Monday, December 31, 2012

Year's Best 2012



Full-lengths

1. UZALA – ‘Uzala’

2. ICE DRAGON – ‘Tome of the Future Ancients’

3. REINO ERMITAÑO – ‘Veneración Del Fuego’

4. REVELATION – ‘Inner Harbor’

5. SLOMATICS – ‘A Hocht’

6. DEMONIC DEATH JUDGE – ‘Skygods’

7. IN THE COMPANY OF SERPENTS – ‘In the Company of Serpents’

8. PALLBEARER – ‘Sorrow and Extinction’

9. ICE DRAGON ‘greyblackfalconhawk’

10. KADAVAR – ‘Kadavar’

11. NORTHWINDS – ‘Winter’

12. SAINT VITUS ‘Lillie: F-65’


EPs/Demos/Singles/Splits

1. TENTACLE – ‘Void Abyss’

2. BURNING SAVIOURS – ‘Förbannelsen’ 7” Series

3. APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE – ‘Demo 2012’

4. SPELLJAMMER – ‘Vol. II’

5. BALAM – ‘Balam’


Best Live Performances

1. DENVER DOOM FEST II – 3 Kings Tavern

2. MUDHONEY – Bluebird Theater

3. SAINT VITUS – Bluebird Theater


Most Anticipated Albums of 2013

1. The next three releases from ICE DRAGON or anything from TENTACLE.

2. BLACK SABBATH – ‘13’

3. APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE

4. THE BLACK ANGELS – ‘Indigo Meadow’

5. PEACEMAKER – ‘Cult .45’

Friday, December 28, 2012

...into the circle I wander: GALLOW GOD – ‘The Veneration of Serpents’


London, England’s Gallow God occupies that realm of majestic, emotive doom which is shared by the likes of Procession, Griftegård, Warning, and Pallbearer. With a runtime pushing near the 70 minute mark the eight tracks of the band’s debut full-length, ‘The Veneration of Serpents’, is a sweeping collection of immersive, soul-crushing doom punctuated with moments of calm, melancholic beauty. Though it’s been nearly three years since the release of the band’s impressive debut EP, ‘False Mystical Prose’, Gallow God seem to have further developed and fine-tuned their glacial paced sound before propelling it once again into the sublunary sphere.

Opener “The Circle” is easily the most immediate and rewarding song of the album due in large part to its heavily distorted sluggish groove and the vocal melodies of singer/guitarist Dan Tibbals whose voice, at times, resembles ‘Children of Doom’ era Chritus Linderson. “The Circle” is a solid introduction to the arcana of ‘The Veneration of Serpents’ and is, for many of the subsequent songs, a difficult track to follow. “Waters of Death, Thy Hands will not Cleanse” is a brooding, somber tune that utilizes space and quieter passages, but doesn’t ultimately abandon loud, heavy moments. The instrumental passage in the latter half of the song highlights the rhythm section of new bassist, Mitch Barrett, and drummer Jim Panlilio whose double bass drum kicks add thundering depth and variety to the doom and gloom. “At Eternity’s Gate”—perhaps the most Warning sounding track due to its cadence and lead guitar—is held aloft by Tibbals who delivers his most impressive vocal performance of the album. It’s heartfelt and pleadingly forlorn. The album’s namesake, “The Veneration of Serpents”, rivals “The Circle” as a standout track of the album and again spotlights the rhythm section of Barrett and Panlilio who drive the song forward to converge with the catchiest chorus of the album.

The second half of the album opens with “A Miser’s Land” and is the first track that really begins to test the listener’s fortitude. While “A Miser’s Land” is by no means weak, it is a dirge-like crawl that lacks any of the hooks or tempo changes that made the first half of the album so engaging. This lack of hooks, coupled with the lengthy runtime of the track makes for an arduous detour. As if sensing something is amiss, Gallow God throws the listener a curveball by unleashing their rendition of the traditional ballad “Scarborough Fair” and they simply kill it. It’s appropriately heavy while still remaining faithful to the spirit of the classic ballad. “Gaslight” almost succumbs to the same fate of “A Miser’s Land”, but the song plays with tempo and effectively weaves its sluggish plod with lead guitar driven passages. The album closes out with “The Cranes of Ibycus” which tells of the fate of the ancient Greek poet and the cranes that caused his murderers to inform on themselves. The themes of this final track suit the band’s ability to craft beautifully despondent tunes.

