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


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


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


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


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



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


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


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


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


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


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


Saturday, February 16, 2019

The Fruited Rosary...

Caustic Casanova - Pantheon: Volume 3 (2018)

Continuing a series they've been running since 2014, Caustic Casanova pack the A-side of Pantheon: Volume 3 with three songs of their own devising to complement the cover of Weedeater's “God Luck and Good Speed” on the B-side. Leading with “Clown Butter”, the three-piece D.C. group blur together a number of styles, with punk, groove metal, stoner rock, and more evident in the twitchy riffs, funked-out bass-lines, and bumping drum-work. Keeping the track instrumental, the band twists and dips through enough nuttiness to pass as a lost Frank Zappa tune, while continually revving up the energy and pressure.
Carrying on from there with “Everyone's Goddamn Business”, CC shift into a heavier gear, something akin to a proggier cut from Kyuss' Welcome to Sky Valley, though the arrival of the dual vocals put my mind in the neighborhood of Acid King and general-purpose grunge. Carrying plenty of melodic jumps and fake-outs, the song runs through its duration before you can fully grasp everything it's doing, and dives from there right into the last of the EP's originals, “Stampede”. True to its name, the song rides up with a galloping riff and rising speed, pulling you along for the trip with an assortment of hooks and groove mutations.
A bit of banjo and fuzzy bass rumbling sets a suitable opening for the Weedeater cover, and despite the absence of Dixie's distinctive voice, CC do a great job of paying homage to the original while giving it their own coat of style. It's a little friendlier in mood and tone, and not just because of the cleaner vocals (though the growls are certainly present). The strings are a little warmer, the feedback less abrasive, and the guitar less choppy, but it all feels in line with the weird fun of the A-side's contents. Though it all comes together at just about twenty minutes of material, there's a lot to take in across the four tracks, and the band comes out sounding enthusiastic, inventive, and cool. Snag a copy on vinyl or digital; or, if you've got to have things on tape or CD, you can grab a collection of all three Pantheon releases (with an alternate version of “God Luck”) on either of those formats. In any event, do yourself a favor and check this crew out.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Kola Turbo, Crown Larks, Frank Sabbath, Queen Crescent, Zombie Picnic


Saturday, February 09, 2019

Bizarre Parables and Spooky Psalms...

Sacred Monster - Worship the Weird (2019)

We last heard from Sacred Monster back in the days of 2015, with the two tracks of their sophomore EP, Monster Double Feature. Nearly a decade into the band's tenure, they're releasing their first full album, bearing eight tracks fusing groovy heavy metal with a broad range of horror influences and black/death metal-styled vocals. The riffs are fun and lively, the spikes of embellishment done with high style (check out the harmonized peaking in “The Wraith” when you get a chance), the rhythms both solid and fluid, and it's clear that the band had fun devising the assorted ways of communicating horror flavors and occurrences in musical form.
The melodic flavor of “Waverly Hills” (one of the tracks based on a horror story of the band's own devising) brings Ghost to mind, to an extent, but for the most part, it's hard to pull comparisons to other bands for the songs. You might think 'Oh, there's some Motorhead,' or 'That feels kind of Quiet Riot-ish,' but outside of the band leaning more towards '80s heavy metal than the more occult-flavored '70s groups, their influences seem too diverse to pin down. The guitar-work leads most of the songs, and the guitarist does a great job of coming up with ways to keep the character and approaches of his role fresh, going from bluesy to thrashy to old-school heavy metal on a dime. The rest of the band meshes into it superbly, ramping up and toning down as the tone demands, and the band as a whole does a great job of keeping consistent character going without tiring it out by riding one atmosphere through the full album. The full thing drops on March 1st, with digital, CD, and T-shirt versions available, so be sure to check it out if you've been looking for some hard-rocking metal with a nice splash of variety to it.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Below, Dr. Living Dead!, Lordi, Merlin, Pilgrim


Saturday, February 02, 2019

Shivers And Stairways...

