Saturday, September 04, 2021

Upon This Earth...

Caged Wolves - Act of Nature Beyond Control (2021)

Coming to us from the cultural hub of Vienna, this is the third release from Caged Wolves, following their back-to-back studio and live EPs in 2019. This time around, the band brings three songs to the table, each settling in the eight to ten minute range, working a mix of desert rock, doom metal, and alternative approaches to each.

First of the tunes is “Cosmic Rage”, which kicks off on a psychedelic groove with some phasing guitar over heavy rolling drums. Settling into a slow-moving but powerful groove which hangs around for much of the song's remainder, the band counterpoints it with bursts of glowering energy, punching up the vocals right alongside the strings and drums. The vocalist is gracious enough to bow out for a stretch, letting the listener soak in some instrumental interactions as they gradually build to a crescendo, leading to a real banger of a climax. “Chronos” follows, leading with an interesting intro finger-picking and rim percussion before sliding to an almost wistful arrangement. They put the high-energy bursts of the opening track to work again here, but raise the time spent in those outbursts each time, making for a cool study in alternation of their intensity. Thankfully, there's enough emotion put into the slower portions that they don't lose the thread, though the momentum does get stretched pretty far. Again, the climax delivers on the build-up, and the band shows some striking chemistry in the way they riff off of each other in this one's release.

Lastly, “Through the Rainbow Valley” introduces itself by pulling out a blanket of fuzz for the strings, which, along with the fatness of the ensuing riffs, shifts things deep into Kyuss territory. As the band shifts their way back out along the course of the song, the psychedelic and prog elements get turned way up, culminating in a fantastically shagged-out roar. Oh, and then you get all three songs again, in instrumental form. The persistent quality of the songs is a testament to the work that this crew has been putting in since their last releases, and it certainly pays off nicely. Great song-writing and powerful playing, well worth checking out for anyone in the mood for something with some heavy music to take them away for a while.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Rooster, Broughton's Rules, Don Caballero, Fatso Jetson, Frozen Planet....1969

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Caged Wolves - Chronos (320 kbps)


Saturday, August 14, 2021

Burning Fields Forsaken...

The Slow Death - Siege (2021)

Hailing from Australia, this death/doom quintet has some common ground leading up to their current incarnation. Not only is this the fourth non-split album to come from The Slow Death, but three of the members are also in Horrisonous and Illimitable Dolor, with the two vocalists (one of whom also handles keyboards) having been plucked from Muskrat and Oracle of the Void. With the shared history between the main instrumental members, you'd expect to find this project approached with a strong sense of purpose, and just from glancing at the track times, that suspicion seems borne out. Totaling just over an hour, split between four songs, it's clear that the band has their ambitions set high,

Opening track “Tyranny” leads into its body with a lush intro, strings and keys drifting over each other in a dreamlike softness. Of course, it's not too long before a harder edge shows itself, as the bassist steps in with a staunch riff and gliding resonance, eventually joined by faster guitar and one of the vocalists (Mandy Andresen), who provides an earthy vibe not dissimilar from early Windhand or Jess And The Ancient Ones. That warm vibe is counter-balanced by the deeper growls from second vocalist Gamaliel, allowing the band to give a more human than usual manifestation of the death/doom contrast. Where Andresen's vocals might be put against chugging guitar, Gamaliel's might find some lightly plucked acoustic string backing, and so on. It's a clever and compelling approach to the music, but even beyond that clear hook, the songs are structured with care. Lengthy as they are, the numerous sections within the songs manage to avoid dragging. Instead, there's both emotion to savor in the moment, and the anticipation of the next shift, with the assorted movements flowing smoothly into one another.

The band also brings a pleasing variety of tonal and timbral qualities. Even within the opening track, the guitars shift their moody presences around from menacing, to meditative, to mournful, and more. While there's not the sort of overt time signature jumping and staggered rhythmic play that might make your mind jump to prog, there's certainly some progressive spirit animating the musicians' approach to the song-writing. Take “Famine”, for example, which alternates a rolling, almost Iron Maiden-ish rhythmic pull (down-shifted to doom gear, of course) with slower, more somber sections. Not a new trick for doom, but the band deploys it wonderfully, returning to the harder riff each time with increased ferocity, chewing right through the song's thirteen minutes. Even if you're not intent on picking apart the songcraft, it's easy to sink into their deep grooves and savor the work put into them. All together, it's an excellent and impressive piece of work. If you're in search of thoughtfully crafted doom, don't let this one go unheard.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bell Witch, The Fateful Hour, Heavydeath, Ksyatriya, Ufomammut

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The Slow Death - Famine


Saturday, August 07, 2021

Slime, Scabs, and Soil...

Black Wound - To the Endless Depths (2021)

On the physical release of their debut EP, the Swedish trio of Black Wound serve up a heady mix of death and doom metal. Despite their young ages (with a drummer who's currently 17), the band has a solid lock on the style and substance, delivering music with enough dark potency to shame groups twice their age.

Opening track “Absence of Will” jumps right into their swampy stew of deep bass riffs, growling vocals, and clanging percussion, with abrupt time signature and tempo change-ups meshing into the grim gurgles and noisome grooves. “From Eternity and Beyond” continues the intense outpouring, with the clangor of the cymbals rolling against the buzzy fuzz and submerged howls. All the while, they keep up some hooky rhythms, pulling listeners along through the surface-level chaos and into the sunken structuring. It also features one of their more memorable breaks, with a desolate-sounding solo taking advantage of the speed and separation contrasts.