While the first half of ‘The Veneration of Serpents’ is arguably stronger and more memorable, the entire album flows with continuity and singular purpose. The band is in elite company with their ability to compose heavy, yet emotional tunes that can have a visceral effect upon the listener. Fans of traditional doom or the band’s earlier work will find a lot to like in ‘The Veneration of Serpents’. Welcome to one of the first great albums of 2013.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

THE WELL – ‘Seven’


Austin, Texas three-piece The Well recently unleashed their debut 7”—the aptly titled ‘Seven’—which is ten and-a-half minutes of garage-rockin’ doom coated in a saccharine sheen. While the band’s sound isn’t particularly polished, the catchy, shared vocal melodies of singer/guitarist Ian Graham and singer/bassist Lisa Alley lend an overall “pop” sound to the tunes. Even though the band isn’t blatantly wearing their influences on their collective sleeves, it comes as no surprise that they list Sonic Youth and The Raveonettes as artists that they appreciate along with many of the usual suspects such as Black Sabbath, Pentagram, and Blue Cheer.

Both tracks of the single, “Act II” and “Trespass”, are up-tempo jams that, at times, roar with garage-punk intensity. The main riff of “Act II” features an impressive, growling distortion that is the dominant force of the track until about midway through where the rhythm section of Alley and drummer Jason Sullivan really shine by keeping the song grounded amidst Graham’s feedback soaked, freak-out soloing. “Trespass” utilizes some heavy wah pedal abuse and reigns in the distorted roar a bit giving the bass playing of Alley more of a spotlight. Despite being the shortest song of the single, “Trespass” offers a little more variety throughout the track and really gives the individual players the space they need to stand out.

The Well’s mixture of stoner metal, doom, and garage rock is nothing new, but the shared boy/girl vocals give this band a unique, if somewhat, “poppy” twist. The two tracks of ‘Seven’ are both infectious and rock-solid. While their sound is light years away from the sludge-pop stylings of Torche or the T. Rex influenced doom of Winters, fans of these two bands might immediately take to The Well. It’ll be interesting to see how this young band continues to develop and where they’ll take their brand of doom on future release. While it looks like The Well has sold out of the ‘Seven’ 7” (which included some cool, “imposter” album sleeves), you can still check them out and get a digital copy on their Bandcamp page.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

Burning Saviours – Förbannelsen 7” Series


Though the ‘Förbannelsen 7” Series’ kicked off in 2011, the circle has finally been completed with three of the four discs being released over a span of several months in 2012. The mark III incarnation of Burning Saviours has shed the ill-conceived, hippy-dippy inclinations of ‘Nymphs & Weavers’ in favor of a darker, doomier approach that rivals the band’s excellent self-titled debut and the arguably greater follow-up, ‘Hundus’. The departure of vocalist/guitarist Andrei Amartinesei following the ‘Hundus’ full-length and subsequent single, ‘The Giant’, seemed to cripple the band beyond repair. The following third full-length, ‘Nymphs & Weavers’, was an odd misstep that featured uninspired songwriting and the vocals of Fredrik Andersson who paled in comparison to Amartinesei despite Andersson being a capable vocalist. The death knell had seemingly signaled the demise of Sweden’s Burning Saviours.

After a two year slumber the band arose from the grave in 2010 with the addition of guitarist Jonas Hartikainen and original guitarist Mikael Monks assuming vocal duties. The end result is quite different from the sound established on the band’s earlier recordings, but no less compelling. Burning Saviours still occupies that realm of warm, retro-inspired hard rock that is currently being mined by numerous bands—particularly by bands from Sweden—but they are exploring a sound more congruent with the proto-doom pioneers of the 70’s. The ‘Förbannelsen 7” Series’ is darker both musically and, most notably, lyrically from the band’s self-titled debut and follow-up, ‘Hundus’. Mikael Monks has done an effective job of taking the reins and sliding into the role of front man. His voice may not be as distinctive or expressive as former vocalist Amartinesei, but he is able to belt out catchy vocal melodies that really complement the doomier direction the band has taken.