OLDD WVRMS - Codex Tenebris (2019)

It's been a couple of years since OLDD WVRMS' last release, the EP-compiling Ritae, and in the time since that reorienting, they've worked up about an hour's worth of new material. Said hour is split into five tracks on Codex Tenebris, opening with “Ténèbres”, a mournful but hard-edged cruiser of a tune which neatly establishes the vibes of the album. Brooding bass, flexible drumming, and gnashing guitar are twisted through tempos ranging from moderate to swampy slow, and the riffs shimmer despite the grimy tonality that surrounds them. “A l'or, aux ombres et aux abîmes” follows, bringing a stiffer attitude and heavier crushing, but also a spookier atmosphere in the reverb-drenched melodies. The powerful riffs get a good workout here, bringing more of both tension and emotive regret, and making a nicely low-key nest for itself before “Misère & Corde” comes slamming in.
The midway track pushes harder into standard metal territory than the preceding tracks, but handles that shift with excellent poise, balancing the near-shredding portions with retreats into echoing doom-lit corridors of honed menace. With the next track, “La vallée des tombes”, there's a shift back into the slower morbidity, with a funeral doom-ish sort of tone study and permeating sadness, though it does raise a little prog flavor with a mutating rhythm passage, and kicks into hard gear towards the end.
Lastly, “Fléau est son âme” drifts even further into the murky melancholy, taking a couple of minutes to quietly meander before emerging into a solid melody. From there, it's a ~10-minute ride through rising pressures and unsettling atmosphere, with the band's handling of both serving to impress. There's not a weak song in the bunch, and the variety offers something for different listeners with different tastes. Pretty damn impressive, and well worth snagging once it drops on Cursed Monk Records come February 15th.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Hesperian Death Horse, Jupiterian, Lifeless Gaze, Sunwolf, Trees


Friday, February 01, 2019

Tar Pit Interview

Having just released their debut album, Tomb of Doom, the Portland-based group of Tar Pit specialize in doom metal with influences both modern and old-school, and the band's way with riffs, atmosphere, and flow made a great impression on us (you can check out our review right here).  The band was kind enough to give us some time and indulge our questions, letting us know the details behind the band's beginnings and where they plan to go from here.

The Burning Beard: Hi there, and thanks for taking the time to do this interview with us!  Why don't we start with a rundown of who's currently in the band? And what are the musical backgrounds for each of you?

Brandon: As of right now, there are just four of us in the band including myself on rhythm guitar, Mathew on vocals, Stephen on lead guitar, and Derek on drums.

As far as my own background in music, I’ve bounced around from multiple bands playing bass and guitar for various projects for the past 10 years. Oddly enough, I don't really listen to a whole lot of doom metal. I tend to listen to a lot of punk/hardcore, “grunge”, and old timey blues along with whatever else I picked up from my dad, step-dad and grandpas.

Mat: My only musical history I have is that I have played alto sax for about eight years, specializing in blues. I only started singing seriously like 4 years ago for this band. But I too tend to listen to more 'grunge' and '70s rock and roll.

Derek: I mainly listen to old school death metal and thrash.

Stephen: I’ve mostly played sludge and doom with a bit of punk/hardcore in high school.

TBB: Hayden Johnson amicably departed his position as bassist back in January. What are you looking for in the search to refill that role?

Brandon: Right now we are not in a hurry to find a replacement. It's unfortunate that Hayden ended up leaving the band, especially before the album dropped. All of us are on good terms, though, and Derek and I actually play in another band with Hayden, so we still get to make music together.

I think when the time comes to start searching for a new bassist for this band, we are going to look for someone who is passionate about the style and sound of the band and is able to contribute to the writing process as far as riffs and moving lines. Being able to put up with me is also a plus, haha.

TBB: What was the original 2014 line-up of Tar Pit like? Did that incarnation make it past song-writing/jam sessions to do any live shows?

Brandon: The original version of the band (at least from my point of view) consisted of Derek, Mathew and original guitarist Alex Stanley. I took part in the first few sessions as well, and that's when "Bruja" was written. I ended up leaving to pursue another band and after I left, Hayden joined the band as bassist. The band ended up dissolving shortly after due to secondary bands, and the fact that Tar Pit was originally a side project for various members. No live shows ever happened with that line-up.

TBB: Riffs are a big part of Tomb of Doom's songs, but the solos make a big impression, too. How hard was it to settle on where to insert those, and what were some of the flavors Stephen Hoffman had in mind when he was constructing the solos?

Brandon: I can't speak for Stephen on behalf of constructing solos, but as far as the arrangement of riffs and where to put leads, I tend to be very vocal about the way I’m hearing the songs in my head and how I would like things to go. I can be pretty annoying to work with, but I’m very picky about how I want things to sound when it comes to the big picture.

Stephen: The reasoning behind where the solos ended up varies depending on the song. Some of the songs pre-dated my time with the band, so there was a certain element of trying to maintain some continuity with earlier demos. In general though, we placed the solos and leads where we thought it would most help break up a riff, and keep things lively, or to elaborate melodically on a particular riff that we wanted to draw out. As for the solos themselves, I try to keep things nice and bluesy, but the occasional minor-key melody or sloppy punk bit will come through.