“Unending Labyrinth” carries on with more of a classic death metal groove, though it's one which lets the drummer really flex and showcase his chops. Meanwhile, the guitarist goes hard in on his riffing, with a circling progression that suits the track title. “Lurker of the Threshold / Dweller of the Depths” brings a touch of Lovecraft to the imagery, though it doesn't alter the flavor of the music itself in any drastic way. Some extensive tone sustain fits with the monstrous depths and distance ideas of the title (at over seven minutes, this is also the EP's longest excursion). Then it's on into closing track “Traitor”, which shifts back into a more focused grind to match the succinct title. It's one of the cleaner-sounding tunes on the EP, with another stand-out solo freed from the ambient din that marks most of the songs found here. All together, it's a damn impressive first work from any band in the death/doom cross-pollination, with heaviness and brutality overflowing. Here's to the arrival of Black Wound, with hopes that their next release arrives soon.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Coffin Lurker, Fleshpress, Heavydeath, Leechfeast, Primitive Man

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Black Wound - Unending Labyrinth (320 kbps)


Saturday, July 31, 2021

Honoring The Name...

Big Smile Revival - The Universal Veil (2021)

Coming at us from the Bristol region of the UK with this, their debut EP, the trio of Big Smile Revival balance retro psych rock leanings with some more modern rock rough 'n' tumble looseness.

Lead track “Sacred Mushroom” lays in a choice sample before sliding into a warm groove, which finds its way into bigger, faster, and rowdier forms as the group gets down with it. Staying instrumental, they keep the focus on the tones, rhythms, and interplay, and turn out a high-charged piece of cool exploration as a result. As the move into “Divided Kind”, a bit of a twist on pub rock rhythms sneaks its way in, spiked with enough grungy attitude to turn it on its ear. This song also brings in the vocals, which merge with the grumbly fuzz to great effect, dipping into and rising out of it as the harmony keeps moving. A tasty guitar solo gives it that much more kick, and keeps the energy up as the EP moves to its second half.

“Amhran Siog (Fairy Song)” gives a big nod to the group's regional roots, and while there is some starry-eyed folksiness to the acoustic guitar lead-in, and accompanying lightness of the vocals, BSR tap back into the straight-out rock before they lose momentum. That play with contrasts fuels the rest of the song, with the band taking alternating scoops from each, and the clearer sections put a bigger spotlight on the band's lyrical facility. Closing things out, “The Helm” indulges in some tonal lushness, riding the listener in on echoing guitar chords, with the same effect giving the vocals a spacy vibe. There's a wistful quality to the playing on this last track, pushing the band's emotional position out from the mass of the EP's rock-out approach. It's a nice show of their range, and the slowed tempo is given enough change-up in the breaks to keep it from turning into a closing lullaby. All together, great work from this group on their first outing, and enough quality across the songs to have me eagerly awaiting their next release.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Fossil, Frozen Planet....1969, The Heavy Co., Pale Grey Lore, Vanilla Trainwreck

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Big Smile Revival - Sacred Mushroom


Saturday, July 24, 2021

Temporary Graveyard Holding...

Crypt Monarch - The Necronaut (2021)

Hailing from Costa Rica, the power trio of Crypt Monarch are making their debut with this three-song, thirty-six-minute album, recorded (according to the liner notes) “live in a cabin in the woods.” Thanks to their name and some woodcut cover art (especially that fine shade of purple), they've got a good sense of character from the start. That's especially welcome, since for the most part, the vocals aren't the focus on this album.

The evocatively titled “Morning Star Through Skull” opens things up, leaning into some heavy, hard-landing beats and long-sustain riffs to build up an atmosphere of rumbling aggression. As the song plays on, the violent aspects get more life, from bellowing vocals to fuller body on the guitar's ringing chords, and while the finishing moments don't quite pull out a solid conclusion, it still has enough appreciable moments before then to have stoner doom fans nodding along.  “Rex Meridionalis” (your guess is as good as mine on the meaning; 'King of the middle,' maybe?) picks up in a similar style once “Morning Star Through Skull” winds to a close. Once it hits its stride, though, it brings in some winding riffage alongside some metallic percussion for a nicely creepy serpentine vibe. As they lay in some heavy distortion and lean further into the riff, the rhythms hit fantastically, making for a real dark groove tune.

“Aglaophotis” keeps up the mystery titling, and finds the band taking more of a fuzz feedback tone for the guitar, feeling a bit like a lost B-side from Come... My Fanatics, at least instrumentally. The vocals get pushed way down in the mix, leaving the yells as muffled periphery. A late-song shift into more melodic focus helps put a nice capper on the album, with the circling low notes feeling like a sliding comedown. Throw in a distorted sample at the very end, and what you've got is a confident, well-realized album of deep-submersion stoner doom. Sure, there are rough spots here and there, and the length of the songs leads to some filler, but for the first album from the group, and one that was recorded live, it's more than satisfactory. Check this one out if you wish Demon Head had continued more in the vein of their original demo.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Candlemass, DoomLord, early Electric Wizard, Pilgrim, Reverend Bizarre

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Crypt Monarch - Rex Meridionalis (320 kbps)


Saturday, July 17, 2021

Elusive Illumination...

Fell Harvest - Pale Light in a Dying World (2021)

Following up on their self-titled EP from last year, the power trio of Fell Harvest have made their return with a solid forty minutes of forceful doom metal. Peppering in a little bit of spoken word samples here and there, the main focus remains firmly on the strength of the instruments' impact, moods that lean more towards rage than sorrow, and pressing ever onwards.

With “Titanicide”, the opening track, the band sets a powerful first foot forward. Pounding percussion, strident vocals, and insistent strings come together in punchy chords and hooky riff arrangements. Some sharp guitar work gives those hooks all the more ability to lodge in the back of your brain, and the speed with which the band rams through their ideas makes the four-minutes-and-change practically zoom past. As the title track follows up on that initial salvo, expanding into an eight-minute rambler, the band finds more room for slow melodic focus. It should be noted that, in spite of the song names, there's fairly few moments of sorrowful calm to be found in the album; funeral doom, this is not. But the times when it does arrive (as with the extended bridge in the title track) are well-used, making the inevitable returns to thunderous pummeling feel more impactful.

