metal; there's few trips through complicated time signature switch-ups or multi-part arpeggio solos. But the meathead vibe works well with the brutal flavor of the music, and there's more than enough unexpected inclusions to make clear that there's intelligence behind the slamming. As the trek continues, lyrics of death and despair filling it out, there's a firm sense of the affection this band has for the music and its history, and their homage pays off with some tasty riffs and hellacious howling. Check it out if you've been hungering for some mean metal with a low-end emphasis, and keep an ear out for more to come from these Denmark doomsters.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Black Anvil, Noothgrush, Oak, The Scimitar, Wizard Smoke




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Saturday, June 10, 2017

Crash Of Diesel...

Space Wizard - Vol. 1 (2017)


Hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, Space Wizard are making their debut with this five-track EP of retro heavy rock, spiced with touches of fantasy metal, to make their impression of channeled '70s attitude upon the world. You can practically smell the beer-stained denim while listening to their songs of demons and wizards, so it's a bit of a shame the cover art doesn't offer some imagery you'd see on the side of a van (although the logo's spot-on) to go with the tunes; I guess they're saving that for the LP. There's not many surprises to be heard, but then again, that's not something for which they're aiming. It's just some straight-up riff digging, so as long as that's what you're craving, you should be able to have a fun time with this EP. And as it is their first release, what they've put together is pretty good by those standards, with a square chance that they'll spread their style further on upcoming efforts. Give it a listen when you've got a six-pack handy, and keep your ears open for more to come from this crew.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Demon Head, La Chinga, Orchid, Sheavy, Teacher




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Saturday, June 03, 2017

Stricken But Strong...

Illimitable Dolor - Illimitable Dolor (2017)


Making their debut with this album, Illimitable Dolor are an Australian band, spun out of The Slow Death to pay tribute to the death of their vocalist, Gregg Williamson. Furnishing a solid modern doom base with touches of death metal in the vocals and gleams of funeral doom in the pacing, emotion, and understated melodies (plus the organ-styled keyboards), ID have put together an album that's fully self-contained while also offering appreciable depth of content.
Though there's plenty of time given to the guttural vocals, the band builds atmosphere and follows riffs through numerous instrumental passages, allowing the somber mood to mature, seep in, and affect listeners' own emotions, assuming they're giving the music the attention it deserves. It's one that's tough to analyze, being suited more to simply being soaked in as an experience, but that's not to say that ID slump any on the song-writing front. As they and their instruments groan through the album's course, there's a broad slice of the metal spectrum explored along the way, made more impressive by how firmly each style is slotted into the music. It's an album well-suited to use for delving into your own depression, or for riding along with the band through theirs. That the songs can linger on in memory on the strength of their tunes is a plus, and hopefully the group will continue on to create something pursuing the melodies, without their grief holding onto them quite so tightly at that point.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, Jupiterian, Sunwølf, Thergothon, WarHorse




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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Rising To The Sun...

Brume - Rooster (2017)


When we last heard from Brume, it was a couple of years ago, when they brought out their debut album, Donkey. The craggy bass-lines and deep valleys of beats have shifted with their new album, Rooster, moving to swifter tempos, a more intense general energy, and a more experimental approach to the song-writing. The vocals, which were a high point of the first album for me, have also received some tweaking, with some fun use of multi-tracking allowing Susie McMullin to sing against herself, swirl about, and slip verses in on the trailing sustains of their predecessors (check out “Harold” for some clear examples, or closing track “Tradewind” for some sharp soulfulness).
Maybe most noticeably, the drums move about much more, and while I didn't have any complaints about the action they offered in Donkey, I have to say that Rooster brings a wider scope to the territory Brume as a full band are able to cover, performing with high style all the while. At the same time, they've still got a handle on the psych-infused doom of their first album, with plenty of satisfaction for that vein streaming through tracks like “Calling the Serpent's Bluff” and “Tradewind”, and the savoring of that becomes all the richer for being something they've decided to hold close in the context of the band's expanded palette. Using the sophomore album to redefine their sound without losing what fans latched onto in the first album is an act that relatively few bands are able to pull off, but Brume have done a more-than-solid job of just that in Rooster. Fans of doom, go into this without building too many preconceptions; just do yourself a favor, take some time when you've got an hour to spare, and check it out in full.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid King, Bell Witch, Blood Farmers, Dorthia Cottrell, Venus Sleeps




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Saturday, May 20, 2017

Burning Transmission Fluid...

