Friday, March 31, 2017

Old School Sludge...

Mephistofeles - WHORE (2017)

Coming out of Parana, Argentina. Mephistofeles is a band you will be able to decide if you love or hate in the first 10 seconds, as they dial in a dirty fuzz sludge that is so perfect you’ll know right away if it’s for you or not.  First track “Black Sunday” rips into it with a big fat crusty riff, with just the right amount of wah thrown in.  The production on this record is so good you find yourself turning it up one little tick at at time until you realize the entire room has been filled, as the track ends with a great little amp squeal.  Next up is the title track, “Whore”, picking up the speed just a bit but not giving up any of that beautiful dialed tone.  Ramping up with the main riff, Mephistofeles really knows how to let a riff grow into the song, letting you take in the tone, production, everything at will, but never going on so long that you get bored and catch on to what’s coming next.  That being said, Mephistofeles song lengths are a bit shorter than the average sludge combo.  This seems to work to their advantage, as I never felt like anything was lost with the 5-minute track lengths.  Think along the lines of Electric Wizard’s “We Hate You.”  It’s hard to pick a stand out track on this record as everything flows along together so nicely, but it’s not necessarily one piece.  At times it drops into Sabbath / Electric Wizard worship territory but it feels distinct enough to last on its own.  More evolution than direct worship.  One of my favorite records of the year so far. 

For Fans OfSabbath, Sleep, Church of Misery, Electric Wizard, Elder


Saturday, March 25, 2017

The Enduring Presence...

Humbaba - A Timeless Mass (2017)

When we last heard from Humbaba, it was with their two-track debut EP back in 2014.  Given how much I enjoyed it, I was thrilled to find out that not only was the band still kicking, but that they had put together this first full-length album (with a redesigned band logo as a bonus).
Singing with clear energy and impact, vocalist Emre Can Serteli fits his musical element smoothly into the tapestry of beats, riffs, and sustained tonal flourishes drawn forth by the other three members, making for some satisfyingly deep tunes to envelop your senses.  There's also a nice wide range of styles put to use, from the general psych doom vibes of the early tracks to the '70s doom and Danzig-ish dark blues crooning in the title track (and elsewhere), or the smoky rumble and haze of “Shame On You Lazy Raymond”.
Each track gets time enough for the band to flesh out its ideas, slip in some tasty groove passages, and do some extra exploration, and it's fun to hear the group testing out their ideas while staying grounded in firm foundations.  The cathedral-like grandeur of final track “Lost and Fine With It” makes for a more-than-solid closer to the album, and on the whole, it does an excellent job of expanding Humbaba's sound while still pleasing those they hooked with that first EP.  Definitely worth checking out for any fans of warm (but not exactly mellow) heavy music; let's hope that it'll be less than three years before Humbaba unleash their next release.

For Fans Of; Druglord, The Munsens, Olde Growth, Raedon Kong, Rhino (Italy)


Friday, March 24, 2017

Power Riffage From Rome...

Chronic Hangover - Nero Inferno Italiano (2016)

Hailing from central Italy and cutting their teeth in most of Rome’s stoner / doom venues, Chronic Hangover bring dusty desert riffs with relative speed.  This is music for stoner rock fans who want their tracks with some get up and go, and sitting somewhere between Mercyful Fate and Monster Magnet, Chronic Hangover have their own sound while building off their influences with clear effort.  Stand out track “Regretudo” has a 42-second build-up (by no means slow) before the track topples over and we hit a nice groove track reminiscent of Truckfighters in their prime.  Even though this is a more introspective track, as opposed to some of the other rippers featured on here, we’re able to see how independent each individual musician is in Chronic Hangover and what they’re bringing to the table.  On-point vocals playing off a fantastic thumping rhythm section with fantastic overdrive-backed guitar solos that come together like butter without overpowering each other.  This is for fans of all those bands in the early-to-mid-'80s that felt they were born too late, yet still wanted to throw their hat in the ring for that specific blend of metal that got them to buy an instrument and start a band in the first place.

