Saturday, July 04, 2020

See, Hear, Feel...

Sound of Origin - The All Seeing Eye (2020)

After popping up with their Seeds of the Past EP back in 2017, and making an appearance on last year's Doomed & Stoned in England compilation, the quartet of Sound of Origin have rolled back around with their first full album, boasting fifty minutes of stoner-tinged doom across nine songs.
First of the bunch is “Not Dead Yet”, with some lancing guitar and booming bass chords setting things up for a run of slow and heavy riffage. The title track pops out of that form, briefly, with a burst of higher-tempo drumming opening it up before sliding right back into regular stoner doom proceedings. Good mixing keeps the bass unmuddled, while the slight sinking of the vocals makes them a part of the crunches and fuzz. A mid-way break launches things back into the higher energy altitudes, before arcing back down into a bass riff that makes up for the interlude with extra weightiness.
And, for the most part, that MO carries the album. There's twists of sludge (as in “Dim Carcosa” and “Lockjaw”, their choice for lead single), and Sabbathy melodics (“Morning Bird”), but the grounding in that style established by the opening tracks is always evident, however tweaked. Luckily, the interplay between the bass and drums (like the opening cruise of “Stoned Messiah Blues”) keeps things fun enough to buoy the listener through the album. It's an easy one to let yourself let go and float along with, thanks to the solid riffs throughout each song, and the momentum rarely lets up.
Closing out with the nine-minutes-and-change of “Tempest Dunes”, the band stretches their riffs and scope out to monstrous sizing, working a call-and-return structure to fun effect. All together, it should be a nice treat for stoner doom fans who've been looking for a new group to add to their rotation. The All Seeing Eye goes up for sale on August 21st, through APF Records.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Attalla, Dopethrone, Godsleep, Tar Pit, Wizard Smoke


Saturday, June 27, 2020

Crushed In The Gears...

Malsten - The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill (2020)

Following up on their Torsion single from May of last year, the Swedish doom quartet of Malsten (which translates to 'grindstone', or, more thematically, 'millstone') have emerged more fully with this, their debut album. Leading off, naturally enough, with the song from that preceding single, the album gets underway on a horripilating vibe, with feedback and synths rolling out an uneasy tension before the guitar comes in with a raw-edged riff. It's a nice, broad-shouldered progression, and the band takes their time building it out for a bit before expanding things with the vocal incorporation. Should you wish to follow along with the lyrics, you'll get to explore the dastardly doings of the titular mill's owner. According to the band, this album shares only the first four chapters/tracks of that story; an uncommon approach, but the distinctiveness is well appreciated.
Through each of the songs (“Immolation”, “Grinder”, and “Compunction” follow, in that order), Malsten show themselves to be quite skilled not just with the moment-to-moment doom, but also at the larger shaping of the songs, and their place in the album as a whole. They're able to dig into a riff or rhythm interaction and tease it into something new, without it seeming overly indulgent or dry. The slow slides into relative calm, when they're used, are effectively offset by crashing returns, and their use of synth textures (courtesy of member Andreas, who's also the bassist) lends the music some engaging further dimensions. Bridges and breaks come through naturally, without a sense of over-orchestration, and the band's ability to keep strong momentum flowing through the various change-ups is one of the album's most impressive qualities.
Heaviness is abundant (and then some), but it's managed with an ear towards how it can strengthen the song, rather than being a persistent, unchanging weight across everything, as some doom bands fall into doing. The band also operates so smoothly with how its individual instruments come together, it can go right over your head how well they're playing off of each other if you're just grooving along with it. But they've definitely got the chops, as this excellent first album shows, and finding out how they grow from here is going to be very exciting. If fine-crafted traditional doom is your thing (or if it's not, but you're willing to give it a shot), do yourself a favor and pick this up once it's out. Pre-orders start July 3rd, full release is July 24th, vinyl is coming through Interstellar Smoke Records. Hats off to Malsten.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Descend Into Despair, Earthshine, The Fateful Hour, Heavydeath, HellLight


Saturday, June 06, 2020

Soot And Stones...