Stonerror - Stonerror (2017)


It's been about a year since Stonerror's debut EP, Rattlesnake Moan, but the Polish group has finally returned with eight new tracks of fuzzed bass foundations, groovy beat embellishments, snazzy guitar-work, and smoky vocals. Star-eyed psych and headbanging rock come together with tasty results, with some flavors like late-'90s alt rock providing an extra dose of ear-hooks for the melodies. The album moves fast, swaying and dipping through the down-beats and drifting warmth of the songs, and while it doesn't have the stylish dark tones of the group's EP, it's by no means a step down in quality.
Stonerror seem to have hashed out some of their weirder tendencies in the assembly of these tunes, finding something both more stylistically consistent and more upbeat, and calling to mind the sort of cozy musical blanket that you can just wrap yourself up in to while away an afternoon with a smile on your face. At the same time, they bring plenty of energy to bear in the songs, jamming in wild rock break-downs and tangled psych bridges, playing with tempos and time signatures, and generally having what sounds like a great time creating their music. One to blare through your speakers whenever you need some pick-me-up vibes, Stonerror also raise the question of whether their next release will be as much of a switch-up in their song-writing approaches as this one was to their last.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Elephant, Crown Larks, Frank Sabbath, Strato's, Vanilla Trainwreck




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Sunday, May 14, 2017

Sweeps, Sticks & Stuns

Wreck Plus - Dark Construktor (EP) (2016)


“YOU'VE JUST STEPPED INTO A TIME MACHINE, AND IF ALL IS RIGHT... WELCOME TO 1976.” Feels about right, coming out of Paris France these guys do a 70s thing well more on the Horisont side than the Graveyard side if you know what I mean. Production is top notch with buzzy fuzzed out guitars and heavy on the refurb vocals (with a scream!). This is pretty much what I wanted from Truckfighters but they haven’t scratched that itch in a while. First track and title track “Dark Construktor” sits somewhere in the Vol. 4 era of Sabbath era tunes but this isn’t close to worship. It’s not exactly grand funk either which makes the band interesting. They’re obviously gunning for the 70s throwback thing but there’s a lot of unique stuff going on in to pull you in right off the bat. The crazy breakdown / ballad thing that happens 4 minutes into the first track gives you hints of how expansive this little EP really is. Second track roles right off the bat adding a little low end to the mix and letting the rhythm section shine a bit more. A change in vocal dynamics even gives it a bit of an Alice in Chains sound (just a hint). Things take a darker turn and we’re treated to some pretty cool dark choir vocals under some nice high riffage (and later high gloss organ!) Intermission “Arturia: Stellar Blacksmith” is heavy on the synth setting us up for the second half of this EP. REALLY nice touch, I feel like I found some old laserdisc that’s about to pull me through my TV and into the 4th Dimension. Leading into Starcrossed Lovers which almost has a Deep Purple vibe to it heavy and straight forward with a high squeal. Closing track “Esoterhythm” closing things out with some thunder. Heavy on the cymbals and heavy on the high riffs Wreck Plus play us out with a bang. I’m hoping these guys follow up with a concept full album, the attention to detail is fantastic.
Dan

For Fans OfTruckfighters, Master of Reality / Vol. 4 era Sabbath, Kyuss, Horisont, Captain Beyond




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Saturday, May 13, 2017

Having A Ball...

