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




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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




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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




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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




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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




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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




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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




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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




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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




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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




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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




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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


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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




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Saturday, May 18, 2019

Informed By Erosion...

Folian - Ache Pillars (2019)


Coming to us from the locale of Portland, Oregon, the latest release from one-man project Folian features four tracks approaching lingering pain and consumptive brooding from an uncommon angle. Mixing low-frequency oscillations, haunted vocals, meticulously-mixed string sparseness, and a bevy of shifting electronic textures, the music of Ache Pillars aims for tangential listening recognition, keeping a thick swaddle of ambiguity to the emotions and structural direction, but prodding out such intriguing combinations of its sounds as to demand an emotional response. Or a physical one, as goosebumps don't seem like an inappropriate reaction to the intersecting layers of reverb and delay banks.
Metal purists will probably be too weirded out or offended by the absence of genre boundaries to really dig the experience, but the near-half-hour ride is one which persistently demonstrates pains-taking efforts to fuse unpredictable emotionality with the unhinged electronics, with quite an impressive result. About half of the EP's run-time goes to the final track, “Where All This Dust Comes From”, which breaks from the momentum built by the preceding tracks' run in order to build its own upwards creep into claustrophobic tension. Something best taken all in one go, but each track shows different facets of musician David Fylstra's exacting technique and enviable creativity.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Gnaw Their Tongues, Pale World, Sutekh Hexen, Ulver, White Darkness




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Saturday, May 11, 2019

Maddened Subterranean Fury...

Gourd - Moldering Aberrations (2019)


Coming at us from Ireland like an assault on auditory immune systems, the latest EP from the two-piece of Gourd brings just under half an hour of filthy doom-soaked sludge, packed into three tracks. Leading off with “Befoulment”, Gourd insinuate creeping despair under unsteadily rising bass reverb, with vocal howls bleeding their notes right into the morass of fragmenting sustain. Treading a rough path through the distortion and growls, the band finds their way on to “Mycelium”, which finds firmer footing in a persistent bass undertow while the vocals struggle through the haze. Broken with a few instances of spoken-word samples, the dark miasma and hard edges of the feedback form a compellingly antagonistic vibe, without even a hint of posturing or pretense behind the attitudes and emotions on display.
Lastly, the title track (the video for which you'll find at the bottom of this review) brings with it some of the most traditionally-structured rhythms to be found on the EP, though they're quickly dropped in favor of the more nebulous rasping and rumbling bellows. Keening abrasion and dissonance are bent to the music's purpose, and multiple twists in volume, along with the song-writing's directions, keep things strange and stimulating. As short as it is, it makes for a harrowing experience, and one which is deeply impressive.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Body Void, Endless Floods, Leechfeast, Lifeless Gaze, Ulver




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Saturday, April 20, 2019

Circulation And Iteration...

Kavod - Wheel of Time (2019)


Coming to us from Italy, the group of Kavod are three guys finding ways to unburden their souls through their music. The three songs of this debut EP are the result of jamming and picking out pieces which they liked, and as a result, the tunes have a solid flow to their grooves, despite the variety of their styles. There's touches of post-metal, but for the most part, the music lets psychedelic metal tendencies guide its path, with carefully-handled rhythms and melody-building. The shifting of focus through the contributing instruments is done with similar slickness, keeping a grit to the tone while pushing for fluidity to the playing.
There's also, arguably, some prog flavoring to the deep consideration of the song-writing, but as the EP comes together at just over fifteen minutes, it's hard to get too firm a read on those inclinations. What it does clearly establish is that this crew is working with open ears and minds, leading to songs that are stimulating while being well-grounded in heaviness. With such an intriguing introduction, I personally can hardly wait to hear more from the group, and find myself especially curious to find how their style grows with the future releases.
~ Gabriel
 
For Fans Of; Asilo, Indukti, Reptensol, Stonerror, Ulver




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Saturday, April 06, 2019

Laughter In The Dark...

Electricjezus - Смех (2019)


It's been four years since the last solo album from the Russian duo of Electricjezus, but the enjoyable power shown in that last release (Котлован) has, by all signs, continued to strengthen in the intervening years. Opening with a slow riff study in “Соки земли” (or “Growth of the Soil”; Electricjezus continues to kindly provide translations of their titles), the band (re-)establishes their guitar and drums M.O. with panache, picking up energy and speed as they move into the subsequent tracks.
It's in those follow-ups, like “Приговор” (“Sentence”), where the sludgy potency of the band is made explicit, with their handling of momentum steering the swampy chords and weighty beats into feeling impressively sizable for a two-man operation. The absence of a bass (guitarist Ruslan employs a bass pick-up, instead) in no way keeps them from bringing suitably dark and heavy tones to the agonized audio experience. Special kudos to Ruslan's vocals, which are used infrequently, but consistently sound as though they're being sourced from someone in the middle of being crushed by a boulder. In a good way, of course.
And for a couple of the tracks breaking the ten-minute mark, the music maintains a good pacing, moving along without seeming too sluggish, in spite of the low-end, low-tempo, low-life vibes they keep in play. And despite the sparse instrumentation, the songs do a great job of catching you up in the grooves, getting swept along without any doubt of a satisfying experience. They've found what works, and trimmed off all the fat, leaving an excellently crafted batch of weighty tunes to do their job, and do it damn well. This is one of those to take in the first time, let it sit and digest for a while, then dig right back into it to figure out what you missed because you were too caught up in the groove to savor all the details. Hats off to Electricjezus, once again.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Body Void, Dead Existence, Hypnochron, O.D.R.A., Sleep

