Saturday, December 14, 2019

Examining Further Emanations...

Headless Kross - Projections II (2019)

Following up on the 2016 release of Projections I, with a live album sandwiched between, Headless Kross have popped back up to deliver the second installment. As with the first one, they bring four tracks to bear, each of them hovering around the ten-minute mark, and their fusion of heaviness and melodic emphasis (as we encountered on their Volumes album, back in 2015) is still solid as hell.
Signed in Blood” is the first of the tracks, and it bursts into action with harsh yells and a riff that feels like it's looking for a fight. The drums lean into that vibe, punctuating measure round-outs with battering beats, and once the initial volley of aggression has been launched, the song settles into a slower groove while holding onto that opening roughness. The tone and fuzz are quite tasty, with the bass' reverb looming out over the higher-register components, and the almost scratchy timbre of the guitar gives its spidery chords a bit of spine-tingling eeriness.
One Hundred and Forty Four Mirrors” shakes up the flavor with some warbling flange on the bass, a shifty, near-jittery rhythm from the drums, and some striking soloing from the guitar. The vocals still feel like they're being punched out of the singer, but they make it work with the overall oppressive atmosphere, and once they settle into the main groove, they ride it hard to the finish. “Falls the Shadow” leads into the B-side, spotlighting some cool rhythm alternation between guitar and drums before shifting into more of a heavy grind mode. There's some enjoyable progressions, especially in their outro change-ups, and they give off the impression of this being one that can really lead to some fun experimentation in live sets.
Lastly, “The Obstacles Becomes the Path” takes listeners on an exploratory groove dive, feeling something like a structured jam session for much of its run. About halfway through, though, they tighten it up for a ramping up of tempo and intensity, pushing the central riff on until hitting the finishing disintegration. There's plenty of heaviness to let wash over you on this album, and once the riffs get planted in your head, it's a serious challenge to uproot them. So if you've been looking for some anger-soaked doom to round out your year, Headless Kross have got you covered.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Heavydeath, HellLight, Humbaba, Salem's Pot, Wounded Giant


Saturday, December 07, 2019

Blooming In Winter...

Sonic Moon - Usually I Don't Care for Flowers (2019)

Around this time last year, we got our first taste of the music made by the Danish group called Sonic Moon, and with its grungy twist on heavy rock, we definitely dug what we heard. Now they're back with their second EP, packing five tracks of further exploration into their character and ideas.
Leading with “All Things Evergreen”, which cycles through some warm-up noise before throwing its weight behind a big, bossy riff. Vocalist Oliver Lyngkilde slides his way into the song right on the back of that riff, and from there, the song builds up a groove-working punchiness, with some kicking bassy break-downs on the bridges. “Keep Bleeding” picks up from there with a more withdrawn and hurt vibe to Lyngskilde's singing, though the instruments build up from a matching quietness into a roar that pulls him up with it. “Epitaph”, fittingly, returns to the more somber sound for its start, and while the band can't entirely escape their energetic inclinations, it does show their serious side in a good light.
“Vultures Beak” (sic) flows right out of the last notes of “Epitaph”, picking away on the base melody while gradually regaining speed, finishing out on a bit of flange flash. Lastly, the title track comes in to set a slow grind rhythm and riffage, drawing listeners into a head-bob until the end.
The grunge flavoring is still there, in the toothy grit of the guitar tone and the tendency to set riffs, then repeat them at intensified heaviness and dirtiness, but the songs have, overall, taken on more of a doomy flavor than was evidenced on the first EP. “Keep Bleeding” and “Epitaph”, as their names suggest, are probably the best examples of this, but they also demonstrate the band's facility in meshing that heaviness with rock, and coming out with something distinct from standard heavy rock. There's more emotionality, inventiveness, and boundary-pushing to it, and it's a clear confirmation that Sonic Moon have been keeping busy since their first EP's release. There's development, but clear continuity of character, and hearing them grow is a treat. Hopefully it won't be too long before they put out an LP, so we can see them push things even further.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Alice in Chains, Deadeye Dick, For Love Not Lisa, Pale Grey Lore, Seed


Saturday, November 30, 2019

Running Ever Deeper...

Yawning Void - Streams Within (2019)

Following up on a couple of advance singles released last year, the Finnish group of Yawning Void have emerged with their first full album, and while it first popped up on a limited cassette run from Kuolema Records back in January, they've recently received a CD release from Weird Truth Productions, giving them some wider exposure.
The first of the album's five tracks (all of which run over seven minutes) is “Hearts Like Abyss”, which leads listeners into the band's black/death/doom cocktail with an enticing ear-worm of a lead riff. The vocalist (credited as K.T.K.) shows off a good rumbling growl and satisfyingly harsh roars, while the rest of the band brings in some tight support for that hooky riff, quickly digging down to that heavy reward. “Melaina Kholee” follows, broadening out the heaviness from the riff (though it does feature a solid one) to a more rounded song-writing approach. Things are kept slow and sloggy, but it moves with a deceptive swiftness for its length, and wraps its run up with surprising neatness for such a craggy piece.
“Ouroborean” takes central spot, contrasting the harsh vocals (taking overlay in the mix) against some almost gentle melodic highlighting, while the following “Kalmoranta” brings the harshness over to the instruments as well, with some organ-like keys providing the cleaner counter-point to the fuzzy feedback. Wrapping up with “Aequor Benthic Bodies”, Yawning Void push their way through a thick atmosphere of dread and regret, leaving an aftertaste of earnest and committed doom. Not too shabby for a first album, and considering the striking knack of the band for crafting memorable riffs, I can't wait to hear where they grow from here.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Deathbell, Heavydeath, Jupiterian, Major Kong, Shrine of the Serpent


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Digging Out Deceptions...