Chimney Creeps - Nosedive (2020)

Popping up from New York with this, their debut album, the power trio of Chimney Creeps (like chimney-sweeps, get it?) brings a seven-song batch of sludge-varnished heavy rock to the table. Flexing their style and rotating member focus on the instrumental opener “March of the Creeps”, the band shows a bit of grunge flavoring, but with a leaner, buzzier approach. It's a good foundation-setter for the next tune, “Head in the Sand”, which brings in guitarist Dennis Haggerty's lead vocals, striking a balance between punkish barking and moments of melodic harmonizing. Both the bassist (Donavon deCesare) and drummer (Alex Hadjiloukas) provide backing vocals throughout the album, pulling their performances in the songs that much tighter together.
As the songs go on, the band shows its facility with crusty riffs, big swells, dirty grooves, and beefy bass-lines. Keeping up a steady current of wounded anger, the group digs out old-school hooks and gives them a modern sharpening, while keeping the underground vibes well in effect. Things get a bit expanded in the second half, with the closer of “Diving Line” shading out into a number of stony bridges. Riding out on a big-finish groove, the Chimney Creeps make it easy to spin the album time after time. It'll be interesting to hear how their style develops with subsequent releases, whether they play up their dirt rock, grunge, or sludgy sides, or keep honing a fusion of the three. However it goes, if you've been in the mood for some audibly authentic heavy rock, you'd do well to pick yourself up a copy of this album. Available on vinyl and digital, both at very reasonable prices.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Alice in Chains, Funeral Horse, Pale Grey Lore, Rainbows Are Free, Sex Scheme


Saturday, May 30, 2020

Down In A Hole...

IRN - IRN EP (2020)

Having kept up a steady stream of releases since their self-titled debut album back in 2013, the Canadian group of IRN have kept honing their sludge chops with each split, single, and LP to emerge. This new EP is their mostly widely distributed to date, with support from Breathe Plastic, Rope or Guillotine, Bad Moon Rising, and Craniophagus Parasiticus, coming out on tape, digital, and vinyl once July 1st rolls around.
First of the two tracks is “Blood Seeping from Your Eyes”, which flows from yelled curses right into the main groove. Punch-ins of feedback and snarls of bass smear right into the percussion and bellows, with the ~11-minute track continually finding room for another twist or bridge. “DIE!” is the most common and recognizable command among the vocal distress, and the song builds up some great tension (underscored by ringing feedback) as it burns along. A resurgence of venom helps spike the song into its closing moments, before moving on to the second side.
“Forever Miserable” moves into a slower pace, grinding along while bringing the vocals further to the fore, and delivering coordinated bursts from the instruments. Again, a use of rising tension throughout the track keeps the energy pushing along, with the band rising to recapture the speed from the first song. An extended mood shift back towards the slower material brings it back down to the mud from the midpoint, but revs back up for a big finish. Overall, some solid sludge, and a good way to get out some frustration if you happen to be stuck indoors.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Body Void, Lifeless Gaze, NEST, Noothgrush, Primitive Man


Saturday, May 23, 2020

Cracked And Cadaverous...

Eremit - Desert of Ghouls (2020)

Wasting no time in following up on their debut album from last year, the German trio of Eremit have unleashed this two-track EP, released (as was their LP) by the prolific Transcending Obscurity Records.
Leading with the nine-minute “Beheading the Innumerous”, the band rapidly rumbles up to action speed, pulled upwards by a growler of a riff and stabs of guitar feedback. As the rasping vocals make their way in, the tune congeals into a firmer groove, still working that central riff and showing how durable it is. Some tempo adjustment about midway through leads to more of a groove rider, but the original heaviness and raw vibes remain intact. Things ramp back up to higher speeds for the finish, with a grinding last minute leading to the next track.
The B-side is “City of Râsh-il-nûm”, and while the song doesn't quite deliver the Tolkien-ish mood suggested by that title, it does take its time at the start to build up a gentle atmosphere. Some slow string action, quiet percussion to guide it along, and some echoing bells or chimes glide along for about three of the song's twelve minutes. After that point, some amped guitar enters the mix, perking things up and providing enough dissonance that you may get a few goosebumps prickles while listening. Gradual increases on the general heaviness follow, making the song something of a study in the band's ability to pace itself while pushing onward. Slightly before the mid-point, they kick into hard gear, bumping up the volume on everything along with their intensity, and continue to cruise while finding additional elements to introduce along the way. All around, a good showing from this band, with some fun clues as to where they'll be going from here.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Deuil, Mudbath, Plaguewielder, Slabdragger, Zaraza


Saturday, May 16, 2020

Dreams And Delirium...

