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


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


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


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


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


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


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.

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


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


Monday, May 08, 2017

Fear & Loathing at Desert Fest 2017 - Part 2

Day 2 


 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”. 

“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.

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”.
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


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. 

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


Friday, April 28, 2017

Heavy, Low End, Swamp...

Witchapter - Spellcaster EP (2017)

Dark, brutal, and (slightly melodic) black metal coming out of Childer Thornton, UK, with this three-song EP you should check out if you’re still mourning the loss Lord Mantis.  Starting with a bit of a groove riff, the first track, “Veiled Aggressor”, brings the thunder.  First kick of the vocals and these guys are really scratching that Lord Mantis itch with heavy low-end and those slightly distorted/reverb’d vocals.  This stuff is awesome.  Super heavy breakdown around the three-minute mark with double-tracked guitar that starts to slow and slow until you can feel the gears grinding to a halt. This is one of my blackest and favorite tracks of the year. 
Second track “Through Smoke and Sulphur” starts clean, almost with a Sabbath or Pentagram type of vibe.  One stomp of the box and the roof is blown off this track, into slow sludge with a slightly '90s vibe to it, the low end on this thing is nuts.  Ending with the final track, “Everywhere I Look I See My Grave”, Witchapter continues the sludge saunter accentuated with a huge crash 1-2 and a Weekend Nachos style de-tune.  Guitars fade and a bass groove begins and the whole thing boils back up again as Witchapter walk off with an awesome three-song EP.  Fans of Thou, look this up.

For Fans OfFALSE, Thou, Lord Mantis, Demonic Death Judge


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Nights In Green Paisley...

The Sonic Dawn - Into the Long Night (2017)

With their second album, the Danish outfit of The Sonic Dawn wades into the older and more popularly-tailored depths of psychedelic rock, as it was in the mid-'60s, with gentle swirls of melody a more prominent part of song-writing than heavy vibes of feedback. As such, there's more than a slight poppy flavor to Into the Long Night, but it's of a form blended with others, so the peppy rhythms and upbeat vocals come out as a tasty groove, not an obnoxious ear-worm.
That lightness of being isn't the only thing TSD have pulled from the '60s, though, as the warmth of production is so on-point it's almost startling. When the vocals get distorted, for example, it sounds passable as something mixed in mono and doubled up into stereo output, with a unity of sonic presence that suggests the band was paying just as much attention to the presentation as to their content. And while a nice wrapping ain't nuthin' without goodies inside, they bring strong substance on that front as well, with the guitar lines and outbursts of drumming charging out full of life, optimism only slightly dimmed by the realities of the age in which we live.
And when the band makes the blues component of their music more overt, as in “Six Seven” (quite possibly my personal favorite), the heaviness and sense of earthy vibrancy really kicks things up, making their sparing use of it all the more effective in its contrast and impact. As the album continues, that side of things becomes more evident in their song-writing and lyrics, with the initial starriness turning a bit more jaded and weighty, the guitar riffs spikier, the electric organ more pronounced. It's an album that holds a full journey within itself, and while the first few songs may put off those looking for something with more punch, those who give the full album a listen should find plenty there (and plenty of variety) to reward their patience. Firm recommendation on this one, those who are fans of psych rock should give this a try and see how genuine feeling for the music will beat affectation any day.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Blue Cheer, Cream, John Mayall, Southwest F.O.B., Ultimate Spinach


Hot Box The Garage

Bandersnatch 原子 (2017)

Eclectic stoner garage jams coming out of Moscow. This is my first run in with Bandersnatch and these three dudes + one girl are pretty wild! Lots of different ideas going on here but it never gets old or stale. Big production (not over produced) and somewhat drastic master changes between songs are pulled off effortlessly. First track “Trigger” fires out of the gate. Everything is separated in an interesting way and allowed to breath, but this track just rips like crazy. Second track “Letters” starts out before diving into it. Throughout the entire record songs effortlessly flow from one song into the next. “Alone II” clocking in at 5:49 is the longest (and spaciest) jam on the record but really shows off the atmospheric sludge skills of Bandersnatch. Outside of that keeping the 2 - 3 minute track times keep everything feeling fresh and never stale. Sounds like something that Kyuss could have kicked out if they would have stuck together, or early Queens Of The Stone Age with more edge. Amplifier Worship / Pink era Boris fans are going to eat this up.

For Fans OfTruckfighters, Sonic Chicken 4, Boris, Kyuss, early Queens Of The Stone Age


Monday, April 17, 2017

Supreme Scottish Space Rockers...

The Cosmic Dead ~ Psych Is Dead (2017)

The Cosmic Dead are one of those few bands that, to my knowledge at least, have never really failed to produce an album or EP thats anything other than great. Maybe thats down to the forgiving nuances of the instrumental post rock genre, or maybe it's just sheer talent. Sure, when you're not saddled with the burden of thinking up vocals, it possibly frees up a bit more focus... but having caught these guys live once before I'd like to think that the Scottish quartet swing more towards the latter.
So anyway, here they bring us Psych Is Dead, their first release of 2017. I say first release, as these chaps seem to be the hardest working bastards out their. If they're not in the studio, they seem to be on tour throughout the deepest darkest depths of Europe. So I doubt this will be all we hear from them over the next eight months... I sure do feel for their loved ones.
But onto the album, and it's deceptively misleading title. Misleading, because if the 30 minute runtime is anything to go by, psych is well and truly alive and kicking... Albeit on a seemingly menacingly sounding trajectory towards some kind of interstellar apocalypse. Like being slowly sucked towards the event horizon of a black hole with a synth and sitar soundtracking your inevitable doom.
From start to finish Psych Is Dead is a relentlessly eerie and haunting sci fi ride. Smattered with moments of melancholy and discordance thrown in to occasionally knock you off guard. What never seems to waiver is the underlying feeling of foreboding. Seriously, if HAL had gone to the trouble of creating a score to play over Dave's demise throughout 2001 A Space Odyssey, then this is exactly what that psychotic little bastard would have come up with.
The album climaxes with #FW, it's third and final track, which after four minutes of lulling you into a false sense of serenic security, suddenly smashes it's way in with all the force of Vladimir Komarov's Soyuz capsule hitting Russian soil (damn I'm proud of all these Space related analogies I'm managing to crowbar in here). The violent and aggressive turn works well to draw the album to an end. The build up of drums coupled with the discordant synth adds the final dose of peril to the whole space rock journey, culminating with an abrupt finish. The finale of which left me in much the same state as Kubrick did at the end of the aforementioned 2001 A Space Odyssey - A resounding feeling of dazed awe, mild confusion and a slight sense of "what the fuck just happened"!?
I bloody loved it.
~ Jay