Mind Reader - Palace of Memory (2019)

It's been a while since we've heard from the MIND READER project (last time was back in 2014, on theirsplit with Ksyatriya), and while the duo has dropped the (((O))) stylization from their name, they've only grown more adventurous with their track titles. But, as this is the band's first solo album, and it's been cooking for so long, why not pull out those stops?
Opening with the ~10-minute “Autonoetic Consciousness - Lost in the Cave of Memories - [ Sub Level ]”, MR show changes from their more drone-inclined past work, leading with thick waves of bass and a few trickles of percussion before a hooky riff rises into action, bringing the drum activity on up with it. As the melody moves forward, it turns to a slower, more somber mood, while keeping the bones of the original riff recognizable. From there, it's a series of twists between the two mood extremes, finding ways to keep the exploration fresh and lively while maintaining heaviness, and it flows right into the next portion, “Confronting the <I>mposter - Transmutation SimBIOSys (Simulated Basic Input Output Systems)”. Here, things take a turn towards more traditional doom, with elephantine chords progressions and shambling beat spacing, somehow making the weighty riffs practically groove.
“Transmissions of Subjugation - The Horn of Ammon <| The Beacon of Ahamkara |> { Battle for the Horn of Ammon } Part-1” takes us into the second half, riding right off of the reverb trailing from the previous track. While it holds on to the bass emphasis, the drums slide up to a more prominent position in the song-writing, tapping into some storming energy around the midway point. That energy gets brought to a head in the final section, “The Illusion of the Mind - Quantum Mechanical Observer - { Battle for the Horn of Ammon } Part-2”, which grinds harder and angrier than any of the previous segments, and crashes its way into a satisfying crescendo before turning to a protracted finale of feedback, with a quick capper of rainfall and slow strings to guide listeners out of the experience.
For a first album (and one five years in the making), it's quite a fun trip, with plenty of thought evident in the paths the songs travel. As it's essentially one long track, you'll want to set aside some time that you're sure won't be interrupted when listening to this, as it does a good job of pulling you into the momentum and flow. Those looking for solid and ambitious doom metal, check in here.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Rooster, Bell Witch, Flight of the Seraphim, Nonsun, White Darkness


Saturday, November 16, 2019

Duality In Three...

Dionysian - Representations of the Id (2019)

Expanding our knowledge of one of the less-covered countries' metal landscape is always a pleasure, and it's that much easier to do when the bands share some link with one you already know. Consequently, when we found out that the bassist of this Malaysian sludge/doom group is none other than Trishay Trada (of Ksyatriya, whose every release we've covered), we were eager to check them out. Boasting four main songs, each around the quarter-hour mark, followed by a cover track to close, this debut album carries itself with intriguing style and confidence before the music even starts.
That confidence (and length) is reflected in the song titles, leading with “As Your Gentle Hands Were Bedding My Lifeless Body in a Dark-Blue Crenmore Seraphim”. After a few moments of rising background noise, light percussion and guitar twangs burst out into full life, meeting thick bass waves with bold drumming, and launching the guttural vocals and intricate guitar-work once the foundation is well set. Much of the remainder is instrumental, focusing on the twists and tangles found in deep-dive riff extrapolations, but the selective application of the vocals brings an extra punch and immediacy to their presence.
“Capitulation to the Word” follows, using a number of the same techniques, but also finding room in its bridges for more intense runs from the drummer, which the guitarist and bassist weave around compellingly. There's also some cleaner vocals introduced, which counter-point the overall increased aggression of the song when compared to the opener. And as with that first track, the band shows a remarkable skill in making these sizable songs run so smoothly that they almost feel shorter than they truly are. With “A Madman's Dream of a New God-Era to Become True”, they switch things up, moving to a jazzy fluidity on the drums while pluckings of an acoustic guitar ring out under the impacts. The heaviness inevitably resurrects, of course, but with that stretch of lighter tunefulness (which does get some return installments throughout the song), its crashing arrival comes that much harder. Amid the switching between those two modes, the song eventually fuses them, holding the intensity while moving faster and freer.
“Where the Statue Meets the Shore” is the last of the core songs, opening its run with a meditative exploration of echoing strings punctuated by the drummer's percussion. As the song continues, it revisits approaches from each of the other songs, combining them in new and intensified ways. Leading through those numerous turns and meldings, it builds to an impassioned climax, marking a fine finish to the band's first set of songs. With the original attributed to Aleksandar Sariesvki, a cover of “Uci Me Majko, Karaj Me” puts a cap on things. While it certainly sounds heavy, checking the digital liner notes shows it to have a humorous side, as it sings of a marriage with an absentee bride. Dionysian perform it with a strong sense of the character they'd established in the preceding songs, and while it serves as a ramp out of those songs' fervor, it also shows the band's capable handling of more compact material. A strong showing throughout, and an admirable first release.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Asilo, DoOoM, Dreamgrave, Odradek Room, Warrior Pope


Saturday, November 09, 2019

Holding Fractures Together...