REZN - Let It Burn (2017)


Making their debut with this album, the Chicago-based REZN (subtle, yeah?) touch down with ten tracks of spacy psychedelic stoner doom, trading in thick and heavy bass waves, tripped-out vocals, and effective use of drony tones to build some songs which carry a sense of immense weight and oncoming destruction. While the undulating distortion of the vocals can make them difficult to decipher, the way in which they're delivered makes it easy to pick up on their Sabbath-like crooning of doom and dread, and groove right along with it.
Thankfully, the band doesn't rely entirely on the common 'throw bass at the speakers until it solves everything' approach, as they show some nice tunefulness among the low-end swells, with tracks like “Orbit” and the back-to-back “Dread” and “Rezurrection” demonstrating the handle they have on melodiousness to go with the volume (with the last of those even bringing in some sitar-like strings for a taste of retro psychedelia). Interconnections between the songs step up the band's style even further, and the circling back through early song territory on their way through the rest of the album adds a neat sort of hypnotic time displacement to the experience.
All together, it's an impressive debut album, one which shows the band having a solid grip on their current style, but with room to grow on future efforts. The experimentation and riff playfulness provide strong points in REZN's favor, as does their tendency to work in some interesting atmospheric touches, and I'm urious to see how they'll change things up with their next release. Fans of heavy psych and space doom should check this crew out, the sooner, the better.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Brume, Ritual Abuse-era Cough, Dopelord, pre-Buckingham Electric Wizard, Reptensol




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Monday, May 08, 2017

Fear & Loathing at Desert Fest 2017 - Part 2


Day 2 



9:48am.


 I woke with the warm sun on my face, and a napkin. Saturday seemed to be beginning in much the same conscious state that Friday ended. Although I woke up spooning an empty Dominos pizza box and half empty bottle of Fanta. After praising a deity I don’t believe in for leaving me with orangey sustenance within arms reach, I checked my phone for some kind of pictographic evidence to try and piece together the latter of the previous night’s escapades. Through bleary eyes, well eye (I was still having to keep one closed to focus) I flicked through the photo’s…
Only one single, picture from the day before...


That was it. I’ll guess I’ll have to ask around. 

There wasn’t much of a hangover to speak of, which was disconcerting. Past experience has told me to expect a full scale biological assault on every one of my senses within the next two to four hours. Brace for a slow and impending death. 
Once able to focus with both eyes I got washed and dressed, rolled a joint of salvia and headed back out in the hope of catching Sonic Gypsy. 

I didn’t. 

The saliva hit me like a tennis racket to the face. Seemingly unlocking all the residual narcotics flowing throughout my blood stream and sending every last scrap directly to the centre of my brain. I fetched myself a pint of Guinness in the hope it would straighten me out enough to successfully converse with strangers. It seemed to do the trick. One of the chaps from Morass Of Molasses found me and struck up conversation. For the life of me I can’t recall what we talked about, but we seemed to hit it off and ended up chatting for some time. 
Most of the day flew by in a bit of a haze. There was a Chinese food buffet washed down with red wine (it seemed like a wise idea at the time) followed by gin and tonic by the canal. It all sounds very civilised, but in reality we must have looked like goth hobo’s to the passing general public. Thankfully this is Camden, and the whole goth hobo look is writhe on every corner, so I doubt anyone other than Asian tourists batted an eyelid after stumbling upon us. 



Following a brisk romp back, the first band I managed to catch was Iron Witch, raising hell upstairs in the Black Heart. We’d rocked up a little on the late side and the queue to see them was trailing down the stairs and along the side of the bar. We finally managed to fight our way in with just two songs left to spare. The Liverpudlians and certainly drawn a hell of crowd. Over the sprawling sweaty masses of heads and shoulders I could just make out a number of crusty dreadlocks whipping around and the occasional guitar headstock. The roar was deafening, even through my earplugs that I’d thankfully not managed to loose the night before. It was safe to say the guys were killing it.