Thankfully, the interplay of the band members is reliably interesting and inventive, shifting focus around the trio's talents to strong effect, and keeping the songs feeling that much more vitalized as a result. In particular, when they unite around a main driving riff, things really kick into gear (see “The Lark at Morning” for a strong example). Similarly, when they give attention to grinding down a particular rhythm (as in “Thy Barren Fields”), the results are some of the album's heaviest. All in all, it's a very strong album from the band, and one with enough twists in the compositions to reward return visits. Here's hoping that their next album finds a little more time to spend in the melodics and sorrow, though.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Candlemass, The Fateful Hour, Heavydeath, Opeth, Pilgrim


Fell Harvest - Thy Barren Fields (320 kbps)


Saturday, July 03, 2021

Heavy Cosmic Tides...

Inner Missing - Deluge (2021)

On their first album since clearing the one-decade anniversary of their first release, the Russian group of Inner Missing have put together eight tracks of gothic doom metal, blending melancholic reflections with powerful rhythmic work and aching tones from their strings.

“In the Haze” gets things off to a strong start, showcasing the band's skill with nimbly sliding from one exploratory movement to the next, carrying listeners along through rousing action and somber focus. While that lush songwriting style persists throughout the album, as does the general mood of regretful introspection, the band has clearly taken pains to distinguish the tracks, to excellent effect. From the broad-buzzing guitar timbre affected for “Daybreak”, to the hard riffing of “Locusts” and the staggered beats of the title track, the songs find ways both immediate and more subtle to stand apart while cohering to a recognizably persistent musical personality.

The work put in by drummer Dmitry Kim deserve special mention, as it does a fantastic job of shaping the emotion and energy of the songs, even when just providing a backbeat to more elaborate guitar tonality. The band plays wonderfully together, building off of each other's heat to reach some blow-away crescendos, and accenting the more emotive parts of the songs without getting treacly. Ultimately, it's an excellently crafted set of songs, and one from which fans of textured, heartfelt doom will get plenty of enjoyment.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Below, Devastating Light, Earthling, Heavydeath, Pilgrim


Inner Missing - Daybreak (320 kbps)


Saturday, June 19, 2021

Into The Cosmos...

Planet of the Dead - Pilgrims (2021)

Following up on their debut album from February of last year, the New Zealander quartet of Planet Of The Dead have made quick turn-around to bring us this sophomore LP. Filled with references to sci-fi hallmarks like Alien, Dune, and RoboCop in the track titles and lyrics, with asteroid-drifting art for the album cover, the band makes no bones about their inspirations and pop culture fondnesses.

Opening with “Gom Jabbar”, the band takes a few moments for spaceship engine noise feedback to set an atmosphere before crashing into full sludge banger mode. Confident guitar crunch and flavorful bass-lines join the cymbal-heavy percussion and deep growls from the vocalist, coming together as a tight sludge package. The rest of the album doesn't drift far from that initial MO, but each song does get some tweaks to help it stand out. For semi-title-track “Pilgrim”, for instance, there's more of a groove focus, while “Nostromo” gets some slowed breaks, “The Sprawl” lets in some tasty soloing, and so on.

For those looking for sludge with overt sci-fi flavoring, news of PotD's continued output should come as welcome news. The band's willingness to switch to doomier slowness for breakdowns serves the spacy settings well, and a scattering of opening samples from the referenced movies add an extra touch of fun. With all the color pressings of their previous album already sold out (and one of the special pressings for this one already in the same boat), you'll want to act fast if you prefer your sludge on wax. Whether the band keeps up their annual schedule, or spaces the next one out a bit more, they're certainly becoming big players in a niche sub-genre.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Gallileous, giant gutter from outer space, Space God Ritual, Tides of Sulfur, Voidlurker

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Planet of the Dead - Escape from Smith's Grove (320 kbps)


Saturday, June 12, 2021

Stellar Travel Report...

SpaceMetal - Highness (2021)

It's been a while since we last heard from the NOLA-based group of SpaceMetal; their last LP, Shroud, dropped back in 2018, and it's been fairly quiet on their digital front since then. Now, thankfully, the group has returned with another batch of songs, this time in honestly-titled EP form, to reassure the world that their heaviness is alive and well.

First of the EP's four tracks is “Stare”, an eight-minute cruiser which plays around with acoustic guitar and spoken-word vocals for an intro before diving into the deep bass and big-body riffs which make up its majority. With a wizard standing at the center of the lyrics, the band keeps a friendly vibe going through the crunch of the tunes, and the strong flow makes the eight minutes fly by. “Cry” follows, working a twistier main riff loaded with earworm hooks. Playing with rhythm change-ups and brandishing big guitar chords, the band manages to make this song feel just as full (if not more so) as the eight-minute track, despite running three minutes shorter.

The title track opens up the EP's second half, ratcheting up the psychedelic traces with some echoing vocal effects and more sedate guitar work. The drums get to come out a bit more in this one, flexing on the cymbal emphasis and experimenting with the fills mid-measure. Lastly, “The Seed” holds on to the psych touches while bringing back the acoustic guitar from the very start of the EP, providing a nice cohering element while wrapping things up. All in all, while it runs just under half an hour, there's enough depth to the songs to let listeners dive right down while it plays, and come out feeling not just that their time and attention was well-spent, but that there's more to be heard next time they spin it. Grab it for yourself once it releases June 26th, or just head over to the BandCamp now to stream it ahead of time.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Attalla, Dead Hand, Tar Pit, Wizard Cult, Wizard Smoke

SpaceMetal - Cry (320 kbps)


Saturday, June 05, 2021

Weight Of A Heart...

Bong-Ra - Antediluvian (2021)

While Bong-Ra is best known for decades of work in the breakcore style, back in 2016, the one-man band experimented with doom metal, on the two-track Palestina release. Half a decade later, musician Jason Köhnen is taking a deeper run at the style, bringing together about half an hour's worth of material across four songs.