Matte Black - Psyche (2019)

Almost half a decade after the release of their previous album, Dust of This Planet, the Brooklyn-based Matte Black band is back again, with right around half an hour of new material. Leading off with “Isolation Under Glass”, the band show themselves to be occupying an uncommon intersection of doom, alt rock, post-punk, and fuzzy heavy rock, with a bit o' grunge and desert rock for good measure.
Melodies are compelling, the weight is authentic, and psych-inclined tangents swell up smooth and cool. The retro vibes are unforced, and blended with modern vibes enough to neatly dodge any sense of retreading. It's arguably not even homaging, just the result of picking out flavors that work best for the songs. A light salting of samples throws further variety in the mix, and as brief as the overall album is, it gets great mileage out of the riff explorations and vocal escalations.
If my impressions seem a bit choppy, that's because this is one of those albums where once you put it on, you just want to ride along with it, and not pull away for other activities. All of the influences melt together in creative ways, and gliding along with their shifting currents is mildly hypnotic in its way. From the start all the way on to “Gone”, the final track, the band provides a damn fine experience, wowing while keeping their vibe casual and chilled. Take some time out of your day to check it out for yourself, and once you've found yourself putting it on a few more times, throw some cash to the band for a copy of your own.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Chronobot, Merlin, Pale Grey Lore, Terminal Cheesecake, Wolf Blood


Monday, November 04, 2019

United in Division...

Ksyatriya - The Womb of Ōmeyōcān (2019)

It's been a couple of years since we last heard from Ksyatriya (last time was their split with Animi Vultus), but they've made their return with a full album, hitting nearly an hour of instrumental doom. It's their first album since 2015's The Arduous Search for Freedom, and while the changes they adopted since then are intriguing, the continuity of their style is undeniable.
Leading with an atmospheric intro, expressively titled “And Thought was Born...and Duality Ensued...And the Universe was Lost”, Ksyatriya give a thorough crash course on their bass and drum-driven style, benefiting new listeners while ramping up into the album's body. Mood and tone are accentuated, with nuanced development of the central melody leading ears through the movements.
After that nine-minute opener is concluded, “The Flame That Illuminates our Hearts Burns for Eternity” picks up, bringing quick-moving guitar into the fold. The tendencies shown in the lead track are expanded, with the central riff put through its paces as the rhythms slowly shift around it. “To the Gates of Ōmeyōcān (Prelude I)” makes for a five-minute interlude after that, warming things up with an acoustic exploration solo before “Hypocrisy of 2” takes over.  That song, at about thirteen minutes run, finds the band working around alternation of styles in it. It begins by moving back into the realm of the electric for its first portion, before a moment of silence leads back into the acoustic melancholy; another momentary break, and the electric rises to merge with that acoustic line, wrapping the two together before taking dominance again.
“At the Gates of Ōmeyōcān (Prelude II)” follows, the shortest track of the album at just under two minutes, before the seventeen-minute “Peta Babkama Luruba Anaku (Open the Gate for Me So I Can Enter Here)” arrives to close things out. Intensified bass and bass drums lend this the heaviest vibes, and as with “Hypocrisy of 2”, there's some internal segmentation, culminating in a keening crescendo and coda.
While the album is largely absent of the vocal samples which have marked the band's previous releases, it's still quite distinctly one of their works, with thoughtful song-writing guiding the heaviness to measured purposes. Even with vocals at a minimum, there's plenty of character coming through in the songs, and the tiny little pauses they take before sweeping into a new mode help settle each one in memory. It's a pleasure to know that they're still exploring new ways of expressing their ideas, and to hear a different side of those reflections.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Ancient Lights, Bell Witch, Earthshine, Flight of the Seraphim, Ufomammut


Saturday, September 07, 2019

Tangles Of Beauty...

Esogenesi - Esogenesi (2019)

Releasing their debut album through the always-reliable Transcending Obscurity Records, the Italian group of Esogenesi pack a good forty minutes into the five songs of their self-titled LP, with their chosen combo of death metal and doom staggeringly well-blended this early in their career. “Abominio” is the first of the five, and with a sturdy central riff, the band is free to spin off into a number of elaborations and tangents without losing the core impetus. Some powerful break-downs and fiery bridges lend the song further flavorful variety, While the guitar and bass provide beautiful textures and dark atmosphere, the drummer may be the one who gets to shine the most in this opener.
From there, “Decadimento Astrale” picks up, with a harder riding beat leading the way to brooding but powerful progressions, with the development of a secondary riff providing the majority of the song's intensity. “...Oltregenesi...” follows, serving as a comparatively brief interlude at just under four minutes, with the guitarist brandishing his solo chops in a meditative instrumental piece with light backing from the other players. It's one of the album's most luminous moments, and transitions into the darker vibes of “Esilio Nell'Extramondo” extremely well. Rising from a slow, dirge-like groove into harsher and more strident form, the almost ten-minute run of this track is put to good use, with plenty of involved exploration taking the foundational riffs to new heights.
Lastly, “Incarnazione Della Conoscenza”, another ~10-minute piece, shows the band balancing the intensities of their two metal styles against each other, with a shift from slow passion to fast power shaping the song. It makes for a strong finish to the album, and all around, they demonstrate very impressive creativity and restraint for a band on their first release. Fans of this fusion, and of doom metal with some extra punch, do yourself a favor and check this crew out.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dreamgrave, Heavydeath, HellLight, Illimitable Dolor, Murk Rider


Saturday, August 31, 2019

Light Leaks Through...