Slowbot - Sleepwalker (2020)

It's been almost five years since Slowbot's last release, with their sophomore EP, Pacifier for the Mind.  Following just a year after their self-titled debut EP (which we covered here), their second effort found the band solidifying their stoner rock flavors into a heavier form, and stepping up their cover art as well.  Both trends continue with this LP, which comes as a welcome return from their hiatus, and brings with it six tracks of the French group's heavy rock explorations.
First of the tunes is “Sleepwalker (Part 1)” (its second half closes out the album, fittingly), a creeping crusher which finds the band delving into doomier territory than they've shown on either of the earlier releases.  Once the mood is firmly set, the vocals arrive, ringing out over the swampiness of the guitar and bass, and muffled clangs of the cymbals, with a goosebump-raising ghostliness to the timbre and intonation.  Some deft soloing directs a bridge into more pronounced restatement of the original riffage, with a brief drop before surging even higher for the finish.
With that powerful opening, there would be a lot of options for how to follow it up, and Slowbot go with a shift towards more of a hard rock route in “Strange Fish”.  The drums are allowed to come through more clearly, the guitar riff rides faster and more intently, and the vocals, while still echoing with some distortion, feel more earthly in their delivery.  As if to balance that out, the breakdown is much more psychedelic, with some serious flourishes on the strings.  “Inside” steps back into the big shoes, coming together at just under nine minutes, and bringing its heavy rock base on a versatile trip.  The vocals come through cleaner still, and some lush atmospheric bridges rise up, but with the guitar and bass slamming their chords down as hard as they do, not an ounce of heaviness is sacrificed.
Opening the B-side (assuming this album gets the vinyl release it absolutely deserves) is “Ride”, which brings a rollicking rhythm to bear, and a pounding chorus to get lodged in your head.  Dropping down to just seven minutes, it really evokes the sun-baked feel of rolling down a highway with no particular destination, and practically demands to be played at high volume.  Penultimate track “Here Comes the Fire”, far from being a toss-off warm-up for the finish, changes to a rawer guitar tone to help it stand out (as the LP's shortest song, it kind of needs that feature).  Some droning warbling from the singer helps lend further garage psych flavoring, and the guitarist really seems to be having fun with the solo on this one.
Lastly, “Sleepwalker (Part 2)” brings a close with its nearly eleven-minute run.  Pulling together vibes from all the preceding songs, it unfurls a lengthy instrumental wandering, building up energy before the vocals break in, pulling it into the doom-tuned mood.  Flowing from there through assorted other twists and mutations, the band eventually ties it all back into the original order, giving a fine showcasing of their chops in the process.  It's a pleasure to hear Slowbot back again, and rising to the occasion with such verve and creativity.  Here's hoping that (in addition to this getting a vinyl pressing) their next release doesn't have such a time gap in making its way to us.  Even if it should, though, this one is loaded with enough variety and life to hold up to playing all that while.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Canopy, Fatso Jetson, Greenthumb, Keef Mountain, Pale Grey Lore


Saturday, May 09, 2020

Acrid Fume Exhalation...

Church of Destiny - Black Smoke Eats Out (2020)

Following up on their debut album from last year, the Bulgaria-based Church of Destiny have resurfaced with this five-track EP, delivering a quick shot of dirty sludge on the lo-fi side. Launching off with the muddy thrashing of “Fixation”, the band wallows about in low-end reverb, growling vocals, and hard-beaten percussion, rolling it together in coat of rough production that fits the attitude on display.
After that pleasant introduction, it's on into “Ghetto Hope”, which brings a bit of rolling rhythm to the beats, building the tune up over its run into something that glides along on heavy bass hum, before breaking back into the rougher handling. Despite some odd structuring, it's one of the hookiest riffs on the EP. A spoken-word sample (an extended cut of one used on Meth Drinker's OIL album) leads into “Shooting Whores”, which bumps along on more of a guitar-riven crunch. Bass breakdowns give it some grounding in the heavier end, though, which makes for an effective balancing.
The last two tracks run in quick succession, adding up to about five and a half minutes between them. First of the closers is “Numbing Dose”, which drops in a druggy sample to set the tone before launching into a punchy up-and-down rhythm, and “A.C.A.B.” leans hard into the punk side of sludge's roots, bashing out a down-tuned blast of hardcore antagonism. Though the production can be kind of ragged at times, it does show off the band's authenticity in a way, and sludge is something that's never benefited from being too clean, anyway. Those looking for some under-the-radar metal, give it a go.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Hypnochron, Lifeless Gaze, Mudbath, O.D.R.A., Zeppheroin


Saturday, April 18, 2020

From Dark Valleys...

