Saturday, December 16, 2017

Hues To Blame...

Narcos Family Band - Pink Blues (2017)


Set for release on the last day of this year, this latest EP from the Philadelphia-based group of Narcos Family Band boasts four quick tracks of dirty rock, rolling along on fuzz-swaddled guitar riffs, belted vocals, flexible drumming, and plenty of hooks. With each track, they tease an opening, then dive in to thrash about and have fun, then barrel their way out before things get too redundant to be fun anymore. At times, it's almost like sludge on mood enhancers, with the grinding tone of the guitar and the clear punk allegiances joining playful conduct and a focus on rock power over downbeat kicks. And the careening grooves show a knack for the looser side of psych rock, infusing the songs with a bubbling, unpredictable recklessness that only lifts their rocking all the higher. Fun, gnarly, and quite tasty, this should be on your list if rock that colors outside the lines appeals to you in the slightest.
~ Gabriel


For Fans Of; Butthole Surfers, Crown Larks, The Heavy Co., Poor Dumb Bastards, Sex Scheme




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Saturday, December 09, 2017

Dirges For Divinity...

Djinn and Miskatonic - Even Gods Must Die (2017)



Hailing from India (and the excellent Transcending Obscurity record label), Djinn and Miskatonic made their debut with the album Forever in the Realm back in the year of 2013. Now they're back, with another six songs of doom and dread, rumbling bass and slow-moving riffs, and they're well in their element.
Kicking off with “I, Zombie” (no, not a cover of the White Zombie track), the band plugs into a heavy current, waves of chords drifting back and forth, as they dig into the opener for the better side of fifteen minutes. Having made their demonstration of how well they handle size, the band trims things back for a few following songs, before returning to the ten-plus size for the last two. And through that total hour of dirging, the band tests out some flavor experiments while keeping the modern doom base firm. There's drizzles of black and death, stretches of clean vocals (usually quickly countered with guttural rasping), but the main drives are built on the backs of workhorse riffs, just rolling on and on with some small twists worked into their cycles.
The biggest fault with the music, from my perspective, would be how straight-forward it is. Both the album and band name suggest some mystical elements, but what you get is pretty standard, if jumbo-sized, modern doom metal from start to finish. There's no real toying with unusual sounds (a spot of keyboards here and there would have done wonders in that regard), and the steadiness of the weight makes things feel more sloggish than crushing by the end of it all. It's good stuff, just don't go into it expecting the psychedelic elements suggested by the cover art.
~ Gabriel


For Fans Of; Brume, Electric Wizard, Major Kong, REZN, SwampCult




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Saturday, December 02, 2017

Incantations Of Darkness...

Shadowmaster - Shadowmaster (2017)


Formed as Desert Crone, and releasing one EP before taking their current name from its closing track, the Swedish group of Shadowmaster have already done their part to earn good will and favorable buzz from fans of dirty doom. Now that they've put together a full album under their new incarnation, the three-piece band has an eight-song set of bassy assaults, slow-grind rhythms, brazen howls, and alienating distortions. Happily, the whole grimy affair is getting a CD release courtesy of Seeing Red Records, and assuming it gets the attention and acclaim it deserves, a vinyl release hopefully won't be too far off, though the hour-plus run-time will demand double disks in that event.
With crashes of cymbals echoing away over the twisted growls of the guitar, the group raises quite a din, bending it to torturous paths and slamming out chords with little mercy to their mood. The namesake song from the Desert Crone EP gets revisited, and fitted in well with the rest of the malignant vibes the album carries, and which give it such a seething subdermal energy despite the overall slow pacing.
And for all the nastiness that's pumped into each thick-bodied strum, there's an unnerving streak of psychedelia running through most of it. Call it a time capsule of dark-side '60s by way of Swedish memory, or just an updated sludge interpretation, but whatever the prompting, it works well in the context of the heavy blasts so regular across the songs, exceptions like the entirety of “The Lizard King” aside. For the most part, the shit going down is big, buzzy, and downright mean in tone, whether they're using vocals to complement the riffs or not, and that's before even addressing the nineteen-minute finishing song. And on top of all that, it's pretty easy to groove to, assuming a blend of doom, sludge, and psych metal suits your tastes. If that's the case, get yourself a copy already.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Bath, Brume, Goya, Raedon Kong, Wounded Giant



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Saturday, November 25, 2017

Aligning Unstable Forces...