Opening with “Kheper – Pharoah's Serpent” (sic), the album's ten-minute opener operates with delicate female vocals over kicks of drums, long-reverbed waves of bass, crashes of cymbals, and squeals of feedback. Though most of the song takes a dirge-like tempo, there are outbreaks of drum frenetics, which add to the overall feel of churning currents moving deep beneath the surface. “Amun – Hidden Chambers” follows, taking its seven minutes to operate in much the same arrangement, but with some drifting piano and increased drum activity spurring things on, and the female vocals swapped out for some male groaning.

Precession of the Equinoxes” leads into the second half of the album, still more drum-driven than the preceding tracks, and more dramatic with the impacts and contrasts. The female vocals return, though they're all but drowned out by the crashing percussion, and we actually get something in the way of a riff from the down-tuned guitar presence. Lastly, “Aton – Mind Machine” follows up on that by working a distinct rhythm out of the elements in play, keeping the drums relatively concrete while the other instruments swirl around them.

Intriguingly atmospheric from start to finish, there's no denying that this album is the result of a musician wanting to push the boundaries, not just with their own talents, but also with the musical style they've chosen to play. Though there's a lot to remind listeners of Godflesh's industrial doom, the more abstracted nature of Bong-Ra's approach leans things hard into funeral doom territory, with the complementary Egyptian themes of the titles adding their own twist to things. One of those albums to put on for the purpose of letting yourself sink into the music.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dirge, Godflesh, Fleshpress, Mudslide, Ommadon


Bong-Ra - Aton - Mind Machine (320 kbps)


Saturday, May 29, 2021

Turning The Cards...

Hermit's Weedsom - As Above So Below (2021)

Making their return about half a year after the release of their first album, with a follow-up that's about twice as long as the debut, the French duo of Hermit's Weedsom are clearly aiming high and keeping their momentum up. Coming together at just over an hour across its eight tracks, the album works with an instrumental cocktail of heavy rock and prog metal, with some stoner dabs to keep things warmly casual.

Leading off with “Wheel of Fortune”, the band works a tight groove, spinning it out into elaborations, riding those out, and circling back to the original riff with some new twists to incorporate. Sharp guitar-work and tasty tones mesh well with the hold-it-down and flare-it-up styles of the drums, which pack plenty of punch in the mix. As the band continues through the album, each song gets its own focus and flavor, from the moody sorrow of “End of Cycle” to the inward-spiraling “Broken Chariot”, the craggy menace of “Emperor's Fall”, and on. Not a disappointment to be heard among them, and the band keeps things inventive from start to finish.

The track titles are all nice and evocative, and loaded with Tarot references, complementing the emotive performances of their songs while providing a sense of occult mystery to the whole package. While some may have issues with taking the whole album in one go (the shortest song is just two seconds short of seven minutes), if you've got a spare hour to sit and soak it in, you'll find the time spent to be well rewarded. Here's hoping that some savvy label signs them up for a vinyl release of these tunes; if they do, expect them to be snapped up fast. Even if this doesn't get a vinyl pressing anytime soon, get on over to the BandCamp page and grab yourself a CD or download of the album, and save it for a day when you've got time to savor some excellent music.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Rooster, Frozen Planet....1969, Necro (Brazil), Porcupine Tree, Weedpecker

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Hermit's Weedsom - Broken Chariot (320 kbps)


Saturday, May 22, 2021

Studies In Decomposition...

Coffin Lurker - Foul and Defiled (2021)

This is the first album from a two-man Dutch supergroup of dark music veterans. Bringing together Maurice De Jong (probably best known for Gnaw Their Tongues, though there's at least a dozen other projects to his name) and Rene Aquarius (likewise prolific, and half of Dead Neanderthals), this is billed as an experiment in pushing the qualities of doom metal to extremes. With the album coming together at just over half an hour in length, it's implicit that to meet that goal, these are going to be some dense songs.

Opening track “Crypt within a Crypt” gets things off to a suitable start, with an enveloping rumble of fuzzy bass joined by low, guttural vocals. The song operates mostly as an audio cocoon, shrouding the listener in morbid ambience, with shredding guitar lines mixed down to become another textural component in the murky din. “Of Suffering” continues in much the same vein, though with some of the textures changed up, and a different rhythm to the massive rumbling. The drums also get more play in this song, though they're suitably muffled, adding to the subterranean feel.

“Suspended Animation” carries on the oppressive atmosphere, with grinding guitar feedback elevated a bit in clarity, and the vocals groaning with more fervor. There's also a shift into what amounts to a bass solo, with clanging piano and drum counterpointing, for one of the more impactful passages in the album. “Sacrificial Chalice” turns up the tempo of the rumbling bass, making it a throbbing presence in the stereo field, and “Cadaverous Odor” brings things to a close with a big riff carrying it along.

While it's not quite as confrontational and unprecedented as the press releases might have it, there's still a lot to respect with the ends to which the duo have pushed this music. It's incredibly heavy, almost to a tangible degree (assuming you've got your speakers turned up loud enough), and the grime is virtually palpable. If you find yourself wanting to just sink into a pit of auditory doom, this should punch your ticket.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Cult Of Occult, Evaporated Sores, Heavydeath, Leechfeast, Meth Drinker


Coffin Lurker - Of Suffering (320 kbps)


Saturday, May 15, 2021

Anticipation And Dissolution...

Devastating Light - I Have Already Failed You (2021)

On the debut album from the Finnish band of Devastating Light, the group delivers a concept album mixing doom, sludge, and post-metal styles, built around the story of a man becoming a father, and struggling to exist in the world that surrounds him. Heavy concepts, but the band brings the music up to the level of quality to handle them. Split into three parts (titled, aptly, “Part One”, “Part Two”, and “Part Three”), the album flows with sorrowful grace and a direction to its anger.