Howling Giant - The Space Between Worlds (2019)

Following a string of EPs and a single for their cover of BOC's “Godzilla”, the Nashville-based group of Howling Giant are releasing their first full album, and taking their spacy stoner van art vibes to the next level by making it a concept album. Built around the idea of dreams creating alternate realities, the songs of The Space Between Worlds take form with a bit more lightness to their tone and attitude than the cover art and title might imply, but the abundance of riffage and
Moving faster than the stoner metal style usually does, opening track “Comet Rider” gets things off to a groove-packed start, with rushing bridges and barrages of drumming creating an atmosphere of '70s hard rock blurred into '90s desert rock, feeling something like a time-warped Kyuss at the end of the blend. “Nomad” carries on from there in similar fashion, setting up a comfortable run, before “Ghosts in the Well” shifts to a more stripped-down, acoustic bit of sober regret, accented with piano to really highlight the band's flexibility.
The River Guide” switches the clutch back into heaviness, with a throbbing main bass riff that carries the listener right into another soft breakdown, this time with a bit of glimmering synth to give things that ethereal touch. Riding that slow mood through a few measures before slipping the drums back into to resolidify, the heavier tendencies get to really take hold again in the follow-up, “Ice Castle”, which might be my favorite tune on the album, due to its blending of all the album's elements while balancing them out to a satisfying and memorable chunk of earworming. It's a little unfortunate that it gets buried in the album's mid-section, but hopefully it'll come out as a strong enough hook to linger in most listeners' memories.
Boasting the oddest title of the songs, “Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express” swings to a lighter tone while maintaining the hookiness, and with the line “It's better to explode than fade away,” the ensuing bit of soloing seems a little underwhelming, though the drum flourish for the finish salves that to a degree. As “Everlight” stretches out to nearly eight minutes, the band shows their more leisurely side, along with some proggish focus on overt meter antics. It's fluid and fun enough to make the length a non-issue, but at the same time, it doesn't feel like the length is really being put to any use other than distinguishing it on that length alone. Penultimate track “The Orb” does a better job of that, with numerous change-ups in rhythm and pacing, as well as a shot of bass reinforcement in its latter half, and at just a minute shorter than the preceding song, it shows how much sharper the band can be when they put their minds to it.
Finally, “Stone Giant” delivers a tasty closer, with some high-action guitar-work and malleable song-shaping resulting in a pleasing finish to the dream-based tale. Those who go into the album after seeing the “stoner metal spacelords” moniker found in the press release may be taken aback by the lightness of it, but there's fun and grooves to be had, so give it a go if you're looking for a way to extend the summer warmth.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Molly Hatchet, Night Horse, Sheavy, Shepherd (India), Van Halen


Saturday, August 10, 2019

Three Suns Rising...

Acid Rooster - Acid Rooster (2019)

Coming to us from Leipzig in Germany, while the three-piece of Acid Rooster are releasing their first LP this year, they've been playing together for a couple of decades or so, and have been friends since even before that. Such familiarity seems almost essential to the nature of their songs, which on this release are partially pre-written and part improvisational. As you might guess just from that description and their locale, there's a lot of psychedelic and krautrock flavors swirling about in the music of Acid Rooster,
Leading with the evocatively titled “Oculatus Abyss”, which, like all of the songs on the LP, is instrumental, AR immediately lay down a hooky bass and drums groove before quickly adding in some twisting guitar gnarls. Letting that groove foundation ride for a while to set the stage, they then take off in a variety of exploratory interpolations, bringing in pedal effects and switching them out as strikes their fancy. Despite running over five minutes, it feels much quicker than that as soon as they drop into silence with its end, which makes the eleven-minute-plus status of follow-up “Moon Loop” seem less intimidating. Taking a slow, almost drone-like start, the song audibly charges itself up as it rides along, and as sprawling as it gets, the band does an excellent job of keeping a grounding rhythmic pull going underneath the starry-minded expansiveness. It gets almost hypnotic at points, just working its magic to impressive effect, and just like the opening track, the way it draws you in makes it hard to believe that it runs as long as it does.
With “Sulfur”, the following track, things pick up into a harder groove, with some truly tasty guitar soloing laced throughout its cosmic rock-out. This is probably the track most likely to get your head knocking back and forth, and the pop-up saxophone wailing helps that impulse right along. Things cool back down with “Time Lapse”, which roams a lush soundscape of warm vibes and quavering string reverb. It's a very friendly atmosphere, particularly coming off of the somewhat spiky “Sulfur”, and as the opener of the B-side, it makes for a great transition, with some surprising poignancy tucked into its sustained measures.
“Focus” continues the chillness, just cruising along on echoing guitar lines and firm but laid-back drum pacing, but finds some extra fuel about halfway through, and starts setting off towards the sky. Guitar, bass, drums, and synths all find extra speed and sparkle, twisting into a dazzling fireworks display before coming back down to Earth. “Äther” closes out the album, with a nice bit of reflectiveness in its run-time being just a few seconds off from the first track. Unlike “Oculatus Abyss”, it takes a dark tone to its psychedelic grooving, and while it's a bit of a sharp shift from the mood of the rest of the LP, it's also a strong showing of how well the band can handle heavier and angrier flavors while maintaining their high-octane performances and sense of character. All in all, it's a fantastic album, and a thoroughly impressive first LP. If you dig on psychedelic rock, do not let this one slip past you unheard. And if you check that box and also like to get your music on vinyl, move fast, as I expect the three hundred copies pressed on that format to move fast. Here's to Acid Rooster!
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Camel, Frozen Planet....1969, Hawkwind, Mondo Drag, Zombie Picnic


Sunday, August 04, 2019

Bones For The Altar...