For Fans Of; Russian Circles, Au Revoir, Ghost Box Orchestra, Caspian, Red Sparowes, 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Knocking Down Pews...

Cursus - Cursus (2017)

This is Cursus' first full-length album, and with it, the duo of guitarist/vocalist CJ Duron and drummer Sarah Roorkfirst introduce themselves to the world at large with a fair amount of style. Opening track “Her Wings Covered the Sky” moves at a slow and deliberate pace, the down-tuned guitar chugging along with the clack of the drums a higher counter-point, and occasional growled vocals punching in spots of change among the steady instrumental growls, establishing a foundational style which sticks around through the rest of the album.
Some sharper riffs are brought in to tweak the formula with “Waters of Wrath”, with the vocal presence expanding alongside those changes, and the heaviness gets more direct in its shaping. Things proceed in similar fashion from there, and while there's some solid riffs built into the proceedings, it feels like the music is missing some vital spark to bring it to the next level. Maybe these songs do better in a live context, with the band able to shape things more to the reactions of the audience, but in the studio-captured form, it feels too ponderous, and oddly sterile. That might be due to the low variety range in dynamics that the band is able to pull together with their chosen set-up, as the timbres and tones tend to stick pretty much in place from song to song, with a few exceptions (their cover of Pink Floyd's “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun”, for example). And the gut-belted growls could stand to be used in more moderation, probably, as the contrast provided by comparatively clean vocals in “Trail of Tears” really makes the latter shine.
Those complaints aside, Cursus do a good job of maintaining consistency in their chosen mood, and the mixing pushes each part of their ensemble out with near-equal spotlighting. Nothing feels too quiet or awkward in the mix, some of the grooves land quite solidly, and when they take things in the slower, more thoughtful directions (mainly in the last two songs), it all gels with real appeal. But debut albums are where bands are supposed to cut their teeth, get a feel for what works in long-form song arrangements, and so on, so with what they show here, there's little reason to believe that Cursus won't deliver with their follow-up, whenever it may come.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Ahna, Aldebaran, Dažd, Grime, Oak


Friday, April 14, 2017

Heavy Noise From Below...

Mutautu - Basement Tapes EP (2017)

Does Finland have a desert?  Some very solid slices of legit OG desert rock here.  I usually get pretty bored with some of the new 'desert rock' stuff coming out, but this is right up my alley.  The production is pretty cool, you can tell they spent some time on the guitars, but vocals and drums sit pretty far back, and might just be a bunch of condenser mics in a room?  Either way, it works, don’t change! 
First track “Outskirts” is riff-heavy, and reminds me a bit of the later Kyuss stuff in terms of maturity.  Second track “TAHMA” adds a bit more sludge to the mix and overlays a handful of keys on top, with some really great back-and-forth guitar work.  Last track “Spaceroller” almost has an Earthless quality to it, but much more concise.  Everything rocks, but each in a different way, pretty cool.  A pretty solid 3-track EP here, some great driving music, and I'm excited to see what they come up for the LP.  

For Fans OfSabbath, Graveyard, Horisont, Kyuss, Rated-R era QOTSA


Saturday, April 08, 2017

Comets In The Atmosphere...

Cloud Catcher - Trails of Kozmic Dust (2017)

Picking up where they left off with 2015's Enlightened Beyond Existence, the Denver-based trio of Cloud Catcher have returned with eight tracks of fuzzy grooving, hard rocking, and gnarly twist-ups. Rumbling in the low end and burning through crescendos, the band shows a strong knack for infusing their jammy bashes with a sense of direction and purpose more in line with the types of bands who do full concept albums than the smoky bar yellers to which their sound seems to owe so much influence. It's heavy rock with some real life to it, not content to just ride along and retrace the pathways blazed in the '70s, but wanting to cover some new territory of their own, and doing a damn fine job of it.
That's not to say that they don't give some fairly big channels to those older pioneers; “Visions”, for example, is basically a faster rendition of “War Pigs”, and the band bears more resemblance to the heavy psych bands of the late '60s/early '70s than they do to most of their 21st-century contemporaries. As the desert-tinged turbulence bumps along, it does a great job of wrapping listeners up in a warm fuzzy tone-blanket, feeling so reassuring in its tangles of rhythms and tasty feedback that it's hard to imagine it coming to an end. When it does, though, the finish comes with style to spare, and it brings the whole journey to an end that just makes you want t start it over again. The work by the band in putting this album together is just great, and it's one of those where imagining the songs played live, with full room to improvise and spin off into wild solos, makes me practically shiver. Fans of heavy rock, heavy psych, and fuzz rock should all do themselves a favor and check this one out ASAP.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Frozen Planet....1969, Mondo Drag, Pollution, Slow Season, Weedpecker