As the set wound down and the rising in everyones ears began we were unceremoniously washed back down the stairs by the crowd evidently desperate for a gasp of fresh air. Taking a quick glance at the days stage times we high tailed it back over to The Underworld to catch most of Celeste’s set. I’ve been told to check them out on multiple occasions but I have to admit they’re not a band I’m all that familiar with. I would advise though, not to catch them while tripping your balls off. Their dark post metal ambience coupled with their unique stage show consisting of dry ice and red head torches is enough to strike fear into even the most seasoned psychonaut. Even stood way towards the back I was hit full on with a mix of both wonderment and fear by the sonic and visual experience. Not usually my go-to genre I was still left highly impressed by the French black metal quartet. It’s also worth mentioning, they easily won the prize for best merch of the weekend in my book too. 

Following their set, which I wish I’d got to catch more of we all headed off to find food. Casually forgetting Inter Arma were up next and I was looking forward to checking them out. By the time we returned the stage was empty and the masses were heading out. Piss poor timing. Not to be deterred and now at a bit of a loose end we headed back stage and before I knew it I found myself drinking with the guys. Trey (I believe - my face-to-name recollection is awful even when I’m sober) asked if I had ‘anything’ on me. I pushed all the empty cans and bottles on the table to one side and began emptying my pockets. Oli began laughing at the stunned faces looking down and the ever increasing pile of narcotics in the centre of the table. 

“Whats this” someone asked reaching down to pick up a bag.

“Mimosa” I replied. “You can make a drink out of it or just chew it… Right, thats the lot”.
“Jesus fucking christ”! 

“He’s like a wizard”
Oli responded, patting me on the back and handing me another can.

“Whats this”!?
 
“That’s ether. Careful with that shit, don’t smoke around it”. At which point I snatched it from their hands. “We’ll probably get into this rotten shit later on”. 

After introductions, lines were racked, drinks exchanged and the inevitable questions began flowing. All until I scrambled around in my pockets and pulled out another bag, handed two of the guys a bag and told them to eat.

The room when quiet. 

“What are they”? 

“Dried shrooms dude, just in capsule form”.

“Great, I love shrooms”!


They both took a couple of the small musty looking capsules and threw them back. 

“You’ll need a couple more”.

I pushed two more into their hands. Glancing concerned looks at each other they nervously swallowed them too. Looking down at the mere two I had left, I announced that two would be no bloody use to me so handed them over.

“Oh, I think I’ve had enough”.

“You can fuck that sky high mate. Stop being a pussy. Two won’t touch me, take them.” 


Now, with a slight look of terror in their eyes they reluctantly washed them down with the provided lager. 
The overwhelming sense of the room was nervousness, and I could feel eyes darting back and forth between me and my two “science experiments”.

“If I'm out there naked on the intersection later, please will you bring me back in”.

“Sure thing man”.


At which point I patted them on the shoulders, said “I’ll see you on the other side” and strolled just in time to catch Scissorfight clearing all their equipment from the stage. I felt like overstayed my welcome and without me realising Oli had wondered off. The guys were lovely, but I became acutely aware that I was stood there in silence for prolonged periods of time and it was no doubt becoming awkward as fuck. To them some random guy and his enormous friend and bust into their dressing room and instantly plied them with exotic weird and wonderful narcotics before even introducing themselves. Oh, and they were knocking back our beers at an alarming rate too. No, it was most certainly time for me to retreat, so I headed to the bar to grab some more whiskey before trying to locate someone I knew. As I downed my drink it dawned on me that I’d left something on the table backstage. I wondered back and the guys were all stood in a circle around said table peering down at it. I excused myself and reached between them to pick up the small brown bottle and pipette they were staring at. I held it up to the light and saw it was still at the same level I’d left it at. 

“I knew none of you fuckers would be dumb enough to touch this shit”. I said and placed it back into my jacket pocket. 
They all laughed as I turned to the fridge, grabbed a beer said “I’m taking this. See y’all later” before walking out. I felt I’d left on a slightly better note this time and happily strolled to once again find someone I knew. 


This proved to be pretty unsuccessful and after aimlessly walking in circles I opted to return back to the dressing room… Everyones faces were different. Wait, what had I taken? Had it just kicked in?… Evidently looking completely baffled, Matt explained that Inter Arma had gone and he subsequently introduced me to Bongzilla. Mike shook my hand and asks “are you the chemist guy”? I squint and turn to Oli who had happened to spot me and followed me in. 