Dreamgrave - Monuments I. - The Anxious (2017)


Dreamgrave made quite an impression on me with their debut album, Presentiment, released back in 2014 (good grief, time flies), so I was thrilled to hear that the band had put together some new music, even if it required some line-up changes to get to that point.  This EP, the lengthily titled Monuments I. - The Anxious, is the first in a promised series of EPs exploring thematically-linked focuses, and with the first three songs in that series, the group has set their new members into place in ways that bring their new talents to the fore without sacrificing the band's established character.
The prog roots are still in place, and shown off quite thoroughly, but Dreamgrave steadily play about with incorporating other styles, ranging in tone from death metal brandishes to symphonic expansions.  The fusion of the musical styles is matched by a wide spread of instrumental elements, with guitars (acoustic and electric), assorted other strings, flexible percussion, subtle atmospherics, and an impressive array of vocal approaches all coming together in service of the songs.   There's more, of course, but it would take quite a few sessions with the EP to pin them all down with certainty.  And while I wouldn't say that the band's emotional presentation has matured, since that would be undercutting the professionalism with which they conducted themselves on their first album, it does feel like they've widened the range of what they're sharing with their listeners, with more room for reflection.  It's an EP that feels much deeper than its three-song duration would suggest, and personally, I can't wait to hear what more they have in store for us.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Änglagård, Artension, Indonesia (Russia), Opeth, 3rd Ear Experience




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Saturday, November 18, 2017

Stellar Strolls And Stompdowns...

Mother Mars - On Lunar Highlands (2017)


Like the rest of Pepper Shaker Records' line-up, we're big fans of Mother Mars here at The Burning Beard, even if their Australian location does preclude us from catching them live.  So it was a jolt and a thrill to hear that the heavy psych group has another album coming up, and we jumped at the chance to give it an early listen.  And while it's been a couple of years since their last full release, the very fine Black Coffee and Good Advice EP (and four years since their last album, Steam Machine Museum), there's no rust to be heard in the quartet's jammy performance as they launch right into a groovy roller with “Wrecker's Reunion Ball”, getting down and turning it out.
And as they ride on, Mother Mars show that they've been brewing up plenty of new tastes for their fans, while staying true to the fuzzy funkiness and bluesy bent (not to mention a strong shot of spaciness) that makes their heaviness so damn enjoyable. Whether cruising along on a steady riff or blowing it up into expanding madness, the band keeps a through-line of deep-toned rock going, balanced with enough exotic elements to help them stand out even more from similar acts. There's chill material, fiery stuff, goofy fun, and serious rock. Whether you're new to the band or a long-time listener, you're gonna have a good time with this album. Don't miss it, you hear?
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Crown Larks, Frozen Planet....1969, JPT Scare Band, Mondo Drag, Weedeater




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Saturday, November 11, 2017

Ruptures, Spires, And Sky...

Jupiterian - Terraforming (2017)


Jupiterian made quite an impression on us back in 2015 with their first LP, Aphotic, so it's with great delight that I dug into this, their latest album, and found their doom just as potent as before, but with an even more expansive scope to the music and production.   The songs sound big, and not just because most of them are about seven minutes long; resonance, timbre, and reverb combine to rattle your teeth while still coming out of your speakers with deceptive smoothness, while the riffs and roamings come down with all the force of mausoleum doors into rain-soaked earth.
Little touches here and there, like the ringing of distant bells or crashes of muffled thunder, help build a more powerful atmosphere, and give a sense of the band trying to make the album a full experience, something more than just a series of songs.  There's enough fury behind the vocals and lead shreddings to suggest black, death, or sludge influence, but doom pretty handily holds sway over all of it.  From the forceful rhythms to the seeping anguish, Terraforming shows the band with incredible command over their material, high skill at building moods, and a way with building understated melodies that can rear up and swallow you whole.  Goddamn good stuff, don't miss out on this if doom is a musical flavor you even slightly enjoy.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, Goya, Heavydeath, Ksyatriya, Nelly Olsen




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Saturday, November 04, 2017

Tracking Live Eruptions...