“Part One” is almost entirely instrumental, moving from one slow and meditative riff to the next while keeping production and instrumentation pared down to a sharp and chilly minimalism. There's a bit of blackened lo-fi quality to things, with the buzzy strumming of the guitar over the sound of burning leaves, for instance. Despite the apparent simplicity of the melodies, they're emotionally affecting, with subtle twists to their progressions which slip them in even further. As “Part Two” takes over, the vocals arrive in the form of a down-mixed howl, evoking the sense of the singer being buried beneath the weight of the instruments. It works on a narrative level, too, adding another quality by which to be impressed to this debut release. On top of that, it's worth noting here that this is a one-man band, with everything “played, recorded, mixed and mastered by” musician Teemu Toikka.

Following the emotional turns and curves of the music, with its shifts through a wide range of dynamics and techniques, makes this a compelling and harrowing journey, if you're willing to sink yourself into the experience and listen along closely. Fantastic stuff, and an amazing start for the band.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dead Existence, Dirge, Endless Floods, Odradek Room, Stonerror


Devastating Light - Part Two (320 kbps)


Saturday, May 08, 2021

Crumbled By Existence...

 Crust - Stoic (2021)

On the last album from this long-running Russian crew, the band operates at high quality in a blending of metal styles. Influences from black and death metal can be heard creeping into the base, which is largely a mix of doom and sludge. Unsurprisingly, the music is incredibly moody, and capable of shifting from aggression to withdrawn brooding on a dime.

Leading with the title track, the band establishes their MO in clear terms, and expands on it in intriguing ways through the album's remainder. From the melodic atmospherics of “Watching Emptiness” to the acoustic interlude of “Willow Forest”, threads of drone in “A Blind Man in Darkness”, and the sample/scream interplay of “Darkness Becomes Us”, Crust show themselves to be well-versed in ways of keeping the heavy music engaging and varied.

The production is well-suited to their work, letting the bass end swell into an encompassing presence, while the higher register has an interesting ceiling in the mix, providing the guitars and cymbals with a touch of compression. The gentler parts of the song-writing are integrated in natural ways, letting the band fade from one harsher section to another while keeping it impactful, and when they're in hard gear, it comes off as consistently genuine and earnestly delivered. Though it can be taken as just a wash of dark metal, there's more than enough small details worked into the song-writing to reward careful listening as well. Excellent from start to finish.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dead Existence, Fleshpress, Malsten, Mudbath, O.D.R.A.

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Crust - Desert (320 kbps)


Saturday, April 17, 2021

Waves And Depths...

Ascension Throne - Oceans (2021)

Well, here's something uncommon, at least to the genres we tend to focus on around here. It's a concept EP based on a videogame series (the Nier series, to be specific). Running three tracks long, it's also the debut release from the German group of Ascension Throne, put together during the dull days of pandemic lockdown.

Opening with “Warriors”, a nine-minute slice of slow-moving metal, the EP gets off to a gentle start with dreamy female vocals over thrumming bass-lines, with male counter-parting joining in before long. The contrasting vocal presences make for an interesting dynamic, and the music itself finds an uncommon blend of styles; there's some doom flavor to the big bass reverb, a general post-metal attitude, and a proggy nimbleness as it moves through its paces. The female singer (credited as Tetem) has a bit of a Julee Cruise thing going on, very tender and sweet in delivery, and to be honest, she kind of steals the spotlight.

Middle track “Kainé”, at six minutes, is the shortest song on the EP, and it shifts the focus to piano for its intro, backed by some heavy drum-work. When the guitar comes in, it's with a swerving bit of growl reminiscent of Yasunori Mitsuda's work on the Chrono Cross soundtrack, if we're looking for other video game comparisons. The sectional change-ups are more distinct in this track, possibly owing to the comparative compression of the song-writing against the lengthier track that preceded it, and it makes for an easier time of picking out the individual musicians' respective talents.

Lastly, the title track opens up with some moody synth textures, allowing for a meditative atmosphere before the rest of the instruments come crashing into action. Balancing melodic lightness with the bass' grinding weight, it adds to the band's defiance of easy categorization, while continuing to showcase their skills in layered song-writing. Altogether, an impressive debut, and one that should draw in even listeners who aren't familiar with the games that inspired it.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Crown Larks, Mamaleek, Symphony X, Ulver (Blood Inside era), Venus Sleeps

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Ascension Throne - Kainé (320 kbps)


Saturday, April 10, 2021

Weighing In Together...

Bongzilla / Tons - Doom Sessions Vol. 4 (2021)

Continuing a steady pace for their split albums in this series, this is the second Doom Sessions release from Heavy Psych Sounds this year. Bringing together the long-running Bongzilla with the Italian group Tons, this installment

The elder of the two bands gets the A-side, and Bongzilla leads with “Mother Flowers Little Helper”, and despite seeming a bit word salad, it makes a big impression. Plugging along on a main riff that does enough work for a stretch of nine and a half minutes, spiced with groaning vocals, hard beats, and a fair amount of high-hat clanging, the tune is a heaping helping of opener to get listeners in the stoner doom mood. “Cosmic Distillate, Nectar Collector” follows, picking up the pace (relatively speaking) with a hooky pull from guitarist Jeff Schultz. Some chuggy breakdown adds to the fun, gaining enough momentum to build a slow-swinging rhythm up and into the exit. “Cupcake” (I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it's an ode to an edible) takes a similar tack, but brings in more feedback, spiking things up as the sludge gets consumptive, eventually crawling the tempo down to a seething end.