FacebookVKBandCamp



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Saturday, March 30, 2019

Heavenly Earthen Philosophy...

Greenthumb - There Are More Things (2018)


Following up their 2018 debut West with this, their second EP, the Italian group of Greenthumb roll out three solid tracks of psych-tinged stoner doom, with aching vocals and rumbling riffs. Though the production and mixing are kind of rough, the vibes come through with good power, and while I personally dig the slower song sections a bit more, the ramps up into battering action show the band performing just as well in that mode. The vocals are a highlight, with the keening sense of longing and pain meshing wonderfully into the distant and wind-blown feel of the singing. At just over twenty minutes, there's enough here to give you a good sense of the band's style, while also holding enough back to build appetite for more. As they've already managed to put out two EPs in the space of one year, it's a fair bet that we'll be hearing a full album from them before too much longer, so go ahead and get a taste of this Italian doom group's flavors.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Below, Eternal Candle, Humbaba, Mist, Windhand




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Saturday, March 23, 2019

Stirrings From The Underground...

Chasmdweller - Chasmdweller (2019)


On this, their first release, Chasmdweller offer up two lengthy tracks of death-flavored atmospheric doom, leading with “Plague Monument”, a slow-crushing roller with breaks into rampages sourced from the death metal side of its heritage. Boggy reverb and cave-like acoustics add to the dungeon vibe, as do the intentionally muffled vocals. Touches of electronic texturing further it even more, while also providing solid intro and outro coverage, and the murkiness of it all is spun together with a good ear for how to combine flavor with big riffs and healthy momentum.
The second half, “Clotting of the Sacred Artery”, pulls a synth intro as well, but develops into a paganistic tambourine-and-drones piece that shows the group's melodic side in ominous fashion. After about four minutes of that examination, the more traditional metal resurfaces, breaching with a driving drum pattern and bass riff to match. Following their ride, a sink back into hissing drones leads the way to the finish.
Though it's a quick trip through the mini-album, Chasmdweller certainly make a good showing in that stretch, and their blending of well-executed death doom with more uncommon elements shows not just a promising inclination towards experimentalism, but also a refreshingly out-there twist on a style that can often end up too predictable, even while staying enjoyable. That they don't blend the metal and dark electronic portions more directly into each other is a bit of a shame, but as an introductory release, it does a great job of piquing interest while letting its songs stand firm on their own. A very limited run of cassettes is up on the BandCamp page of the label, Static Void Records, or you can snag a digital copy for just $2. At the very least, swing by the page and give it a listen to hear some enjoyable oddness applied to the doom foundations.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, Descend Into Despair, Drift Into Black, Illimitable Dolor, Nonsun




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Saturday, March 16, 2019

Revitalizing The Senses...

A Vintage Death - Acrid Death Fragrance (2018)


Making his debut with this EP, the one-man band of A Vintage Death emerges with five tracks, coming together for slightly under half an hour of material. Working a blend of death doom with touches of black metal, the music focuses on an atmosphere of gloom and ambiguous danger, and while there's often a brutal edge to the delivery, there's also a considerable amount of attention paid to the melodic side.
The fusion style allows Carmine d'Annibale, the mind behind the project, to shift through a variety of speeds in short succession, slipping from the intensity of quick beatings into brooding downtempo action, and the flexibility of that aspect shades the other instrumentation as well. While the guitar often comes through in a droning grind, it's laced into the beats and bass with such deftness that the difficulty of assembling all the parts single-handedly can be easy to forget.
The production is, as might be expected of a one-person project, on the rougher side, but that suits the mood and energy of the music, for the most part. A little more separation of the instruments wouldn't be unwanted, but as it is, it effectively evokes the olden days of each of the constituent styles. All together, it's quite an enjoyable experiment, and one which I hope will see follow-up releases.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Altar of Betelgeuze, Amort, Battle Path, The Maledict, NEST




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Saturday, March 09, 2019

Passing Time In Style...