“Oh yeah, people are calling you The Chemist now”. 
 
Sweet! 

“I guess I am then”. 

“Have you got any coke”? 

“You don’t beat around the bush do you”
I smile and Mike pats me on the back. 
We’re all stood around chatting for a while when a voice from behind shouts “on in five minutes”! At which point a monster of a joint is thrust towards my chest. 

“Oh, go on then” I mutter and I take a big drag.
For some reason waiting for me to fully inhale first, I hear Oli whisper in my ear “Thats all weed” …I look down at the faint green phallic looking thing between my fingers and cough.
Heartily. 

Oh, I’m going to regret this I think, before foolishly taking another hit and handing it back. 
Now, I’ve smoked on and off for a number of years, but when I do I tend to be no good for anything. I’ll happily just sit in a comfy chair and laugh myself silly. With that in mind, I’m in complete awe of Bongzilla. Anyone who’d have walked into that room five minutes prior to them hitting the stage would have been met by the most overwhelming contact high alone. Seriously, it was like someone had a dry ice machine in there. How they’re able to maintain such a tight set after smoking that much is nothing short of a miracle. But that they did. I watched in awe as they blistered through their first of two sets planned for the London audience. This set, consisting solely of their early work, got straight off to a thunderous start. Bathed in their token green light they instantly began to melt the faces of the completely packed out Underworld crowd. I wish I could offer a more detailed description of the show, but having smoked with them prior, and now standing just three feet from the the band I’ve been dying to catch for around 15 years now, it was all I could do to stand there utterly transfixed. It all went by in a gut rumbling, green, endorphin releasing blur. I evidently wasn’t the only one that enjoyed the spectacle, as during their final song I looked down to see one girl in the front row below me, passed out, face down on the edge of the stage. This picture really typifies the whole show… 





 In some what of a euphoric state, I don’t recall much of the following hour or so or actually leaving The Underworld. My next memory is talking to an old rocker outside of The Black Heart, who kindly gave me a cigarette as it had just dawned on me I’d left nearly a whole pack of Lucky Strikes and the remainder of my weed elsewhere. I recall discussing the role of Sabbath in influencing the likes of Sleep, The Obsessed and Yob. The pros and cons of prog rock and Triumph bikes. I told him how my old man had grew up in Aston and had seen Sabbath’s very first gig after changing their name from Earth. He hugged me, offered me another cigarette and I politely excused myself. What ever it was I’d taken earlier was beginning to wear off and I needed to maintain. I fought my way to the bar where someone handed me a rum and coke. Oh, sweet sweet sustenance. Around this time Oli returned grinning from ear to ear in his trade mark way. I explained that what ever the fuck I’d taken had run its course and I was now beginning to lag. 

“Thats the ether”.
 
“What?!”
I shouted back. 

“The ether, don’t you remember? We huffed it before Bongzilla”!

Well, shit. That explains my loss of basic motor skills and inability to maintain a steady trajectory. I knew we’d get into that rotten shit sooner rather than later. 

“Here, take this”. 

As a small baggy was pushed into my hands. What a life saver. 

On the way to ‘refuel’ Mike from Bongzilla ambushed me once again. Plying me with a beer and asking me if I could find him any “stuff”.
“Ah, some dusty showbiz? Follow me my good man”! 

It’s a weird scenario being locked in a toilet cubicle with one of your musical idols, and don’t let anyone tell you any different. It’s not the first time I’ve found myself in this predicament either. Similar instances have occurred with guys from Eyehategod, Raging Speedhorn and most of Church of Misery to name just a few. The surreal-ness of this position never fails to astound. You take the hit, stand up, then proceed to try and make small talk, before one of you comes down just enough to realise that you’re both stood in a dank, shit smelling, cramped box, chatting bollocks, mere inches from each others faces. At which point the more compos of the two of you reaches for the lock and excuses themselves. 
So, as Mike opened the door and left, Oli returned asking for his stash back. 