Acid Elephant - Solar Caravan (2017)


It's been a while since we've checked in on Acid Elephant, but in the years since their last studio album, Star Collider, they've continued outputting live material at a fairly steady rate. Solar Caravan is the latest recording to capture the group in their live setting, and over the course of its three tracks, they show that they've been hard at work growing their heavy psych power. Massive riffs, rumbling bass, crashing drums, tight grooves, and enough distortion to make your head swim; they've got them all, with the grit and grime to tar your speakers into suitable earthiness. While all the songs are great, the show-stealer is undoubtedly “Radien”, a ~22-minute burner that smokes its way through a few dozen turns in structure, developing a sinister but still psychedelic haze of resonance and tone. As one big EP, it's a fun trip, and Acid Elephant's continued workshopping of their material should keep fans eager for the next full studio effort to arrive.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bitchcraft, Merlin, Mondo Drag, Salem's Pot, Tons




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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Old Waters Run Deep...

Tuna de Tierra - Tuna de Tierra (2017)


For their first full-length album, emerging two years after their debut EP, the Italians of Tuna de Tierra have put together a batch of seven new songs, and their warm desert rock is even more enticing in long form. Strolling through riffs in songs both short (like the tasty intro track “Slow Burn”) and sprawling (the ten-minute-plus “Out of Time”), the band projects an air of casual coolness that doesn't sweat even when ripping into their most heated shredding.
Much of the music focuses on simply building up solid riffs and melodies, fanning out measures of chill noodling and mellow grooving, and in doing so, TdT make some of the friendliest and most natural-sounding music I've heard in quite a while. There's nods to the blues roots of early heavy metal, and to the grunginess of '90s desert rock, but it's blended with their own style in a way that brings out the best of each, and leads to some very strong rocking that doesn't overplay its hand.
As welcoming as the music is, it holds onto powerful writing throughout the album's run, always ready to give it that shade of extra intensity that ramps things up to attack mode. With these seven tracks, Tuna de Tierra amply demonstrate how you don't have to lean on loud bass fuzz to be heavy as Hell.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; early Black Sabbath, Desert Suns, Kyuss, Merlin, Mondo Drag




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Saturday, October 21, 2017

Slamming Into Place...

Marmora - Criterion EP (2017)



With this debut EP, the Chicago-based quartet of Marmora introduce themselves to the world in high style, with the three brothers Salazar (Alejandro on bass, Ulysses on drums, and Zaid on guitar) joined by Allen Cardenas on vocals/synth/guitar. Leading with the title track, the music strides out into a rich blend of '70s heavy metal and modern heavy rock, working tasty licks and solid riffs, with bridges that ramp up the energy and quickly kick ass. “Apathy” follows, quickly putting lie to the name by busting out some hard, near-punk raucousness, and barreling along on a drum-bass combo chugger that belts along with building power into a crashing finish. And lastly, “Flowers in Your Garden” twists back into the heavy rock/metal terrain, growling out another beastly riff dabbed up with some bluesy sighs from the guitars, and coming to an end with pizzazz.
As the group's first record, it shows off a lot of strengths, and hardly any weaknesses. Part of that can be chalked up to coming in under a quarter of an hour (angling for a possible 7” release?), but that trimness also means that anyone with an ear for heavy music should be able to squeeze this into their tight schedules and enjoy it. It's also likely to leave listeners eager for more, and (if they're like me) wondering how the group handles their stuff live. For the answer to the last part, readers near Chicago can catch a show on the 4th of November, over at The Drunken Donut in Joliet. See 'em for those who can't, and keep your fingers crossed for more Marmora in the near future.
~ Gabriel


For Fans Of; Fatso Jetson, Funeral Horse, Fuzz Evil, Lords of Beacon House, Mondo Drag




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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Composure Flowing Away...