For Fans OfMercyful Fate, Ghost, Monster Magnet, Truckfighters


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Priapic Navigation...

Kalamata - Disruption (2017)

It's been longer than I'd hoped since we last heard from the German crew of Kalamata, but their time away has borne excellent fruit in the form of this new album, Disruption. Happily, Kalamata still have the same understated sense of humor glazing the music as with the last album, as the track titles make clear; in progression, those are “MY”, “ERECTION”, “SHOWS”, “ME”, “THE”, and “DIRECTION”. Keeping their old 'desert rock drowning in doom' dynamic alive and well, Kalamata also show a growth (and though I'm hesitant to use such a loaded word, you could also call it 'maturation') in the arrangement and escalation of their songs. Brooding periods of echoing strings, building drum-beats, and tone meditation lead to roaring onslaughts of nasty, gnashing grooves, while elsewhere, slow cruising through uncurling melodies calls to mind the best of the '70s heavy psych bands.
It's not an album for playing in your car (unless you're, say, spending multiple hours on a highway with no change-offs), but something to let yourself sink into and absorb with as few distractions as possible. The ramping up to the finish in “DIRECTION” is done so damn well that I'm already wishing I could hear the album for the first time again, but at the same time, I have the feeling that I'll be noticing new details with each listen for quite a while to come. Heavy music fans of any stripe or inclination, give this a try; unless you just have to have vocals in the mix, I'd say this is an album that truly has something for all of you (though, admittedly, sludge is kind of low in the ratio). Excellent work, Kalamata. And hey, could you guys restock your patches soon, please?
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Elephant, Broughton's Rules, Goya, Merlin, Narcosatanicos


Friday, March 17, 2017

High Desert Psych...

Stratus Nimbus - Stratus Nimbus (2016)

Some great throwback old school '90s vibes here.  Sounds like something that could easily have come out from Twentynine Palms or Seattle / Yakima back in the day and was overlooked until now, with an album cover that appears to be a nod to the Pacific Northwest by featuring the Fremont Troll.  They go heavy on the Misty Grey influence, but not quite to the level of worship.  I couldn’t find a lot of background on these guys, but it appears to be the work of one guy by the name of Tom Davies, using a round table of musicians to knock this stuff out.  This thing has its own sound coupled with a pretty clear vision of where it’s trying to go.  Clocking in around thirty minutes, each track is completely varied from the last, but they're all knocking that '90s sound right out of the park.  Stand-out track “A walk in the dark” starts with a slow waltz of fuzz with heavy SD-1-powered riffage on top of the fantastic rhythm track, flirting with a King Tuff sound if you replaced the bubble gum with a big fat blunt.  Looking at one of the best 'riding around town' records of the year right here.  Check out “galaxy girl” as it doubles down on more of a psych rock sound that we don’t get a lot of anymore.  Fans of the first few years of Man’s Ruin releases are going to eat this up.

For Fans OfMisty Grey, Psychic Dose, Saint Vitus, Static Tension, early Helmet


Thursday, March 16, 2017

Water and Crows...

Tethra - Like Crows for the Earth (2017)

Italian foursome Tethra, following heavy touring and the release of their debut record back in 2013, are back with another foray into the dark.  Where Drown into the Sea of Life focused on water and the passage from life to death as thematic elements, Tethra take things to a more personal level on their new full-length Like Crows for the Earth, exploring loss and solitude through another symbol: the crow, a species that devastates any ecosystem it's introduced to, as a stand-in for humanity.