“FUCK! Mike’s got it!” 

Luckily Oli was able to explain that this was a misunderstanding and retrieve his hard earned devil’s dandruff. It’s a good job that big ol’ bastard loves me, because although out of it, that was a dick move on my part. 
Suitable scorned, and with recompense made in the form of a beer, we continued the night sat at the bar occasionally getting up to request songs from Julia, who was doing and absolutely stellar job of DJ’ing. 
My final recollection of the night was singing along to Queen then yodelling to Hocus Pocus by Focus with a compete stranger, before deciding enough was enough and staggering my way back in the general direction of my bed.

 End of day 2.

 ~


Saturday, May 06, 2017

Witches, Cyborgs, and Nightmares...

MotherSloth - Moon Omen (2017)


Having last heard from MotherSloth with their first full album, Moribund Star, back in 2014, I was thrilled to get word that a second album had been assembled, and that the band had joined Argonauta Records for its release. And with a helping of six full-sized songs, MotherSloth are showing off how they've grown in the years since their last release, with a tight sound to their playing that doesn't compromise the expansiveness of their doom-soaked sojourns.
The bass is nice and thick, but with appreciable texture to its waves, while the guitar fills in dozens of tense curls and turns. As the drums lay down firm beats, the vocals find a space somewhere between the clean melodies of the '70s and the rougher standards of today, wrapping the human presence up in a cloak of ominous down-tuning. On the down-side, they're sounding less cosmic than they were on Moribund Star, with the touches of spacy psychedelia to the tone-weaving being practically absent this go-round (though “Doomsday Cyborg” gives it a bit of incorporation into the more grounded form). Things are more definite now, without room for ambiguity, and while I'm sad to hear the previous style abandoned, I can't say that MotherSloth do a bad job with their new direction.
Most of the experimentalism in Moon Omen lurks in the details of the production, with back-mixed spoken-word touches, channel-sliding, and other subtleties adding a surprising depth of material for careful listeners. The cymbal treatment works especially well with the band's sound (check out “Wish for Dawn” below for a great example), and all in all, it sounds like the band is nice and comfortable with their musical development.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Abstracter, Disenchanter, Moon Curse, Pallbearer, Tempus Terra




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Friday, May 05, 2017

The Buzz In South Africa...

Ruff Majik - The Swan EP (2017)


Hell yeah, this fucking rips!  Everybody’s whining about the snare sound but they’re a bunch of morons.  Coming out of Pretoria, South Africa, this whole thing has an awesome, great '60s/'70s blown-out vibe to it, kinda similar to Boris’ heavy fast stuff.  Great transitions between songs give this EP a sweet consistent feel.  Apparently these guys have just been busting out EPs the last year and I haven’t heard.  The groove and riffage never ends. 
First track “Horse drawn wrath spawn (godspeed)” latches onto the riff immediately before everything takes off and runs, while the vocals have this crazy Seeds/Axl Rose on mescaline thing going on.  The second track, “Cloak full of Serpents”, slows things down a bit but ups the energy.  The drums have a nice boom bap to them while the guitarist just kinda winds up and chucks notes up and over yer head.  Nice open and slow lyrics give this a bit of early Monster Magnet vibe, just a lot heavier on the drugs.  You can taste the neon.  Halfway through the track things breakdown a bit and Ruff Majik enters into full Humboldt jam mode, almost getting into Howling’ Rain territory.  The standout track “Honey in a lion corpse” seems to be a toss-up to Earth in track title and sound, although Ruff Majik can’t slow down that much and substitute notes per second with that overblown fuzz Earth is known for.  Tracks “Monarch of the hills” and “Scalp chiseler” round this amazing EP out, but stop reading this and go listen to it, everyone. 
Dan

For Fans OfW.I.T.C.H, Kyuss, Monster Magnet, Truckfighters, Boris




~

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Fear & Loathing at Desert Fest 2017 - Part 1