Wizards of Hazards - Blind Leads the Blind (2020)

What we have here is an EP from a band with a curious history. Having allegedly been founded in 1989 under the name Black Wizard, but changing their name to Wizards of Hazards about six years ago, Blind Leads the Blind is the first release listed on this Finnish group's BandCamp page. The Black Sabbath nods are obvious just from the titles, and the music echoes those impressions, riding a traditional heavy metal vibe to solid effect.
Leading off with “Children of the Damned”, the EP gets underway with clear riffs, theatrical vocals, easy-going rhythms, and some fun soloing from the guitar. It hits that '80s heavy metal style dead-on, handling the heavier and higher sides with equal capability. Production is clean, without being so glossy as to make it feel sanitized, and the musicians do a good job balancing focus between their instruments.
Stoning” follows, leaning into a slightly harder groove, and the drummer gets to lay out some punchier action on his end, with a steady-beat emphasis that nicely evokes the march to doom described by the lyrics. The bridge-work is deftly handled here as well, swaying you into another hook just long enough for the main one to return with renewed power. “Boots of Lead” (and if you don't get that reference, they re-emphasize it with the final chords) closes things out by bringing in a more somber mood, though it stays firmly in the traditional doom realm, rather than shifting into funeral doom or death doom. And the upbeat bridge featured in this track ends up balancing the mood out, anyway.
All together, it makes for a nice, well-rounded demonstration of the band's style and interests, and dishes it out quickly enough that you can jump back into it whenever you feel like. Personally, I'm hoping they show a wider emotional range whenever an LP comes about, but from what's on display here, there's a lot to enjoy, and very little to complain about.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Below, Dio-era Black Sabbath, Manowar, Pilgrim, Saint Vitus


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Don't Look Down...

Night Goat - Burning Bridges to Light the Way (2020)

On Night Goat's third EP (following the simultaneous release of their Chicken and Egg records), the Australian group has put together just under half an hour of material, with a conceptual emphasis on the deteriorating state of the world.
Opening with “Simulacra”, the group works a slow and atmospheric groove between the bass and drums, with smokily sensuous vocals wrapping their way around the progressions. Restrained toothiness on the bass' riffs gets to come out and play in the bridges, with guitar-work and rougher singing joining in once that side's been uncovered. As things continue to develop, both sides entwine and branch off again, making for an opener that impresses with its technical panache as well as the emotiveness of the playing.
Negative Crepe” (presumably a play on the similarly-titled Nirvana track) picks up from that high note, shifting back to the slow and moody vibes for the most part, though they do find room for some heavy and hard hits on the up-shift. It's more of a tonal trip than a rocker, but they put in such good work, it hardly feels like they're taking it easy. “Anchorite” takes over from there with a broody, simmering lead-in that practically tingles with foreshadowing. And the song delivers, working its way back and forth on intensity escalation, teasing listeners deeper into its web, edging them on with ominous build-up and leaving them eager for whatever may come.
Finally, “The Last Human Sound...” brings a conclusion that builds from the mix of melancholy and anticipation preceding it, delivering the longest song on the EP. Working a rising tension and swelling guitar presence, the band unfurls a track that I have to imagine takes on a spirit of its own in live performances. Despite its length, it's maybe the easiest listener on the EP, thanks in large part to the careful handling of the main melody. All in all, a very respectable release from this crew, and one with some deceptively sharp hooks to get lodged in the back of your mind.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid King, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Stonerror, Wicked Lady, early Windhand


Saturday, April 04, 2020

Taste The Source...

Mind Reverse - Cosmic Flow (2020)

Following up on an EP and a pair of singles all released in 2017 (two years after forming the band), the Brazilian group of Mind Reverse have taken an intensive three years to assemble this, their first LP. With a hefty thirteen full songs to its run, Cosmic Flow shows the band's high-octane heavy rock, with healthy infusions of psychedelic and funk rock, and a few splashes of prog as well, all mixed together in top-notch form.
Starting off with the tasty grooves of “New Lands”, Mind Reverse get things cooking and pull the listener right on into the heat. The hooks, captivating arrangements, and permeating creativity are persistent qualities for the rest of the album as well, with quick-changing rhythms playing up the main beat, fills to get your spine bouncing, and always more room for a snazzy flourish or three. It's hard to pick out a favorite song, as the album flows so damn well through them all, and there's always new details to notice.
Fat but nimble bass-lines, deftly agile drumming, guitar-work that can switch on a dime between gritty and soaring, and vocals that wonderfully complement it all are joined by a number of other touches, with organ, flute, and keyboard embellishments making the music practically burst with enthusiasm and liveliness. There's not a false step among the songs, and the range covered by the band is made all the more impressive by how casually cool they make it seem. There's a bit of a Jane's Addiction vibe at times, but pulled off with much more sincerity, less deflective wryness, and a hell of a lot more psychedelic flair.
For the band's first album, it's put together astonishingly well. The energy is managed nicely, with a few slower groove tunes spaced out among the higher-tempo rides, letting listeners appreciate both sides without getting worn out on either. The stylistic range, as previously mentioned, is fantastic, and there's so many melodic hooks that you'll be spoiled for choice on which one to get stuck in your head. The care put into making the music is evident in every moment, though it never gets in the way of rocking out. Thoroughly impressive work, and some of the best heavy rock I've heard in a long while. Don't miss out on this one, if you have even a slight taste for heavy rock. Cheers to Mind Reverse!
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Craneón, Gripe, Manthrass, Necro (Brazil), Persona (Argentina)