Odradek Room - A Man of Silt (2017)


Coming to us from Ukraine, the group of Odradek Room have readied their sophomore album, and A Man of Silt shows the band delving into a compelling mixture of prog, doom, post-rock, and sludge, with a variety of ways to blend those styles flowing out of every track. Flexing their musical muscles in a range covering slow and melodic introspection up through snarling, dissonant rage, OR continually shift from one blend to the next without making the changes feel anything but natural. The number of instruments they put to use is just as impressive, and like the styles, they're brought together in such an organic way that their diversity can fly right past the ears. The vocals aren't quite as fluid with their changes, both both clean and dirty singing is put to solid effect, with enough time spent in instrumental passages to help smooth their presence.
It's an impressive and ambitious album, and as a sophomore release, all the more staggering for the range OR are able to pull off with few hitches, with a level of depth that issues a siren's call for listeners to return to it again and again. Give it a go if you've been in want of expansive, experimental, and extremely good metal.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Animi Vultus, Bell Witch, Hesperian Death Horse, Indukti, Mamaleek




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Saturday, October 07, 2017

Gravity And Ether...

Earth Drive - Stellar Drone (2017)


We last heard from Earth Drive around this time of year back in 2015, with their EP Planet Mantra. If you were with us back then, you might remember how much I loved that record, along with their first album, Known by the Ancients (and if you weren't, you can read those reviews right here). Now they're back with a second full album, sounding even better than those excellent earlier efforts, blending their earthy psychedelia with hard metal power, and commanding head-banging reactions again and again.
They vary the balance between psych and metal up quite a bit across the six songs proper (plus a quick little intro track), but there's a strong sense of character and style connecting them all, as the bass thunders loud, the drums snake and smack through gnarly rhythms, the guitar wails and snarls, and the vocals coil deftly through it all. It's one of those albums that can make you think 'I should upgrade my speakers for this,' but fans of heavy psych should be able to enjoy this wherever and whatever their listening situation is, provided the volume can go high enough. Definitely a strong contender for year's best, at least in my book.
And hearing the album, it's hard to believe that the band has such a low-key presence online. The album's getting a CD release by RagingPlanet Records, but as of yet, no word on a vinyl release (even though, at 48 minutes run-time, with the title track opening up the second half, it's practically tailor-made for one). Hopefully some savvy specialty label will get their ears on this and get some LPs pressed, but don't sit on this album until that happens, grab yourself a CD or digital copy and fill your home, vehicle, or wherever with the power of this group. Get it, savor it, and spread the word.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Gripe, Frozen Planet....1969, Mondo Drag, Nelly Olsen, Venus Sleeps



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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Breaking The Burden...

Yanomamo - Neither Man Nor Beast (2017)



It's been a while since we last heard from the Australian crew of Yanomamo, but with their first full album (scheduled for release on CD and vinyl on October 20th), they've returned in fine form, bringing a bevy of heavy riffs to bear in a set of eight sludge-soaked songs. A choice sample from Caligula kicks off the festivities in “Blood Red, Black God”, from which the band unrolls a slow-beating assault with a sly streak of humor. They work the bass low and dirty, the drums hit hard, and the vocals are suitably grimy, with little flab or redundancy to the songs. I did find myself wanting some more feedback nastiness, but I always want more of that in my sludge consumption.
Yanomamo strike a good balance between that mean leanness and thick, tarry grooves, bringing the album in at a respectable (and vinyl-friendly) forty-five minutes or so. There's a clear stylistic continuity between the songs, but there's also a fair amount of experimenting within that stretch, with the use of flanging strings adding some of the most distinctive tones to the proceedings. Hit this up if you've been seeking some gnarly sludge with strong grooves, and rock well once you've got it.
~ Gabriel


For Fans Of; Attalla, Grey Widow, Meth Drinker, O.D.R.A., Open Tomb




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Saturday, September 23, 2017

Churning Out Filth...