Tons' side is a single track split into three parts: “Chronic Morning Obesity”. As dismally heavy-sounding as the title suggests, the quartet gets down to semi-psychedelic sludginess, raw vocals and crunching chords complemented by the concessions to harmony which perk up the music. Highly in tune with the style of Bongzilla's contributions, the band thunders along in swampy style, crashing and crushing. A low-mixed sample of someone rambling through a list of all the food they want to cure their munchie cravings shows up in the last slice, making for an entertaining shaping of the mostly-instrumental grooves.

Both sides fit together extremely well, so if you've been in the mood for some fresh and dirty stoner doom, all splashed up with sludgy tendencies, then this double serving is right up your alley. The split officially releases April 23rd, but pre-sales are already up, and going fast, with an assortment of colorways for the vinyl. Cheers to HPS for another winner.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Bomg, Cavity, Dead Existence, Dopethrone, Wizard Smoke

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Tons - Chronic Morning Obesity, Part 1 (320 kbps)


Saturday, April 03, 2021

Faces Behind Faces...

Planeetta 9 - Pirun Piiska (2021)

Following up on their single by the same name from earlier this year, the Finnish sextet of Planeetta 9 bring a concept EP to life across four tracks. Blending doom metal, rock, and folk music, the group delivers an undeniably distinctive style, and shows how deep the well of ideas they drew from in concocting these songs is.

The title track is the first of the four, working some tight-knit grooves with twisting rhythmic arrangements, earthy vocals, and a rich diversity to the instrumentation. The breakdowns are inventive with their heaviness, the switch-ups in band-member focus feel like natural flows to the song, and the escalating intensity is handled to very nice effect. A bit of guitar soloing, paired with deep-beat drums, gives the unpredictable path of the song a helpful anchor, and an extra hook to fix it in memory. Track two, “Sama hauta”, opens with a more traditional doom metal riff, bringing Saint Vitus, Candlemass, or Below to mind with the dramatically-delivered vocals alongside the melancholy string tones. The band hits a fine line between weight and melody in the mood, with the nimble handling of shifts and augmentations casting them in excellent light.

“Juoksuhiekka”, the third in the run, brings the somber tones used in the preceding songs to fuller life, employing bowed instruments and piano, along with a hushed vocal presence, to thoroughly evoke a regretful ache. Easily the most withdrawn of the EP's songs, it encourages a bit of introspection before “Vakuumilapset” leaps the energy back up. Returning the electric guitars and cymbals to the fore, this closing piece finds the band luxuriating in winding chord progressions, rich tones, and plenty of reverb. A frenzied crescendo ridden right into another one lets the band exit the EP with flying colors. Each of the songs has so much going on, and with such fine technique, that despite the four-song length, this is one that can easily be relistened to time and time again while still finding new details.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Crown Larks, Hukkunud Hinged, Monolith Grows!, Odradek Room, Stonerror

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Planeetta 9 - Sama hauta (320 kbps)


Saturday, March 27, 2021

Burnt By Starlight...

Gods of Space - Against the Falling Sky (2021)

Delivering their latest in a string of releases stemming back to 2014, the Pennsylvania-based trio of Gods of Space provide a concisely cosmic trip this time around. Packing five tracks and coming in a few minutes shy of half an hour, the band makes great use of their time, pushing ideas in a range of directions while keeping the hard psych flavors flowing continuously.

First of the tracks on the EP is “Against All Odds”, a soaring ignition piece with some hard bass-line riffs cranking it along. The gritty timbre of the strings contrasts nicely with the clear tones of the vocals, while the drummer's change-ups in intensity add a further layer of action. Pop in some tasty (though brief) guitar soloing, and it's a solid groover, not to mention an enjoyable wake-up tune if you play it early in your day. “Exit Point” follows, shifting to a darker tone; fitting with the EP's concept, this is presumably the point at which our intrepid crew of astronauts hits the point of no return, and the deep, quick-moving riffs fit the mood wonderfully.

“Falling Sky” picks up at the mid-point, employing a bit of retro stoner rock foundation before amping it up and skewing into full-blown '60s psych touchpoints. It's one of the easier tracks to let your mind glide along with, thanks to an extended breakdown section that really evokes the ship reaching its peak, and then beginning to collapse. “Sub Orbital” follows that up nicely with strains of melancholic melody contrasted against harder, engine-like chug riffs. The flow is good, the concept flavors are on-point, and the music is reliably solid.

Lastly, there's “Surf”, the EP's longest track, which opens on a stripped-down arrangement using string hammering for a chilly, desolate vibe. As it sprawls out into livelier tones, the band shows their facility with delicate arrangements, while the drummer keeps a reminder of the doom in store for the cosmonauts evident in his brooding beats. A fiery crescendo into an unwinding finish provides the perfect cap on the experience, and making for a truly impressive release from Gods of Space. The official release date is April 20th, so if you didn't already have that date circled on your calendar, go ahead and make a note to grab a copy of this that day. I promise you, it will not disappoint.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Elephant, Demonauta, Frozen Planet....1969, Giant Gutter From Outer Space, Tuber

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Gods of Space - Exit Point (320 kbps)


Saturday, March 20, 2021

True To The Name...

Heavy Trip - Heavy Trip (2020)

Coming at us from the fabled land of Vancouver, the crew of Heavy Trip released their self-titled LP around this time last year. They're getting a worldwide boost in visibility, though, thanks to the reissuing of that LP by Burning World Records, who are also responsible for the excellent live label of Roadburn Records. With plenty of high-esteem bands to their respective catalogs, it's a great way for Heavy Trip to get some more well-deserved recognition, as anyone lucky enough to grab one of the splatter-styled records (or CDs, or digital copies, or online streams) will quickly agree.

Leading off with the punny “Hand of Shroom”, the band dives right into their heavy psychedelic metal MO with enticing flair, snaky guitar lines, and enough fuzz to get your head well and truly clogged. A coolly confident bass maneuvers about the roiling guitar action with supportive finesse, while the drummer keeps things grooving, whether pacing it high or low. The music does a great job of blending old-school psych melting with a more modern toothiness, letting the music really lunge out and grab you right after rolling off a sweet and slippery progression.