Saturday, March 28, 2020

Ascending From Ooze...

ITUS - Primordial (2020)

Marking the first non-single, non-cover release from this Canadian band, Itus' EP Primordial comes together as just over twenty minutes of sludgy doom with an emphasis on melodic hooks. Balancing out that grooviness with high-pressure harshness from the vocals and guitar tone, opening track “Cloud Reader” pulls listeners in with alternations and build-up of those two sides, Good flavor, solid riffing, and impressive back-and-forth between the band-members kicks things off with a strong lead, picked up by “Question Everything”. Changing to a crunching rhythm for the opening portion of its run, the second song settles into a heavy grind, with plenty of change-ups to keep things interesting, and a rattling climax followed by a feedback bridge.
The title track takes middle position, with the vocals mixed into a submerged crush for the slower parts, but rising back up in the mix to match tempo escalations. It also features maybe the hookiest riff on the EP, and finds its counter-weight in a haunting scream before kicking in more of their sludge influence. Rather than settle into a predictable pattern, they follow that with “This Can't Be”, a moody, contemplative piece which takes more from funeral doom in its styling. Drawn-out chord strains and sustained tone adjustments complement the (mostly) clean vocals, pulling thoughts of early Bell Witch material to mind.
Lastly, “The Chaplain” brings the EP to a close on a lush and vibrant note, with early tone study gradually turning to a concrete structure, joined by vocals and regular chording. Taking its pacing carefully, the song grows in sinister intensity and pressure, riding its way up to a pounding crescendo and feedback finish. A very strong first release, and well worth checking out for doom fans looking for something with some brains behind the fuzz.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dead Hand, The Hyle, Nest, NIXA, Wolf Blood


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Power Of The Cosmos...

Earth Drive - Helix Nebula (2020)

Coming about three years after their previous album, Stellar Drone, the Portuguese band of Earth Drive are back with more tracks than any of their other albums. Subtitled “Dust Makes This Cosmic Eye Look Red”, the new album shows Earth Drive continuing to hone their mix of heavy psych and space metal, and the results are downright fantastic, though it takes numerous play-throughs to appreciate just how much they've packed into the experience.
The first of the dozen included on Helix Nebula is the intro-ish “Cosmic Eye”, which matches a jangling guitar riff to deep-throb bass alternations, kicking things right into gear. A fade leads to the title track, in which rolling rhythms shift momentum between the two lead vocalists, on the back of guitar and drum swells. The excitement of the band to be back is evident, and it's hard to not get pulled in by that energy, along with the hooks and power of the song itself.
As things cruise on from there (with the transitory track “Holy Drone” guiding listeners inward), the care that the band has put into giving the album a persistent sense of flow becomes increasingly evident. Careful handling of the songs' energies creates something of an undertow effect; you try to think back to how the music got to a certain point, and you have to keep threading further and further back, as it builds on itself so much throughout the album.
To be clear, Earth Drive most definitely do not sacrifice individual song quality for the shape of the overall album. Song after song rocks and captivates, with nuances and twists helping to distinguish each track, though the underlying character is clearly consistent. Grooves and deep riff explorations are given full due, and the band's knack for going from an introspective moment of quiet to an outburst of liveliness gets put to superb use several times.
A pair of 'bridge' tracks (“Nagarjuna” and “Anulom Vilom”) mark the change-over to what would be Side B on a vinyl release of the album (and can some savvy label license this band's discography to make that happen already?). With the first return to 'full-length' song size, “Science of Pranayama”, ED reassert themselves in what feels like the album's climax, with the meditative “Deep Amazon”, expansive “Space God”, and outro of “Phantalien” following. All together, the new album is outstanding, and shows quite thoroughly how Earth Drive keep building and developing on the ideas of their earlier work. If you're a fan of heavy psych, do not let yourself miss this.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Frozen Planet....1969, Hijo de la Tormenta, Jess and the Ancient Ones, Ksyatriya, Mondo Drag


Saturday, March 07, 2020

Lowering The Mask...