The most distinctive element of Tethra's sound, by far, is vocalist Clode.  No stranger to growls and death cries, this guy's real talent is his clean singing.  His bassy, syrupy voice sets the band's sound apart and should please any fan of Peter Steele.  Understated interludes haunt this album from the background--many of the songs feature lead-in tracks all their own and simply pick up where those leave off.  Most often leveraging acoustic guitars, but sometimes bringing in outside sounds (the sitars on "Deserted" are a high point), these quiet rest-stops feel melancholic and fragile set amidst the mid-tempo riffs, downtuned chugs, and guitar solos that otherwise dominate the soundscape.  When the bigger sounds crash in, all doom and gloom, they carry with them that establishing mood and give the greater work a moody, depressive slant.  "Subterranean", the stand-out of the album for me, has Clode crooning mournfully as twin guitars weave a matching melody.  It feels good to go big, but it never hurts to set the stage.

Fusing elements of doom and gothic metal with just a hint of progressive, Tethra is heady, dark stuff.  Intense and often soaked with emotion thanks primarily to lead singer Clode Tethra, Like Crows for the Earth will worm its way into your thoughts and stick there.

For Fans Of; Saturnus, Type O Negative, Soliloquium, Summoner's Circle

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Shadows Against a Wall...

Buensucesco ANALOGY: The Sun | Divided Line (2017)

Concept albums are tricky to review.  If I hadn't read Buensucesco's promotional material before listening to their new EP ANALOGY: The Sun | Divided Line, would I have known this compact, quixotic journey of an album is inspired by "Myth of the Cave," an Israeli musical suite itself inspired by Plato's Allegory of the Cave?  Probably not.  Even so, their aspirations to conceptually lofty heights shine through in inventive songwriting, surprising instrumentation, and clever twists.  And with song titles like "On the one hand, the poor put down, surrendered bought all the things were taken, much cohesion, a lot of sweetness"... well, I think we can all agree that Buensucesco is reaching for something well beyond ground-level rock.

The first couple of tracks get right into it with wailing guitars and a big, moody sound.  Evocative and occasionally mysterious, these feel like post-rock songs with something waiting just beneath the surface, like a trap waiting to be sprung.  "The tulip curse came with the arrival of fall" (I warned you about the song titles) is a relaxed, hopeful piece that brings in twinkling piano keys under soaring guitars.  By this point I had taken it for granted that I was listening to instrumental post-rock, when "Wunderkammer" surprised me with death growls and alternating Isis-like clean vocals.  The songs leading up to this point feel like an introduction by comparison, though that's by pure virtue of shock: "Wunderkammer" brings a force barely intimated by its predecessors.  Track 5 snaps the other way as it soothes with soft chords and gentle piano backing, working its way up to string-bending heaviness and pounding beats.  The last song, mercifully titled "Fate forgive us," brings in a saxophone, of all things, eschewing a jazz quality in favor of something sleepy, dream-like, and very much in keeping with the tradition of shoegaze.

It's obvious that the Buensucesco are brimming over with ideas and anxious to put them on display.  From pianos, to saxophones, to synths, to song titles that would stretch the word count of any review, these guys have crammed a lot of ideas into a package that's barely a half hour long.  ANALOGY: The Sun | Divided Line features bold yet compartmentalized experimentation, and I'm looking forward to Buensucesco exploring the ideas they've laid out here and expanding them into something larger.

For Fans Of; Isis, The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, Ashes and Iron

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Buensucesco - Fate forgive us (320 kbps)


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Sticky Smoking Pages...

Pale Grey Lore - Pale Grey Lore (2016)