Day 1 - 

To say that Desert Fest 2017 began as it meant to go on would be an understatement.
Having dropped a good quarter of my supply of Salvia extract while waiting for the train to London was, in retrospect, not one of my most stellar ideas. Dealing with the rush of blood to the back of my head while the train thundered through the Great British countryside, took all of the fortitude I could muster. Then being met with the pulsating and undulating face of a stern ticket inspector demanding some kind of validity for my presence. After what felt like an eternity staring right through his beady little eyes, the penny finally dropped and I understood what he was actually wanting from me. I cautiously opened my bag and began scurrying around, before proudly reemerging, ticket in hand and a with a smug look of satisfaction on my face. He looked me up and down one final time before handing me back the slip of paper and wandering off back down the carriage. Relieved, I waited a few minutes before delving back into my bag to assess that my mobile pharmacy was still intact.
1 x bag of weed
1 x bag of Salvia
1 x bag of Mimosa
100 x Hawaiian baby Woodrose seeds 
1 x small bottle of ether
2 x large handfuls of mushrooms
75cl of Jim Beam
20ml of Salvia extract

20 x Lucky Strikes


I figured that if I’m going to finally see Sleep live, it has to be done righteously.



Other than the awkward encounter with the ticket guy, the journey down was relatively uneventful. I occasionally scribbled in my notepad while I listened to Mountain Witch Scythe and Dead Horse and The Heavy Eyes. I’d elected to sit in the quiet carriage as I figured I’d either drop something or start drinking disgustingly early in the day. At some point around Milton Keynes some wretched little bastard of a child began running up and down the aisle banging on the chairs. It quickly gave me bad vibes. I recall sticking my out and scowling up and down between the seats for saying “Doe’s this little prick have an off switch?!”. A brown haired woman in a tracksuit glared back at me a few seats down.
I didn’t see or hear the kid again until we pulled into Euston. 



I always hate this part of the trip. The long trek up from the platform into the station. In the crowd. Either behind someone who doesn’t understand the whole stair/escalator etiquette or someone who just can’t physically cope with the simple task of walking in a straight line. My fuse is too short for this city. I put on Cancer Bats Hail Destroyer, punch the open door button and burst out onto the platform. As my foot hits the ground I realise I’m in the very last carriage. Whats more, I’ve just spotted that little dickhead child a good 10 meters in front of me. I put my head down, turn my music up and charge up the ramp and towards the underground.
I slyly topped myself up with whiskey before I made the journey down towards the Northern Line. As I navigated the underground in a slightly bewildered state I recalled the worlds of a great man - “Go to London, I guarantee you’ll either be mugged or not appreciated”. 
For the best part, I agree with this statement. I’ve had predominantly good times here, but I’ve always been happy to leave. I woke up in Croydon once. That was pretty shit as I recall. To this day I’ve still no recollection of how I got there. I also fell out of a moving van, while on the way to play at a venue called the Purple Turtle. That being said, the same night the guy who drove us down strolled into an alley to take a surreptitious leak but was bet by a group of big black guys. They wouldn’t let him leave until he smoked some crack with them… I guess I got off pretty lucky. 


When I finally got to Camden I was met by my mate who took me straight over to get my various wristbands and passes. The kid asked for my arm, which I outstretched, and he immediately slapped the first paper band on, sticky side down and onto my hair. “Oh, you bastard” I said. He ripped if off and tried again, leaving a perfectly square bald patch on the back of my wrist. This wound me up more than it should have, so I made a B line to the Black Heart and grabbed a Jack and Coke before heading off to find someone who I knew and a well deserved smoke. 