Hyde - Hyde (2020)

Made and recorded in France, with mixing and mastering handled in Sweden, this debut album from the band known as Hyde packs seven solid tracks of heavy desert rock. Coming together at just over forty-five minutes, the band spreads their wings with style and plenty of memorable hooks, and shows that they've got the chops to keep their chosen style rolling through songs both short and long.
Opening with “The Victim”, the band starts on good footing as big riffs rumble on, get tightened up for the verses, and swell again on the choruses. It brought Kyuss to mind, but Hyde have put enough of their own spin on the vibes to keep it respectable. “Black Phillip” follows, slowing down to more of a doom rock mode, though the vocals hang on to their warmth. Again, the guitar riffs are where the power stands out most, as they hit a savory balance between hooky melodics and craggy roughness. Some spoken/whispered touches, particularly in the subdued breakdown, help shape the song's atmosphere further, making for a brief bout of creepiness before surging back up into the rock.
“Tsunami” takes things in a direction even slower and colder for its intro, and while it retains some of that tone for its remainder, it's largely back into the heavy desert rock. The tail end of the song lives up to its name with a swelling crescendo, then it's on into “D W A G B”, the most mysteriously named track of the album. Making use of an extensive sample (you'll just have to listen to place it), the song is otherwise instrumental, and it's one of the harder-kicking rides Hyde offer so far.
It also marks the halfway point, as the last three songs (“Hunter's Run”, “The Barber Of Pitlochry”, and a self-titled track) add up to twenty-three minutes of the total play-time. Fittingly, it's here where the mood and feel of the songs grow to their biggest proportions. Add to that the compelling flow within the tracks and between them, and there's not much choice but to just go with the ride through the back half and enjoy the massive grooves. Of course, “Hyde”, at eleven minutes and change in the closing position, is the one which dominates, and which shows the band working the most structural changes into their song-writing. All in all, a solid debut, and one which should have desert rock fans keeping an ear out for more to come from Dr. Jekyll's dark side.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Forming the Void, Kyuss, Sonora Ritual, Snake Thursday, Tuber


Saturday, February 29, 2020

Readying The Ride...

Silent Agreement - From the Amusement Park (2020)

Making their debut with this three-track EP, the German group of Silent Agreement bring an updated but earthy take on classic hard rock as their main focus. Punchy rhythms and to-the-point riffing keep things active and moving, while the vocals hit a nice balance between roughness and clarity. “Solid”, the first of the EP's songs, opens with a funky flanging guitar solo before dropping in a grimy hard rock groove and vocals to match. A string of questions leads to assurance that the singer will be “solid as a rock,” before kicking back to another flanged break, then cycling back through. It has good energy and a well-grounded groove,
“Dream World” picks up with a somewhat more easy-going vibe, as the singer reflects on a series of mental images and scenarios, ultimately refusing them all. The rising energy of the chorus lets the vocals really shine, while a slow-down bridge gives things a shot of soul. Lastly, “Judas” brings a growl of contempt to the lyrics and their delivery, while a dark edge infiltrates the guitar's chunky chords. Another tasty bridge does duty here, with some of the fanciest noodling of the EP popping up as it rides along. A nice intro to the band, with enough earworm hooks to keep these cropping up in memory until their follow-up arrives.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; early Exciter, High Spirits, Molly Hatchet, Motorhead, early Van Halen


Saturday, February 22, 2020

Early Signs Of Life...