Though this album was originally released last summer, it's picked up some new attention with Kozmic Artifactz' plan to put out a vinyl release of it via their Oak Island Records imprint.  Given Kozmic Artifactz' reliable track record (no puns intended, I swear), it seemed worth our time to give a listen to these lads from Ohio. For a debut, the self-titled album has a nice, strong, confident stride to its style, from the opening track's brandished chords to the final moments of closer “Grave Future” and the trippy invitations it contains.
The music does a fun job of blending modern stoner doom with joyful '70s heavy rock tonality, with the beats and rhythms further swirling the lines between those two big influences.  Stuff like the southern-fried grooves of “Black Sun Rise” had me in mind of Mountain, for example, while the touch of Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, and Iron Butterfly can be felt in various other places in the album.  And like so many of those albums from yesteryear, the guitarist manages to give his instrument a sense of its own life, at times not so much playing as singing through its strings.
And the rhythms are similarly new but familiar, often managing to get my head swaying along within a few moments of kicking into the song.  While not exactly uplifting, there is a warmth and friendliness to the music that does a lot to help it quickly connect to the right spots for fans of heavy rock, and the details of the music are thick enough that on repeat listenings, you can either let yourself sink into the grooves or pick away at all the little things happening, depending on your mood at the time.  In any event, it's a damn good start for this group, and one which has me hoping to hear more from them in the near future.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid King, Ancient Warlocks, Desert Suns, JPT Scare Band, Wizard Smoke


Friday, March 10, 2017

The Pulse Of Water In Your Lungs...

Demonic Death Judge - Seaweed (2017)

God damn this is heavy!  Extremely fantastic production, on par with Magrudergrind but aimed at groove as opposed to blast.  Speaking of groove, these guys have riffs for days.  Demonic Death Judge, hailing from Kotka, Finland, doles theme out like candy, one KO after the other.  This third full-length from the band is a ripper from the start, with the riffage amplified by vocals filtered through thrash, almost bordering on a crust-ish sound, but with way more atmosphere to it. 
Opening track “Taxbear” rips into it in no time, bouncing back and forth between filthy vocals of pure sludge and a slow groove before mixing both into a toxic tonic, heavy on crash, with fantastic backing guitar eating into the octaves of the effortless glorious power that encases the entire thing.  Stand-out tracks like “Heavy Chase” show us a more sludge-rock-heavy Demonic Death Judge, keeping the mix in the red and vocals maxed, more accessible than the first track, but so heavy with attitude and power it prevents it from heading into something as “poppy” as Kyuss / Torche territory, while expanding on the ideas that those bands are pushing for.  This track also features one of the best and proper break-downs I’ve heard in a looonngg time.  This is a record that sucks you in and bowls you over to the point that every few minutes you just find yourself just saying “Fuck” out loud.

For Fans OfElder, Agoraphobic Nosebleed (sludge records), early Kvlertak, the first four Sabbath LPs


Saturday, March 04, 2017

Ziggurats Of Insanity...

Mountain God - Bread Solstice (2017)

I'm having a hard time shaking the feeling that the name of this album is a tongue-in-cheek homage to the Spinal Tap-like 'metal typos' which used to be a lot more pervasive in the days before everyone had spell-check at the ready (“Clam Caravan” is the one I've specifically got in mind). And while Dread Solstice might have been a more evocative title, Bread Solstice arguably does a better job of capturing the weird, uncommon vibes that this band brings to their debut LP.
With a semi-subtle storyline threaded through the track titles, and launching off from the setting captured in the cover art, the album quickly establishes its brooding psychedelic tones as a melting morass of strange notions, sinister growls (both vocal and instrumental), firmly-built riffs, and the ability to pack enough force into their playing to knock your speakers into standby mode (at least, that's what happened with mine, and as many heavy beats and bass waves as my stereo's put out, that's still a first). You'll want to make sure your set is in good working order, though, so you can soak up the sonic malevolence this crew assembles with such seemingly untroubled skill.
Most of the music goes without vocals, leaving little doubt that they're working from firm foundations, but when the voices do come into play, it's usually as a veritable barbarian howl. And though the music drifts on the edges of abstract, the deep grimy grooves exert enough weighted momentum to pull listeners along in the wake, through the strangest moments and the most direct of head-banging invitations. A damn good album, even stronger when considered as the debut LP it is, and worth checking out for those who want their doom to go beyond '70s homages and heavy riffs. Copies will be available through Artificial Head starting on March 24th, so if you like what you hear, mark your calendar and set some cash aside.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Ksyatriya, Nelly Olsen, Reptensol, Venus Sleeps, Wizard Cult


Friday, March 03, 2017

Fuzz Off! Episode 1

Here's a new feature we're super proud to bring y'all...