Lunar Throne” follows, taking more of a chill approach to the vibes, while keeping up the impressive interplay and flexibility from the performers. Some truly savory shredding is on display with this one, spinning it out to the edge of the rails before pulling things back on track, only to roam off in another wild direction. “Mind Leaf” carries the spacy cruise on with more of a desert rock tinge to the proceedings, letting gritty soloing flow over a bumping bass-line, while the drums bang out a lifeline of percussive care. The crazed crescendo this one reaches is a jaw-dropping display, even when listened to completely sober, so be careful it doesn't knock you on your ass when you're a little loaded.

Lastly, there's “Treespinner”, which settles back down from the high-intensity of “Mind Leaf”, at least initially. Exploring just how many ways they can bend the main riff into new but recognizable forms, the band finds lots of answers, and keeps the energy feeling just fine as they do so. It adds up to a wonderful thirty-six minutes or so, though you must play it at high volume. You'll feel the guilt if you don't. In any event, grab up one of this new run of vinyl, or whatever option for listening best floats your boat, and have yourself a grand time with this one.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Rooster, Bomg, Earth Drive, Frozen Planet....1969, Ufomammut

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Heavy Trip - Lunar Throne (320 kbps)


Saturday, March 13, 2021

Making Heavy Contact...

Stonus - Séance (2021)

Keeping their momentum going from the release of their first LP about this time last year, the Cyprian quintet of Stonus are back with their third EP. Coming together at just under twenty minutes across the three tracks, the band leads off with “Evil Woman”, a gritty blend of heavy and hard rock, working a riff that circles through repetitions of trailing off and coming back in force. Tasty guitar tone and plenty of cymbal action keep the energy high, while the breakdowns show a desert rock-ish poignancy and streaks of psychedelic spaciness.

“Messianism” takes over from there, keeping up the fuzzed guitar hooks but sliding in a bit of darker tone on the bass side. The riff approach gets changed up, too, opting for more of a back-and-forth slide, to compelling effect. Again, it's in the breakdowns that the band really shines, with the instruments coming down enough to let the vocals bask in smoky enticement, then some knotty guitar-work amping things up for a big finish. Lastly, “El Rata” slides the style dial further over into desert rock territory, with a thrumming bass hook dominating the track. Riding the waves to a mid-song climax lets the band spend time exploring the aftermath for the song's remainder, soaking up more sun-baked vibes as they navigate craggy chords and wade through the fuzz. Quite a fun set of songs, and one to spike up the ears of newcomers to the group's output. Electric Valley Records are putting out a stylish vinyl treatment on March 26th, but pre-orders are going fast, so you might wanna jump on that right this moment if you want one for your collection.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Acid Elephant, Craneon, Kyuss, Manthrass, Tuber

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Stonus - Evil Woman (320 kbps)


Saturday, March 06, 2021

Grasping and Rending...

Grale - Agitacion (2021)

Formed under the pressures of the pandemic lockdown, with members from Olde, Indian Handcrafts, and Cross Dog, this quartet of Canadian metal-makers have put together five tracks for their debut EP. Blending death metal aggression with sludgy grime, the band finds ways to keep their high-tempo maneuverings engaging and healthily diverse, never settling for too long into any one groove.

Opening track “Meth Aggressor” gets things off to a fine start, meshing grinding riffs with rhythmic deftness, and letting the harsh vocals of guest Rob Urbinati set tones of near-vicious acidity and swelling doom. Fine instrumental work gets the motor running, and “No Justice for All” picks up that momentum to run into a disarming bit of melodic indulgence, hooking listeners before pummeling them with more hard-beat action. A bit of throwback soloing comes in quick and sharp, swaying heads and setting ground for some spacier effects the band has in store.

Midpoint tune “The Blade”, in spite of its name, actually brings things down to a slower pace, working a staunch set of riffs to savory effect. Splashes of guitar tone exploration give way to speedier shredding, clean tones clashing excellently with the bass' weighty presence. “The Emptiness Project” punches in for its penultimate spot with still another powerful lead riff, swinging its downbeats with solid power, then cranking up to harder drive. The banging beats brought in towards the end might have this one slotted in as my personal favorite of the five. Lastly, “Terror Control” hits a churning back-and-forth swing for its commanding guitar and drum alternations, bringing the EP to a fiery finish. Excellent work on all five tracks, and one of the better things to emerge from the circumstances of the pandemic. The EP dropped at the end of February, so get on over to Grale's BandCamp and grab yourself a copy already!

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Abstracter, Body Void, Lifeless Gaze, Mountain God, Rainbows Are Free

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Grale - Meth Aggressor (320 kbps)


Saturday, February 27, 2021

Skimming The Top...

Dope Skum - Tanasi (2021)

Rising up from Chattanooga, Tennessee, this two-piece group works a guitar-and-drums approach to sludge (with a few choice booms of bass), letting the punkier side of the style's roots show through in the leanness. Tanasi (try saying it out loud, with a bit of twang) is their first EP, following up on the advance single of “Feast of Snakes”, which is also the first track on the EP.

In said song, the duo work a grinding groove, with gritty production and dirty vocals keeping things grounded. The vocals and instruments twine together well around the main riff, which has a big enough hook to leave it stuck in your head for days. After that, “Anxiety” takes over, creeping along on a snaking rhythm, and letting it build up a while before adding in the vocals. It's one of the spacier tracks of the EP, but with relatively little feedback drenching it, making for an interesting dynamic.

“Chickamauga” takes center space in the track line-up, the title giving another nod to the group's locale. With this track, the band slips further into the moody instrumental groove, keeping enough uneasiness baked in to keep listeners on their toes. Some big drum boosting towards the end, along with plenty of cymbal-riding, makes this more of a showpiece for the drummer, though the guitar strains are a solid touch. “The Levee” picks up from there, and despite a quick run-time, it sets up a fun give-and-take roll on the rhythms, with a big and chunky culmination.