Randy Holden - Population II (1970)

Originally released in 1970, the debut solo album from Blue Cheer guitarist Randy Holden featured a style that was unfamiliar at the time, but which has subsequently grown to a full genre. While the hard and psychedelic rock styles of the '60s are still quite evident, there's also the chunky riffs and fat bass-end of heavy metal peeking its head out into the world on this album.
Of course, back then, the record technicians who had a fix on how that style should be handled in the mastering process were few and far between, so now that half a century has passed, Riding Easy Records have unearthed it and given it proper audio treatment, letting the wide-spread grooves and sprawling solos shine out with greater body and fullness.
For such an early chunk of heavy metal exploration, the album goes down with surprising smoothness. Packing four full tracks, with a couple of shorties sandwiched between them, the album flows along in cool form, letting its melodies and hooks roll along without too much fuss about sticking to the standard practices. It's a fun and fascinating peek at some nearly-lost roots of the style, and with the ten-minute closer of “Keeper of My Flame”, it packs a big finish. Riding Easy's reissue is due out on February 28th, so if you're ready to dig on one of the pioneers of heavy metal, get ready to pick this one up and have it take you back.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Deep Purple, The Human Instinct, Iron Butterfly, MC5, Mitch Ryder & The Detroit Wheels


Saturday, February 08, 2020

Waking Into Anguish...

Voidlurker - Industrial Nightmare (2020)

Following up on their 2018 demo, the three-piece of Voidlurker have returned with just under thirty minutes of material on their debut EP. Leading off with the ~7:30 title track, the band rolls out some thick and heavy sludge. Slow-grinding riffs, dirty vocals, and flexings of acerbic aggression give the song big flavor, with a ramp into higher tempos at the end helping it to break out of the swampy slog. “Jeffrey Doomer” follows, keeping some of that higher tempo in play while solidly sinking itself into the low-end. Craggy chord progressions and rolling break-downs inflect things with a bit of groove sensibility, while keeping a hazardous vibe well intact. A kick-out riff in the last minute of the song again punches things up, and paves the way for the third track, “Rotten Seed”.
After a bit of low-key intro fun, the song bursts out into wider and more reverberant presentation, growling away with a touch more feedback to the fuzz. The growing heaviness of the riff is emphasized by the gradual slowing of its playing, letting listeners really feel themselves getting dragged down along with it. Despite that, for an eight-minute song, it carries itself well and doesn't make you feel as though you're waiting it out. Lastly, “Bitchcraft and Misery” brings out the snarling attitude in stronger force, hitting some hard combos of drums and guitar for a nasty impression.
All together, the trio have put together a solid first studio effort, and show proficiency in a wide enough range of sludge forms that it'll be hard to predict just what their next one will sound like. Here's hoping it emerges before too long, and keeps up the quality they've put forth so far.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Deuil, Hypnochron, Leechfeast, Plaguewielder, Zaraza


Saturday, February 01, 2020

Ready And Yearning...

Canopy - Humanity Loss (2020)

About a decade in the making, Canopy's first album follows a demo and a pair of EPs (which we covered here and here), and capably demonstrates that the band has been honing their material over all that time. Delivering just under fifty minutes of material across the six tracks (with the two-minute intro track, “Intrusion”, easing listeners into the experience), doom and sludge are stirred together for a heavy dose of suffering, and the results are superb.
The two-part “Hostile Architecture” follows the intro, operating in a largely instrumental fashion, though some screams and howls are used to punctuate the chilly vibes. Strong bass riffs and drums to match are contrasted with the scratchy highness of the guitar's tone, and a couple of spoken samples appear in distorted form to give things extra flavor.
Once that first chunk is concluded, it's on into “Exigent Weight”, which lines up a slow-grind ride with some surprisingly poignant strains from the guitar slid into the agonized atmosphere. The vocals take a more forward and distinct role with this song, but step back again to let the climax rise and strike in full power before rejoining the instruments. Sharp song-writing keeps things intense and stimulating, while the production hits a nice balance between clear and swampy presentation.
“No Cure” picks up from there, going deeper and heavier, and delivering a strong sense of immersion with the coiling echoes of the guitar-work. The vocals ride the swell and fall of the instrumental momentum with very effective poise, snaking in with a howl there or injecting a rasping scream there, always punching the energy higher. Lastly, “Adrenochrome” steps in with a slow-building ramp into action, escalating to hard-slamming rhythms and a final burst of expression. Excellent work throughout, and though it's a digital-only release for now, here's hoping that they find a label savvy enough to put them out on physical media in the near future.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dead Existence, Leechfeast, Mudbath, Primitive Man, Slabdragger


Saturday, January 25, 2020

Seething Beneath Solemnity...