O.D.R.A. - V (2017)


The Polish group of O.D.R.A. last crossed our radar back in 2015, with their debut album, Sexnarkoman. The grimy authenticity of their sludge snarling (not to mention their cover art style) put me in mind of early EyeHateGod back then, and two years later (with an appearance on a four-way split LP bridging the two albums) the group still sounds defiant and nasty, starting off their first song (“Motloch”) with a hocked loogie before crashing into grinding bass and ruptured howls.
But there's also some subtle refinement to their feverish aggression on this new album. As they thread together the bone-grinding riffs, there's more direction shaping the songs, even when they hit near-off-the-rails levels of riff-smashing (“Widly”, for instance). At forty minutes across eight songs (nearly a quarter of that given to the closing track, “Tkacze”), the band strikes a good balance between quick action and satisfying substance. Dragging sludge on for too long can kill an album's replay value, or at least reduce it to a few favorite and several skippers, but with the average song on V running four minutes and change, they give themselves room to experiment while still keeping it suitably lean. If you've been hungering for some genuinely nasty sludge lately, give this crew a go, and crank it up loud.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Blind Samson, CEBO, Coffin Torture, Hesperian Death Horse, le bomje




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Saturday, September 16, 2017

Fusion Of Fears...

Ksyatriya & Animi Vultus - Discrimination (2017)


It's been too damn long since we heard from either Ksyatriya or Animi Vultus (three years and change since the former's most recent release, and over five years for the latter), so it comes as not just a delight, but a relief to get word from the groups that this split had been put together and was ready to be shared with the world.
Ksyatriya lead the way on the digital A-side, opening with the ~10-minute “(R).egimented (A).utocratic (C).ontrol (I).n the (S).ubdivision of (M).ankind”, a slabby mountain on which the band puts to work samples of diatribes by Malcolm X over craggy riffs and shuddering, thickly-reverbed tones. “Rise of the Femme Order: Bigot Cleansing” makes up the second section of the duo's record half, retaining the heavy bass presence while introducing the words of Emmeline Pankhurst for the ideological component. Both tracks feature careful development of the instrumental shaping, taking the droning thrum and directing it with nudges and anglings of the pulse, and there's a feel not unlike a sociologically-minded take on Bell Witch's “Beneath the Mask”, though the brothers of Ksyatriya give it much more distinction than that simple description suggests.
Animi Vultus' 'B-side' consists of just one track, the sprawling “Joy of Existence”, which clocks in at just over half an hour. In that space, the band grows their titan from quiet beginnings to deep snarls of doomy resonance, on through interludes of quiet menace, and into some violently energized rampages. There's a lot of discrete sectioning, with moments like their defiant digging deeper and deeper into a vein of sustained riffage that gets spikier and meaner with each pass, or the frenetic drumming so fast it's (almost) certainly programmed, or the nasty rumble that sinks, and sinks, and sinks still more. There's some real power and direction behind the voiceless doom they provide, and it finishes the split off on a decisive drop into the void.
It's been a while since I've heard an album, even a single-artist affair, that managed the kind of focus and completion of purpose that this one achieves. The two groups complement each other damn nicely, leaving listeners to guess at how much communication between them went on behind the music's construction, and the tension stretch of the last few minutes comes at a time when the musical handling should have attentive ears dangling on its string. Expect this one on the year's best releases list.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, Bongripper, Major Kong, Sunken, White Darkness




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Friday, August 25, 2017

Orbits And Outgrowth...

Frozen Planet.... 1969 - From the Centre of a Parallel Universe (2017)


It should be no secret that we're big fans of FP69 here at TBB, as they always bring excellence with their heavy psych rock.  With this latest record, the Australian crew have again brought the magic thunder to bear, funking around on thick jammy grooves and swirling up their guitar tones with savory finesse.  Oozing bass waves and snaky drum patterns keep the songs driving forward, and while the tunes take some rambling routes, they rarely lose the momentum and undulating pulse that the band's chemistry and amped-up weight generate.
At only five tracks (and one of those an intro that lasts about a minute), it does feel like a shorter album than the band's usual fare.  But part of that is down to the smooth flow of the music, as they still hit nearly three-quarters of an hour between the other four tracks.  It's hefty stuff, but also disarmingly frisky, carrying a jazzy feel of improv and interplay between the musicians, and doing a stunning job of sweeping listeners up in that energy.  And with the last track, “Ancient Wings Taking Flight”, FP69 really capitalizes on that captivation, churning up and smoothing out their riffs until you've gotta just float along on the waves.   It's the sound of a band in their prime not settling for the familiar, and the pay-off is fantastic.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, JPT Scare Band, Mondo Drag, Reptensol, Ten Years After




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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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