Long time friend of the Beard, Wayne Rudell - guitar supremo at Powered Wig Machine and artist extraordinaire has a new venture.

Fuzz Off, will be a regular web series presented alongside brother Joey and Orgo Martinez.
The guys will be providing a sit down commentary on current music events, upcoming festivals, new records, tours and gear. 


Drive Of Your Life...

Rozamov - This Mortal Road (2017)

Boston-based Rozamov are back, following up two EPs with their first full-length, clocking in at forty minutes of epic and extremely well-textured doom. A 'progressive' record, as so many are these days, except this one never gets boring, while exploring a plethora of new and interesting ideas, similar to Elder’s breakout Dead Roots Stirring.
 This release has a much, much heavier side to it, and it's one of the most exciting releases I’ve heard in sludge in a while. Anyone interested in the headier side of metal should check this out. Think earlier Mare Cognitium, with their high-concept stuff, or more recently, Inter Arma’s Paradise Gallows with more groove. The stand-out opening/title track This Mortal Road is a slow trashy sludge feast that trudges along, opening up with filtered vocals before dropping into a filtered riff of desolation. Production is on point the whole way through, but the drums are especially exquisite, sitting just in front of everything and giving the toms a meaty kick. Awesome effect.
 Rozamov really excels in opening the listener up to a riff, letting it fester while adding texture and spacing, and allowing it to grow. The whole thing has a consistent build to it that is expanded further by fantastic vocals. Each piece segues effortlessly into the next, never feeling like a 'concept' record, but maintaining that consistent theme through the entire album. Really great stuff here, finally giving me hope in something for 2017. On tour now, go support 'em!
~ Dan

For Fans Of; YOB, Neurosis, Grief, Elder, Conan


Thursday, March 02, 2017

By Fist and Claw...

Warcrab Scars of Aeons (2016)

Last year brought a lot of surprises, both good and bad, but one that flew under my radar was Warcrab.  This six-piece band out of Plymouth, England, throw together a spiteful, heady blend of sludge, death, and doom in a way that grooves like a wave as it simultaneously crunches and cracks like an earthquake.  Scars of Aeons is their second full-length album and it's a thundering good time.  The production here is much improved over their first album Ashes of Carnage which struggled to contain the band's ambitions, the result being oversaturated and slightly muddy.  This album, in comparison, brings clarity without sacrificing any of the bone-breaking weight of three down-tuned guitars.

"Conquest" opens with a foreboding, atmospheric lead-up that does its job of quickly establishing the mood before mid-tempo drums and mountainous riffs take over.  Churning blast beats pick up the pace as it barrels forward, keeping in time with throaty growls and chugging guitars.  "Destroyer of Worlds" crushes, as its name implies, while "In the Shadow of Grief" slows things down to a more doom-like pace with occasional spurts of rolling energy.  "Bury Me Before I'm Born" chugs and squeals like a classic death metal song.  This is what Warcrab excels at: fooling you into thinking they're one thing while drawing on techniques and tempos of something completely different.  Set 'em up, knock 'em down.

At over 10 minutes long, "Scars of Aeons" is both the title track and the final, tumultuous climax.  The groove here is emotionally resonant in what feels like a mighty pay-off to the rest of the album.  The final moments wind down to a doom-speed crawl as the last chords ring in your ear despondently.

This is a short album, weighing in at a mere 34 minutes over 5 tracks, but it's capital B Big in every other way that matters: tonally, thematically, and musically.  More aggressive than your typical sludge, drawing on the intensity of death and some of the more riff-centric niches of doom, Scars of Aeons has a broad appeal that should please fans of those genres equally.

For Fans Of; Crowbar, Bolt Thrower, Black Tusk, Kingdom of Sorrow

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Warcrab - Scars of Aeons (320 kbps)