Tethra - Empire of the Void (2020)

With two albums and an EP to their catalog since forming in 2008, the Italian quintet of Tethra has made consistently strong impressions, with the quality of their individual performances and overall crafting resulting in great releases.
Now, with their third album, Tethra stride confidently through an hour's worth of their death/doom metal mixture, working overall atmosphere and individual moments to great effect. Generally speaking, the vocals and drums handle the aggression of the death metal side, while the guitar and bass provide the melancholic doom. But there are also times when the vocals slide into deep wells of longing and regret, or the guitar will burst into raging assault, for example. Throughout the album, the band continually experiments and keeps things from growing predictable or stale, which is a needful concern with both sides of their stylistic heritage.
Whether engaging in slow-paced mood studies (like the title track, for example) or cutting loose with high-action expressiveness, Tethra's work on this album shows the group always focused on making their music come to life. The inclusion of a David Bowie cover (“Space Oddity”) is a surprising touch, but the heavy tenderness the band brings to their treatment of it makes for a memorable twist on the original material. On the whole, it's another strong showing from Tethra, and one that sees them continuing to expand their horizons.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Apothecary, Esogenesi, Illimitable Dolor, Matalobos, Towards Atlantis Lights


Saturday, January 18, 2020

Completion In Consumption...

Black Royal - Firebride (2020)

Riding high off the release of their first LP in 2018, following a single and a pair of EPs, the Finnish group of Black Royal are back to strike while the iron's hot with their second LP. Running right at forty minutes total, the album features nine tracks, blending together a number of styles, but always coming through with a strong sense of the band's character.
Opening with a melancholy, almost dirge-like bit of tenderness in the intro to “Coven”, the band shows an impressive way with understated melodies, before jumping into the hard and sludgy metal that makes up the meat of the LP's music. A chorus of “Please forgive me Satan / For I have not sinned” highlights a warped sense of humor, while an interjection of symphonic strings before the final minute gives an indication of the band's willingness to get weird for the sake of keeping things interesting.
From there, the group keeps things unpredictable but engaging, leavening the hard metal with streaks of moody melodics and psych inclinations put through strange filters. Strong riffs and the self-discipline to leave listeners wanting more serve the band well, and as firmly rooted in metal as the music is, they find ways to keep it up and moving that bring a touch of hard rock energy to the proceedings. Additionally, the riffs tend to be so firmly structured that they lean more into death metal than sludge, though the mix of styles keeps either from being a firm designation.
One of the biggest points of commendation for the band is how much distinct flavor and attitude they give each song (a personal favorite being “All Them Witches”). Though they operate with mostly the same tools from track to track, Black Royal show a high degree of creativity in how they deploy those tools, always incorporating at least a few change-ups to avoid getting bogged down in repetition. At the same time, they keep a recognizable spirit and energy going through all of it, and the momentum through the album is a persistent force.
Though the forty-minute run is likely to leave listeners wishing it had another couple of tracks tagged on, each song on the album is solid, and it makes for a stimulating and energetic showing of the band's capabilities. Check it out if you're looking for some powerful metal that can't be pinned down by easy description.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Criminal, Dead Hand, Deuil, Plaguewielder, Slush


Saturday, January 11, 2020

Toads In Trouble...

Goblinsmoker - A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (2020)

On their third release (already sold out of physical copies about a month before the actual release date), the UK trio of Goblinsmoker bring about half an hour of stony, sludgy doom to bear in the form of three tracks.
Leading with “Smoked in Darkness”, the band builds up a smoky, tarry atmosphere, rumbling along on bass resonance and slow-beat percussion, occasional growls of ragged vocals penetrating the densely fuzzy haze. Grinding along on a heavy-duty riff, beating away with gradually growing fervor, and ramping up the vocal presence, the song rolls on with heavy momentum, hitting its end with a solid thump.
“Let Them Rot” takes over from there, riding a buzzy guitar line into the body of the song, where it's joined by reinforcing bass and punctuating drums. Fleshing out the riff, the band cruises on from there in low gear, seeming mainly concerned with building up the atmosphere of hazardous heaviness. It works well enough, but the trudging pace, combined with relatively little variation over the course of the ten-minute track, brings things down to more of an endurance test than a good doom wallowing. The kick into active drumming in the last minute or so is a nice change, but it's also too little, too late.
Lastly, “The Forest Mourns” turns up the sludge flavoring with some amped-up feedback, though much of the rest of the approach remains the same. Tempo, tuning, rhythms, and instrumental interactions stick with the settings of the previous songs (or close enough that it's effectively the same), which may come as a treat to those who are fully in-line with things by this point, but will likely be something of a let-down to the others who've stuck it out. The band does show a good grasp of the moodiness and vibes that they want to put across, so here's hoping that they bring in a bit more range for whenever their first full-length emerges.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Flood Peak, Lowered, The Sleer, Trees, Tons