TBB: What were the song-writing sessions like for Tomb of Doom? Were there any songs that changed significantly as a result of how they handled in live shows? And for those not in the Portland area, how many other songs does Tar Pit have that haven't yet made their way onto studio recordings?

Brandon: The sessions began in early March of 2017, when the band decided to regroup and I stepped in as the guitarist. The first song I wrote was what ended up being "Sauin". Mat and I would get in a room together and I would have him play drums. We would pretty much just drink and hash out ideas and then show them to Derek and Hayden. If they dug it, we worked it out. I used "Bruja" as the template for my writing style when I first joined, and tried to build our sound from there.

"Tomb of Doom" was written shortly after, and at this point we recruited Alex Huston as lead guitarist. We recorded the demo, played a show with Weedeater and Telekinetic Yeti, and then Huston left. We started looking for a new lead player after that, and Stephen filled that spot. Stephen had already written "Rune" for a solo project he was working on and we basically hijacked the song, made some tweaks to it, and made it flow with the other songs already written.

"Capra Nocturnus" was the first song Stephen and I had written together from various riffs he and I had lying around. That song started off a little rough, but I think it came out great once we figured out what direction to take it. We’ve written other songs, but most of those have been dissected and rewritten.

TBB: How would you say the revived line-up of Tar Pit has been received at live shows so far?

Brandon: Live has been great. This is the first band I have personally played with that has gotten to open for bigger acts and actually play in front of a bigger crowd. We don't really book too many shows. We just wait for something we really want to be a part of to come through and try and get an opening slot if so. It's been great and the turnouts are always packed.

TBB: I really dig the cover art for Tomb of Doom, the heavy texturing and use of light do a fantastic job of evoking that subterranean feel. Where did the art come from, and how did you settle on that as the fit for your first album?

Brandon: The art work came from my good friend Joey Rivera. He and I used to play in a grungy type band together and during the few years that we played, I had no idea the dude could paint. He posted some stuff online and Mat had a concept in mind for the album art, so I approached him about it. I think it came out great. The dude really nailed it.

TBB: How would you describe the atmosphere you aimed for with the album's songs?

Brandon: I always tell everyone that I want to write really dark, evil, sludgy sounding stuff with proto elements. So I hope that's what we captured, haha.

TBB: Do you feel like that same atmosphere will stick around for the next album, or are you thinking of going for something different at that point?

Brandon: I think that the next album will reflect the headspace we are in when it is written. It's hard to say, 'This is how it should be,' and then write something under those restrictions. I'm sure it will be similar in style to Tomb of Doom, but more polished, hopefully heavier, and as far as technicality and musicianship, better.

TBB: At this point in time, are you feeling like Tar Pit will head right into another album, or will there maybe be an EP and/or split release before then?

Brandon: I'm thinking a split is our next move, or a two to three song EP. There is definitely zero chance of us doing a full-length this year, especially with Derek and I preparing for our first full-length with our other band.

TBB: In the case of an eventual split or two, are there any particular bands, local or international, that you feel would be a good fit with Tar Pit?

Brandon: I can't seem to think of very many at the moment. Glasghote is a really cool sludge band from Portland, and I would like to do something with them down the road. I'm also a big fan of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth (Seattle), and I would shit myself if we were able to do something with them.

TBB: How do your families feel about Tar Pit?

Brandon: I don't think my family gives a shit. I'm sure they don't understand it and think I need to grow up, haha. Derek's parents, on the other hand, are super supportive, his whole family [is], actually. I don't think they've missed a show yet.

Mat: My family doesn’t really agree with what I’m singing about, haha, but my brother has been really supportive. He’s been to every show and has become our official unofficial photographer.

TBB: You've got cassette copies up for order, digital is a go, and CDs are in the works; any hopes for a vinyl release of Tomb of Doom at this point?

Brandon: If we can find a label to finance it or cough up the cash ourselves, then yes, we will put it out on vinyl.

TBB: Will we be seeing any other Tar Pit merch in the near future?

Brandon: In the very near future.

TBB: Is there anything else you'd like to say to our readers?

Brandon: Snag a copy of the tape while we still have them, and thanks for all the support and positive feedback!

TBB: Thanks for your time and music, and be sure to let us know when your next release is ready to be heard!

~ Gabriel