Lastly, “Mountain Cur” picks up the pace for an aggressive finish, gnarling through more feedback than the rest of the EP, though it comes to an abrupt stop. It still makes for a fun first effort from the group, with enough energy and exploration to entice further listening. Give it a go if you're looking for some sludge without all the studio polish most of it seems to get these days.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Clutch, Dopethrone, EyeHateGod, Iron Monkey, Weedeater

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Dope Skum - Feast of Snakes (320 kbps)


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Crushed By Existence...

Urza - The Omniprescence of Loss (2019)

Yeah, so we're technically a couple of years behind on checking out this album, but we've got an excuse. The first physical release of this album will be happening next month, so if you think about it that way, we're actually ahead of things, yeah? In any event, this is the debut album from the German group Urza (a name some nerds in the audience no doubt recognize from a different context), and it's one steeped in funeral doom morbidity.

Opening track “Lost in Decline” is seventeen minutes long, to give you some idea of how things are gonna roll. Rising from bass drones to slow-stomping gloom, and passing through bridge after bridge, it delivers an atmosphere to make you straight-up shiver. Excellent winter music, and probably even better if you can somehow arrange yourself a listen in an underground crypt. The music is almost physically heavy, moving along on tank-tread riffs, and the vocals, deep and booming, are a fantastic fit.

Things continue on in that vein for the remainder of the album, with an evocative track title for each sprawling excursion. “A History of Ghosts”, “Path of Tombs”, “From the Vaults to Extermination”, and “Demystifying the Blackness” make up the remainder, in that order, finding reliably satisfying ways to explore fusions of morbidity and heaviness. If you're already a funeral doom fan, you'll find a lot to savor here; for those new to the style, it'll likely be akin to jumping in the deep end. Songs flow smoothly from one to the next, and it's easy to find yourself sucked into the tarry gravity of the tracks. Coming together at just about an hour of abyssal anguish, it's a stunning debut, and a thorough testament to the band's abilities. The physical release is on cassette, through Nailbat Tapes, and officially drops on March 5th, though pre-orders are already up. If funeral doom so deep-toned you can practically drown in it is your thing, don't miss out on this release.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Heavydeath, Jupiterian, Malsten, Primitive Man, Thergothon

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Urza - Path of Tombs (320 kbps)


Saturday, February 06, 2021

Carved Into Being...

Dopelord - Reality Dagger (2021)

Arriving about a year after their most recent album, Sign of the Devil, this EP finds the Polish psych-doomers of Dopelord still flying in high form. Sporting a Suspiria-styled bit of cover art, the three-track release leads off with “Dark Coils”, a fuzzy groover with thick bass, deep-mixed drums, and hazed-out vocals. Working riffs with all their usual mind-hooking adeptness, the band is right in its element, and the intensification towards the end comes through with great execution.

Your Blood” takes place for track two, keeping the fogged-out atmosphere going smooth. Some tasty guitar soloing over a bass riff makes for a fine bridge, before the song slides into echoing vocals and reverb worship. Those first two songs put together come to about the runtime of the title track, coming up to close out the EP with nearly eleven minutes of down-tuned psych metal. Low-pitched groove digging from the bass keeps things plowing along, while the drummer keeps things low-key until it's time for him to cut loose. Some goosebump-inducing vocal effects tilt things in a darker direction than the band usually operates, while the guitarist gets some more solo time with a crunching progression leading back to the pedal-powered morass.

It's a quick trip, but one which clearly shows the group still operating in fantastic form, while trying out some fun tweaks on their usual style. Established fans will get good times out of this, while newcomers will find it a compelling reason to jump into one of the full LPs. Green Plague Records will be handling release across various formats come February 19th, so mark your calendars to pick it up before it vanishes as fast as their physical releases usually do.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Dopethrone, Electric Wizard, Keef Mountain, Tar Pit, Uncle Acid


Saturday, January 30, 2021

Outrunning The Imminent...

Cortége - Chasing Daylight (2021)

Having been around for about half a decade, the Austin-based duo of Cortége have put out a good half-dozen releases. With the sci-fi flavor of their presentation, and the doomed Western vibe to the music, it's tempting to compare them to the KC-based Merlin, of Christ Killer fame. But with this new two-track EP, coming together at just over a quarter of an hour, the band clearly shows their own distinctively Texas-sun-scorched character, with morbidity and melancholy never entirely deprived of stylish swagger.

Starting off with some tone-setting engine cranking and radio-tuning (including reports of a Texas-sized meteor), Cortége then slam into a huge and moody funeral stomp, shift gears into a dirge-like gloom, and rumbles on from there. Despite the rowdiness of the opening, a considerable part of the song is focused on drifting tones and slow riff grooving, simply relishing the details of the instrumental swamp they're exploring. It's like a mix of the classic Italian film music for low-budget but high-ambition flicks in the western and horror genres, fused around dramatic and goosebump-raising foci.

The break into the second half squeals through on rough tires, but carries listeners smoothly into deeper and darker audio territory, somehow almost somber in its bar-twang guitar and boot-step percussion. As much as it tends to hang onto one riff for a while, the musicians coax an amazing amount of nuanced characterization from the wide-spaced clangs and chords. It helps that they're willing to experiment with instruments, bringing keyboards and bells to prominence alongside the usual doom metal bass/drums/guitar. All together, it's a very impressive EP, and a concise, compelling argument for the band's skills across an open range. If you haven't checked the band out before, this makes for an excellent intro; and if you have, it's a welcome reminder of just how damn good they are.

~ Gabriel

For Fans Of; Broughton's Rules, Farflung, Frozen Planet....1969, Strato's, Tumbleweed Dealer

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