Buzzard Cult - Buzzard Cult (2019)

Coming to us from the Atlanta region of Georgia, the trio of Buzzard Cult play a mixture of grungy heavy rock and crusty downtempo punk, turning out a fusion that's lively, easy to groove to, and clearly averse to poppy over-polishing. Leading with the EP's advance single, “No Turning Back”, the band shows guitar crunch meshed with bass-line toothiness, and drumming that fills in and embellishes on the rest of the rhythms. Feeling something like a Dirt-era Alice in Chains B-side, “Ill Scheming” follows, alternating between brooding musings and outburst lashings of the titular chorus. The enjoyable cragginess of the instruments rising together each time they hit that chorus should put a grin on your face and a nod in your neck, and BC ride that momentum into the more uptempo reproach of “You're to Blame”, taking aim at the guilty at large and brandishing a crashing upswell for its climax.
The second half of the EP initially slips back into lower speeds, but as “Lucid Dreams” continues, it finds its angry footing again. Slowly cooking until it boils over, this track just might be my personal favorite from the six showcased on this EP, and I imagine that its back-and-forth energy takes on some real power in live performances. “Night is Dark” slips back into a more relaxed bass groove, but keeps the tension evident in the bite of the guitar and coiled bursts from the drummer. A pedal-treated guitar solo lends things some extra juice, pushing the intensity of the song's ending up even as they slow the tempo down.
Final track “Lazy Mind” brings things to a solid head, working stern riffs and accusatory lyrics while gradually ramping up the tightness, and with its bass hooks digging in, it's hard not to wind up with this one stuck in your head. All together, it makes for a fun demonstration of the band's style and capabilities, and delivers some quality music in a style you don't come across too often. The band will also be playing some live shows in September, so if you're in the general Georgia area, check them out!
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Alice in Chains, Halo of Flies, JPT Scare Band, Nations on Fire, Night Birds, Stinkerbell


Saturday, July 27, 2019

Comforting Alien Skies...

Velvet Trip - Velvet Trip & The Six Moon Skies (2019)

Hailing from Sydney, Australia, the four-piece group of Velvet Trip are debuting with this EP, following a tease in the form of the “Take Control of Your Mind” advance single. Leading with the lengthily-titled “All My Life I Was 12ft Tall & Told My Tales Just the Same”, the group's psychedelic blues rock gets unfurled in flavorful form, with the earthy guitar tones and chill but energized drumming joining the solid bass and muted keyboards to form a deep soak of warm vibes. The singer leans towards Jimi Hendrix's friendly roughness in his inflection, but keeps it at a level of acknowledgment, rather than imitation, while the keyboardist gets to brandish a bit of Ray Manzarek riffage in the breakdown.
After a resurgence of energy for the finish, the intro track gives way to a more grounded groove as “Voodoo Cosmic Girl” picks up. Swinging between relatively locked-down rocking for the vocal sections and cutting loose in the interstitial instrumentals, it's clear that the band are having a lot of fun with the tune. Add to that the detail that each of the tracks are live one-run takes, and things get even more impressive, with the fine hooking of the players throwing lead lines to each other, catching them and expanding in fantastic style. The shift to “Take Control of Your Mind” comes so smoothly that you may not even catch the change-over without your eyes on the player, but it shifts into an even tighter riff swirl, with the echo effects in the later part of the song accentuating its hypnotic qualities.
In the EP's second half, “Hurricane” offers a quick (two minutes and change) keyboard-driven groover that emulates its name-sake by gradually intensifying, with spots of relative calm making the wilder parts strike that much harder. At seven minutes plus, “The Six Moon Skies” takes place as the EP's longest song, and the rambling riff explorations get their fullest indulgence here, as you might expect. It also shows some of the tenderest emotional pieces from the group, with some stripped-down bridges playing up the melodic emphasis to beautiful effect. The ride out of it and into the closing track offers some truly lush work to savor, and should recapture the attention of anyone playing it as background material.
Lastly, “The Man from the Blue Sun” starts off with a slow burn cruise, the drums picking up momentum and power, and eventually pushing things to where a guitar solo can lay in its piece, and guide the way to the high-flourish finale. It puts a nice cap on an all-around impressive set, with the debut and live-take qualities making things even more dazzling. Fans of psych rock, do yourself a favor and be sure to keep an ear on this band after you listen to the EP for yourself.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Elephant, Farflung, Frank Sabbath, Frozen Planet....1969, Third Ear Experience


Saturday, July 20, 2019

Looking For Fights...

Swamp Coffin - Flatcap Bastard Features (2019)

Coming to us from the Rotherham region of England, this is the debut EP from the three-piece of Swamp Coffin, set for release on August 23rd. Featuring four songs of increasing length, the band leads with “Blood in the Water”, a pull from their debut single Hey Ho, Stolen Logo, released at the start of last year. The six-minute song opens with a yowl of sustained feedback, bass gradually asserting itself until the guitar lands and sets the main groove. The drumming is generally spacy, but impactful, and the low-pitched growls of the vocals do a lot to build the sludge feel in the presence of the mostly clean-toned guitar. A chuggy breakdown pulls things into swampier territory, and SC maintain that trajectory through to the song's stripped-down end.
With follow-up “Annihulus”, some death metal flavor bleeds in, and the activity of the drumming gets a shot in the arm, throwing in some tasty fills wherever they can fit. The guitar and vocals feel more closely aligned here as well, and the instrumental stretches build some great moodiness out of the stark arrangements. The central riff gets some nice treatment, building in intensity until the last crash, whereupon “Black Shirt, Blacker Sabbath” takes over with a suitably stony groove. The dirty vocals and clean guitar push further apart here, but not enough to really throw things askew, and towards the end of the song's nine-minute run, there's some quite fun soloing action to savor, along with some cool crunch punctuation.
The eleven-minute-plus “Last of the Summer Slime” rounds out the EP, with its slow-burning sludge slog pulling in features from the preceding tracks. The chuggy breaks are there, along with lengthy instrumental measures, the death metal latherings, and craggily catchy bass-lines. There's some particularly effective resonance effects on the vocals at times, which lends things a subterranean feel, as does the gradual sinking of tempo and pitch towards the song's end. All together, it makes for a strong opening salvo from the band, and one which should turn some ears their way. Look for it to drop next month, and be sure to give it a listen once it does.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Attalla, Black Box Warning, NIXA, Quallus, Tombtoker


Saturday, July 13, 2019

Still Feel Heaviness...