Molior Superum - As Time Slowly Passes By... (2019)


We last heard from Molior Superum with their Electric Escapism EP back in 2014 (man, time flies), and half a decade later, they've returned with this full LP to follow their 2012 debut. Starting with the title track, a trim little piece of melody exploration, the band sets a tone of fanciful warmth and casual technical prowess, letting their deft finger-work and ear for tonal-rhythmic intersection guide the way. 
With the progression into “Att Födas Rostig”, things get a bit dirtier in flavor, as the guitar takes on a southern blues twang, making for an interesting pairing with the Swedish lyrics. The heavy rock cruising is kept light enough for some shredding to slip smoothly into place among the rowdy riffs, and that balance between tunefulness and a dirty bass end is developed in a variety of ways across the rest of the album.
While there's a lot of '70s hard rock influence to be heard in the songs, the band does a great job of putting a personal spin on it, finding ways of tweaking it into something that stands apart from most heavy rock acts of then and now. It's hard to pin down the specifics of that distinction, but part of it is just how fresh the songs feel. They don't get bogged down in the bass, but the lightness doesn't drift off into pop rockish cotton candy clouds, either. Whether incorporating vocals or going off on sprawling instrumental rides, Molior Superum make it clear that they kept developing their skills in the time between releases. 
 Infectiously fun and compelling (more than once, I found myself humming along to a song I was hearing for the first time), the songs ride a fine line of having clearly gone through lots of crafting while still holding a spontaneous air to their twists and shimmies.
At a fairly trim 37 minutes, the album is kept focused, energetic, and engaging, while also being long enough to keep a few secrets back from the initial listenings. While it's not set for release until March 29th, you can go ahead and order vinyl copies of the album, in a variety of colors, directly from Molior Superum's BandCamp page. As there's only 100 of each color pressed, you'll want to snag it fast, or be kicking yourself about missing it.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Deep Purple, Eternal Elysium, Hijo de la Tormenta, Mondo Drag, Mountain




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Saturday, March 02, 2019

Perceptions Of Pain...

Il Vuoto - Vastness (2019)


With his debut album, released back in 2015, the one-man band of Il Vuoto served up a powerful concoction of atmospheric funeral doom, with the art, titles, and music coming together in impressive union. The follow-up album has finally arrived, and with its hour's worth of material spread over five tracks, it certainly makes for a worthy succession.
The band's orchestrator, Matteo Gruppi, puts care and consideration into every part of the album, and while the track titles have been made somewhat less theatrical (with the previous names including “I, Essence of Nothingness” and “Through Mirrors I Saw the Ghost of Me”), the comparative directness of titles such as “Weakness” and “Her Fragile Limbs” opens them up for more expansive story-telling. The lyrical approach follows a similar course of restraint, with the melancholic vulnerabilities they express meshing right into the dirge-like guitar tones and melodies of suffering.
While the drum-work rarely gets brought to the forefront, Gruppi does a great job of using it to reinforce and intensify the songs' rhythms. Likewise, the supporting synth textures are subtle, but present throughout the majority of the music, which moves through a nicely wide range of dynamics and moods over the course of the album, while retaining its sorrowful doom base. Closing out with a relatively short instrumental piece, “As the Whole World Failed”, Il Vuoto maintains his careful control over the emotional direction to the end. There's a lot to savor within the songs, and their large size is put to good use in furthering the moods, rather than just stretching to fill time. Well worth the wait, this album is well-suited for cold weather, or just for savoring some finely-made dark atmospheres. CD copies can be ordered from Hypnotic Dirge Records, while digital (and the rest of Il Vuoto's catalog) is up on his BandCamp page.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Descend Into Despair, Funerary, HellLight, Nonsun, Towards Atlantis Lights




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Saturday, February 23, 2019

First Burning Rites...

Flesh Temple - Fire, Promise... (2019)


Making a solo debut with this EP, though the band was allegedly formed six years ago, Flesh Temple offer up three tracks of death-styled doom with a blackened rough edge. Leading with “Conduit”, a slow-burn menacer of rising anger, the EP brings a good amount of atmospherics to the table, and mixes its stylistic cocktail with an impressively slick fusion of the elements. The doom generally has the dominant position, with bass-lines chugging away, while the death metal inclinations of the guitar tend to find their volume down-mixed for easier meshing, though it gets pushed back up for some solo action. The black metal flavoring mostly comes through in the raw buzz of the guitar's tone, though a few portions find the drums kicking up into manic gear and skewing the ratio harder in its favor.
“Tears” slips in with a colder vibe, playing up the blackened doom in mood and song-writing while relegating the death to the drums, and to be honest, that was the balance which worked best, at least to my tastes. It felt big in scope, and resentful, seeming more like reflection on an accepted suffering than an outlash. After a crescendo finish, it's on to the closing title track, with a groaning melody on guitar easing into melancholy focus as the song fleshes out. An atmospheric break towards the end provides a suitably somber intensification, and the fade-out fits as an implicit promise of more to come. Solid stuff, well worth checking out if you've been looking for some wintry tunes.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Alraune, The Sleer, Thergothon, Trees, WarHorse




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