Grave Lines opened up the weekend’s proceedings with aplomb. Striding out onto the Underworld’s stage like they were the home team, which to be fair would be a safe assumption. Between them they’ve all faced that underground crowd, in one iteration or another, more times than most. So this wasn’t unfamiliar territory. 
Launching straight into Drug Cold - as slow and sombre an affair as they come, the quartet immediately began laying waste to the now packed room with a sonic down-tuned thunder that’s only usually reserved for the most seasoned of acts on the three day bill. 
Having consumed a healthy amount of ale prior to trudging down the stairs to the venue, followed by another few back stage beers and the odd joint, my well oiled state was now trying to focus on the band themselves. With bass player Matt, lurking in the shadows at the far side of the stage, all I could occasionally make out were his dreads thrashing back and forth and catching the light, like the tentacles of a Kraken lashing out of the gloom. I made my way through the churning crowd just as Blind Thamyris hits it’s stride and Jake bellows “You’re a parasite…” and I’m met with the full force of the band’s unwavering aggression. As I make my way back to the side of the stage I think back to the last time I’d seen a band unleash this much bone shaking doom and ferocity, and the only show that comes to mind is Eyehategod, back in the mid 2000’s sometime. There’s something that they both share that I can’t quite put my finger on while I’m in this state. Something unbendingly dark and sinister.
Just as I get back to my place I catch Julia splinter one of her sticks and in the same unwavering stride pull another up from beside her. It’s sums up the set perfectly - like entropy personified. Everything feels likes its being destroyed. Crushing bass, ever slowing riffs and the deliberate dismantling of the audience’s soul, and they seem to be loving it. 
As Cronus Chain ends and the set draws to a close a half naked Ollie raises his guitar to the ceiling like a battle weary Norse making an offering to Thor. Before lowering it back down and turning to face the amp and unleash what can only be described as a spleen bruising amount of reverb. As the roar begins to subside and the Orange amps draw a sigh of relief I soon realise I’m all but deaf on my left hand side. Wincing and shaking my head I turn around and notice no less that five or six other poor individuals who neglected the use of ear plugs, all with one finger waggling in their ear and moving their jaws from side to side. All trying to regain some sense of equilibrium, as they stagger back towards the welcoming glow of the bar.
Round one goes to Grave Lines.



The rest of the day descended quickly in to a bit of an intoxicated blur. I referred to my garbled notes…


“Drinking with Jason and Lisa from The Well. Missed 1000 Mods and Pontiac but super nice folks”

“Explained to one of the guys from Vodun why it wasn’t sensible to wonder around here with no shoes on”

"Lost cigarettes".

“Why you so expensive London!?!?!” - I think I’d just bought a round
"Don't take the ether. Don't take the ether. Don't take the ether".
“Who’s the person who keeps on running on stage during Slo Burn!?”

“We shouldn't have huffed that etherrrrrrr” 
“Cymbal Decapitation” - ?? 
“Ate a whole pizza and wings” - I have no recollection of this



End of Day 1.

~


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Keeping The Light On...

Clouds Taste Satanic - Dawn of the Satanic Age (2016)


With their third album, the NY-based crew of Clouds Taste Satanic has changed up their cover art style a bit, leaving behind the Renaissance-evoking paintings of religious imagery for a more psychedelic landscape, and altering their music in comparable fashion. Right from the start, opening track “Enthroned” pulls out a more rock-styled lead riff than the band's seemed inclined to use on previous outings, and while they retain a doomy weight to the tones, sustain, and pacing, the exploratory genre-blurring leads them to some intriguingly unconventional places. In other spots, it's faint strains of the band's past post-rock playing that's twisting the bass and drums, grungy tones coating the guitar strings in spots, touches of straight-forward heavy metal swinging heads elsewhere, and proggy jangles of complex riffage crossing various bridges.
It all sounds like the output of a band that's continuing to challenge itself in the process of writing their songs, and keeping themselves nice and fresh by doing so. Going from one CTS album to the next, there's recognizable lineage, but no sense that they're getting bogged down or feeling uninspired. There's liveliness, good grooves, and a sense of storytelling without vocals, and I can't wait to hear what new directions the band will explore on their follow-up. And while there's fun in comparing the albums to each other, CTS have also made an album which stands strongly on its own, especially with the stylish closing of “Demon Among the Stars”. If this is your first encounter with the band, check it out already; if you've heard their earlier albums, there's still surprises in store for you.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Earthling, Merlin, Sea Bastard, Sumokem, Wizard Smoke




~