King of None - Weightless Waters (2019)

Popping up with their third EP since debuting in 2015 with their self-titled one, the Finnish group King of None make their run this time with six tracks of psych-washed hard rock. Kicking off with “Words of Mine”, they brandish a solid noodly guitar groove that slips right into rougher tones, and while the yelling is kind of quiet in the mix, it still comes off as some of the rowdiest material in the line-up, and makes for a very enticing lead into the rest of the music.
“Worlds Collide” turns up the psychedelic influence as a contrast, but brings the hard rock right back up in force as soon as a bridge leads to that territory, and it stays in that flavor for most of its go. With a very solid stretch of shredding, the band gets blood pumping hard in the lead-up to the next track, the intriguingly-titled “Frog Palace”. Here, things slow back down for a heavy cruiser that makes for a fun midpoint to the EP (though where the frogs come in is still a mystery to me).
With the slow-grooving “Desolator”, the band provides a strong demonstration of their skill at weaving appreciable heaviness into hooky melodies, and their willingness to explore tangents when the path of the song becomes more interesting than just rolling along with the grooves. It shows a band that knows the appeal of bassy fuzz, but also wants to savor more nuanced song-writing. “Starbirling” follows after that, and as the band dives more fully into the retro hard rock vibes, there's a sense of them loosening up even more, making the riffs feel even more animated and energized. That easy-going cool sticks around pretty reliably from there, with final tune “Yellow Snake King” bringing in some more desert rock flavor, as the name somewhat suggests. At just over seven minutes, it's also the longest track on the EP, and the band makes use of that expanded space to really chew on the riffs, stretching them out into delightfully free-rolling head-banging inducements. Plenty to enjoy here, so check it out if you've been craving some heavy rock with substance to it.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Farflung, Fatso Jetson, Frozen Planet.... 1969, Fuzz Evil, Stone Machine Electric


Saturday, July 06, 2019

Observing Final Rites...

Wizard Cult - Secunda & Masser (2019)

About four years ago, I had the pleasure of encountering the first album from Wizard Cult. It was heavy, it used psychedelic touches in interesting ways, and it had one of the most distinctive physical releases I've encountered (all the cassette copies were hand-collaged, with mine ending up wrapped in carefully-picked and pasted scraps of comic strips). For something just under half an hour in material, it made a deep impact, thanks in no small part to the sense of how much the band-members cared about bringing their music to life in more than just the usual ways.
This year, Wizard Cult are putting out their second release, which unfortunately looks to be their last, going by the digital liner notes (“From deep within the lost libraries of Arkngthand this album emerges, documenting the last efforts of a long lost cult of sorcerous power.”) So it was with a mix of anticipation and trepidation that I threw it on to hear; while the download copy has the album in unbroken A-side/B-side runs as an option, I'm going with the split version for ease of identifying specific sections.
Leading with the eleven-minute “The Cave”, the garage-like quality of the collected recordings is immediately evident, with a buzzy fuzz swaddling everything from the opening sample on through to the shaking bass and craggy crashes on the drum-kit. Cutting through most of the roughness, though, is the power of the grooves into which the band taps, with the blown-out vibes kind of suiting the intensity with which they play. As “The Cave” winds down from its trip, with screams and some cymbal flourish, it flows right on into half of the album's title, “Secunda”. Here, the bass throws down even harder, and with all the pieces established, it really starts to gel. The sludgy yells, the almost funeral doom-paced percussion, the deeply heavy psych growls of the guitar, and the overpowering bass rumble grind and slam together, and while it does feel kind of like you're sitting in on a rehearsal session, there's enough raw vitality vibrating through it all to make that a pleasing experience.
“Goat Demoness” drops into action with another cinema-sourced sample, and it's off into more dizzily-cranked heaviness, this time picking up the pace into a bleary-eyed late-night-highway burner. The hits come hard and strong, the menace is palpable, and it finishes off with the ringing of a cowbell. So, pretty great, obviously.
After a short lull, the fuzz returns with still another obscured sample to kick “The Fourth Pact” into action, bringing with it a slightly cleaner tone (at least to start), but even more anger to even that out. The plaintive screech of the strained guitar strings, along with the punch of the focused bass-line and plenty of squealing signal interference brings this one the furthest into sludge territory, and is sure to raise your heart-rate (or at least your blood pressure). With the finisher, “Masser”, Wizard Cult slide between the two tracks on a sled of disintegrating amp feedback, savoring it and letting exploration of the abstract run-off make up the majority of the song.
As an exit album, it's one which certainly plays on its own terms. It also presents the band, warts and all, high on the spirit of making their music their way, something which feels all too rare these days, and especially in the often over-produced realm of doom. Whether you picked up Wizard Cult's first album back in the day, or this is your first time hearing of them, I strongly recommend you spend your time to listen to this one (and then go back and check out the other one, either way, of course). Sad as I am to learn that this band has no plans to make further music, I'm also quite glad that they're going out on such an honest and powerful note.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bomg, Cult of Occult, Dead Existence, Hypnochron, Primitive Man


Saturday, June 29, 2019

Alone And Drifting...

Low Flying Hawks - Anxious Ghosts (2019)

Following up on their two existing albums after a year away, the duo of Low Flying Hawks deliver five songs on this EP, leading with the grimy and down-cast blues of “Night Flight”. Taking about two minutes to paint a picture with acoustic strings, somber voices, and incidental noises, the band makes a turn into similar but distinct territory with the follow-up track “Somewhere (Part 1)”. Branching out into more of a desert rock vibe, the pair take their time to thoroughly establish the atmosphere and a backing beat before bringing in any words. Despite the low-key nature, there's a palpable feel of rising tension, from the abrupt twangs of the guitar to background tones and increasing weight on the drum-hits.
It's essentially a five-minute preamble, leading directly into “Somewhere (Part 2)”, which rides the elevated intensity right into a crash of bass and firmly fuzzy stoner rock grooving. Building, reinforcing, and diving into the main riff makes up most of this song's nearly eight-minute run, and I expect it'll be the high point for a lot of listeners. Having set that benchmark on the EP, though, the band goes even harder with the next tune, “Hollow Grasp”, bringing a harsher edge to the guitar work and vocals while maintaining the bleary fuzz miasma. Some slick echo effects applied to the singing make things even more disorienting, as does the tail-end switch back to the gentleness of the EP's opener. That change-up flows pretty smoothly into the last of the songs, “Doors to Nowhere”, which builds from an early stoner/desert rock groover into a heated and rambunctious blazerr, before easing itself out onto a cloud of static.
As much fun as the individual songs are, it's maybe even more enjoyable for the way the band maps out the rise and drop of energy over the EP. In any event, it's a cool experience with lots of little details to savor, and vinyl copies are going fast. Take half an hour to check it out, and see how it grabs you.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Attalla, Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Kyuss, Powered Wig Machine, Stone Machine Electric


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Cozy Stellar Digs...

Frozen Planet....1969 - Meltdown on the Horizon (2019)

Coming less than half a year after the 'bonus track' EP of The Mystery Wheel, FP69's latest album shows the Australian three-piece rolling right along in high spirits and strong form. Popping off from the start with a 22-minute heavy psych monster jam (“Rollback”), the band cruises through mazes of reverb and mile-deep grooves, guided by clear-toned guitar noodling and propelled by Frank Attard's excellent work on the drums. Things are kept trippy and fun, the riffs are so thick you can practically sink your teeth into them, and the energy makes the third of an hour just fly by before you know it.
Slipping neatly into “Bellhop Shindig”, FP69 let loose with more intensity and distortion in their rocking. While the improvisational qualities are still evident, throttling back to about a third of the opening song's length leads to a more focused ride, with the circling around the main riff creating an almost centrifugal compulsion. Flowing from there to the more laid-back, bluesy “Dandy Chai”, the album builds a sense of moving from near-chaos into more orderly arrangement, all while teasing a potential return to the rambunctious.
And with closing track “Sunset Variations”, which runs a quarter-hour by itself, that nuttiness does indeed rear its head back up. Keeping up the mellow vibes of “Dandy Chai” for the initial segment, more and more psych wildness seeps in as the song progresses. A midway fade-out doubles as a fake-out before the band rides back in on a tear of guitar, and grooves their hearts out until the eventual end. For fans of FP69, it's a sweet treat, delivering almost an hour of in-the-zone action. Those new to the group may want to start with something offering more easily digestible serving sizes, though, at least until they get a sense of how the stuff goes down. Either way, it's another chunk of excellent work from this always-reliable crew, so if you want a physical copy, you'll need to act now.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Fatso Jetson, Mondo Drag, Mother Engine, Pangalactic, Terminal Cheesecake


Saturday, June 15, 2019

Nocturnal Monstrous Howls...

Wolf Blood - II (2019)

It was five years ago that Wolf Blood let loose their self-titled debut album, and with pressing after pressing selling their full runs (including the vinyl from Roadburn Fest-hosting Burning World Records), it seemed like the band's momentum was picking up just like one of their riff-digging tunes. As they focused on live shows and a variety of rare merch (count yourself damn lucky if you've got one of the lightning bolts and Petrian cross shirts in your collection), it was up to the six songs of the S/T to keep the torch burning for those outside of WB's tour radius. Thankfully, the wide range of flavors and styles packed into the album made that a working solution.
Now the four-piece is back, having replaced their bassist with one who also does guitar and vocals, and offering up another six tracks of heavy, grimy metal. Opening up the new album with “Lesion”, the band lays down an icebreaker of a hard beat before swinging in the vocals, riding back to the beat, and then drifting off into looser riff exploration. The composition quickly establishes that a lot of the musical character from the first album is still present in force, and that the new bassist slots right in to the action. “Slaughterhouse” continues the fun by further blurring out the style boundaries, bringing together stoner rock, hard metal, and a bit of psych, while letting the focus center on the energy and flow. With the last track of the A-side, “Kumate”, they roll up another twisting ride, with drummer Jakob getting some spotlighting as he trades bashing flourishes with the guitars' snarls. The largely instrumental nature of the song makes for a cool way of recentering listeners, while the deeper psych journey of the song's latter half does solid work in drawing them back into the bumping groove.
Side B's “Opium” picks right up from there with still another hooky spine of a riff, alternating between tranced-out intonations and threatening growls on the vocal side. Moving quick (at two minutes and change) and hitting hard, it soon gives way to the more meditative “Story of a Drowning Man”, which brings probably the slowest drawls from the bass and guitars to be found on the album, while Jakob matches it with measured pace. Here is also where some of the most exposed emotional power comes through, with considerably less bluster and fury obscuring the singing, which moves to a reflective quietness. Things build in intensity, as you might expect, and as the main riffs strengthen their chording and volume, it's only a matter of time before the anger resurfaces, which it does in high style.
“Tsunami”, which you might have heard on last year's single to build hype for WB's return (along with non-album track “Home”), closes out the album with a tour through the assorted elements and inclinations preceding. Big, compelling riffs, contrasted with high-focus brooding and vocal alternation, do the title justice with the surge and ebbs they bring, while the finish is downright devastating.
An album to soak up the nuances of over numerous listening sessions, II shows that there's still plenty of fire in Wolf Blood's veins, and complements the debut with a number of intriguing adjustments to the baseline sound. Though there's not really any immediate howl along choruses like “Dancing on your grave!”, the confidence and skill of the band comes through with no obscuring. Vinyl's limited to 250 copies, tapes to 100, so if you want a physical instance of the album, you'd better act fast. More tour dates are already lined up, so hit those if you can, and keep ready for more to come from this crew.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Blood Farmers, Merlin, Mountain God, Shadowmaster, Stonerror


Saturday, June 08, 2019

Tying Green Knots

Wykan - Brigid: Of the Night (2019)

About a year ago, we had our first encounter with the Canadian group of Wykan, through their debut EP, Solace. Though the band has since replaced their drummer and bassist (now operating with Dug Kawliss and Corey Thomas in those respective positions), their take on blackened doom with a slight twist of psych rock has been maintained and refined. Holding off on the harsher elements until the engagingly sparse melody which opens the first track (“Imbolc (The Cleansing)”) has pulled listeners thoroughly into its groove, the band shows a deeper care for how the energy of the songs works to the EP's structuring, and it's just one of the aspects which demonstrates not just polish, but fundamental improvement.
When the gurgling vocals from Barrie Butler kick in, they're underscored by a gnarly but clean-toned guitar presence, a dynamic held for most of the EP, serving up both contrast and some interestingly frictional harmonies. Established melodies are revisited with increased intensity, and in the space of just one (seven-minute) song, Wykan show how much work they've put into their song-writing in the intervening year. A smooth flow into song two, “Breo Saighead (Triple Goddess)”, marks yet another fine touch, with the rise in venomous attitude feeling like a natural progression, and the shifts in riffs are done without sacrificing any of the momentum.
Last of the Celtic-themed tunes is “Reul-Luil Bride (Star of Brigid)”, with guest drummer Simon McKay of The Agonist getting some spotlighting as he slides his compelling percussion work all about the drum-kit. Some more sweet riffing guides listeners out into the sounds of a forest fire, and then things are over. Production, performance, and composition are all done superbly throughout the EP, and the songs are captivating without feeling overwrought. Well worth checking out, this'll be available through Wykan's BandCamp on a pay-what-you-want basis, so there's no excuse for not giving it a twenty-minute test run.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Centipede, The Sleer, Trees, Trinacria, War Iron


Saturday, May 25, 2019

Opposition Is Education...

The Progerians - Crush the Wise Men Who Refuse to Submit (2019)

The last time we covered the four-piece group of The Progerians was back in 2013 (geez, time flies), on their split with fellow Belgians OMSQ. Two years after that, they released their first full album, and now, they've returned with their sophomore LP, bearing four vinyl sides' worth of music.
Leading with the curiously-titled “Frankie Leads to Death” (on his way to Hollywood?), the album promptly establishes an evocative atmosphere with thick, rolling bass waves, shifting slowly from one tone pitch to another as a building intrusion of guitar grind hints at the violence in store. Dramatic vocals and synth squealing arrive to further disrupt the drone, before the plowing in of a steady beat shared by drums, guitar, and bass overturns things almost entirely, and the mood shifts to one of stern doom metal. The main riff swings wide and heavy, and the repetitions are given tasty changing inflections of character each go-round, working well to pull listeners in to the flow and make them eager to hear what else will come.
And, with “Destitute”, the album's second track, that hooky momentum picks up into faster, almost thrashy action, chugging out the riffs while the drummer fire off his beats. Hell, there's even some shredding unleashed towards the end, which, when put up against the tone of “Frankie”, serves as a pretty clear indicator to first-time listeners that the band will keep things moving into different territories throughout the album. “Hold Your Cross” shifts the tempo back down, but pulls another surprise with the vocals by flipping over to frenetic French retorts, a structure eventually mimicked by the instruments, and “Oceania” draws in more electronic textures for a creeping sense of wrongness.
With the first song of the second disk, “Crush the Wise Men”, The Progerians provide what could be argued as the most traditionally-styled of the album's songs, though it still brandishes plenty of uncommon edge. While the computer allusions of “Hello World”'s title don't manifest in further electronic nuttiness, there is plenty of guitar torture, and a splash of rawness evocative of sludge or crust punk, so you certainly can't fault them for predictability. Side C's last song, “Graven”, moves back to the sober-faced strain of doom teased by “Frankie”, deploying yet another sturdy riff through twists of percussion and vocal cadences.
On the last side, “Netjeret” brings more of the sludge/punk energy to the fore, which translates nicely into the worn-out come-down of album finisher “Your Manifest”. Across the album's run, the band does a fantastic job of pulling together the disparate styles and moods with a connective thread of persistent energy and attitude. There's ample depth to each song, plenty of details to absorb on revisits of the album, and impressive balance between the band-members. From start to finish, it's an engaging and very respectable piece of work, and fans both new and old will certainly find much to appreciate.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Asilo, Bell Witch, Body Void, Kalamata, Ksyatriya