The 70’s influences of the collection are difficult to miss and the eight tracks effortlessly combine moments of hard rock, soulful breakdowns, Thin Lizzy inspired dueling guitars, and straight-up, unabashed doom riffs. The first single, ‘Förbannelsen’, kicks off with an upbeat title track sung in Swedish. Burning Saviours have returned. The guitar tones are warmer and richer than anything the band has recorded to this point and really illustrates that Burning Saviours aren’t merely interested in repeating the sound of their earlier recordings. “Midnight”, the B-side to “Förbannelsen”, is a more somber tune due to its slower pace and soulful lead guitar playing courtesy of Hartikainen. “Midnight” also features Monks singing in English, a trend that will continue through six of the seven remaining tracks. The second single, ‘The Offering’, begins with an ominous guitar intro reminiscent of Black Sabbath’s self-titled song from their debut before catapulting into one of the strongest, nod-inducing riffs to be found in the series. “The Offering” is easily one of the standout tracks of the collection. “Spirit of the Woods” is a barn burning, blues inspired rocker that has more in common with most of the other Swedish exports.

The third 7”, ‘The Nightmare’, finds the band in more soulful territory, both musically and vocally. Monks really pushes himself vocally on the title track as he simultaneously laments and curses a figure from the past who haunts his dreams. While the bulk of the song has a bluesy, downtrodden feel, it does launch into moments of blistering guitar playing that brings to mind Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson in their prime. “Doomus Maximus”, another stand-out track, returns to the 70’s inspired proto-doom sound that this incarnation of Burning Saviours plays so well. Like the A-side to this single, “Doomus Maximus” has its soulful moments that appear midway through the song. The final single, ‘Hon Dansade med Döden’ kicks off with “I am Lucifer” which continues Burning Saviours’ journey into darker lyrical content by seemingly finding inspiration in Milton’s Paradise Lost. “Hon Dansade med Döden”, a proto-metal burner, appropriately bookends the 7” series by being sung exclusively in Swedish. While the end track isn’t as initially gratifying as the series opener, “Förbannelsen”, it is far from weak.

The reformation of Burning Saviours and the ensuing release of the ‘Förbannelsen 7” Series’ has signaled the band’s return to form, albeit with a slightly different approach. While Burning Saviours has always been rooted in vintage sounding doom, the mark III incarnation seems to be delving deeper into the abyss. For those who were turned off by the band’s lamentable third release, ‘Nymphs & Weavers’, the ‘Förbannelsen 7” Series’ offers redemption in a big way. Hopefully the band will continue to follow their current trajectory and produce a full-length in 2013 that is just as good, if not better than this collection of singles. Highly recommended for fans of their earlier work, vintage sounding metal in all of its forms, and doom.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

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Friday, December 21, 2012

…I wear black on the outside because that’s how I feel on the inside: Slow Heart’s ‘Dead Friends and Angry Lovers’


Boston’s genre-hopping three-piece, Ice Dragon, is responsible for releasing one of the most compelling, tripped-out doom metal albums of the year with their excellent fourth full-length ‘Tome of the Future Ancients’. Seemingly not content to tread the same path twice, the band has pushed their collective sonic palettes into drone, 60’s psychedelia inspired dream-pop, and kraut-rock influenced freak-out territories among others. When not recording as Ice Dragon, the band has also assumed the identity of Tentacle—a dark, acerbic doom/drone/sludge abomination that worships at the altar of Cthulhu. Not to leave any stone unturned, the band—recording as Slow Heart—has bypassed the space-time continuum and released ‘Dead Friends and Angry Lovers’, a moody, reverential collection of tunes that would be right at home on an 80’s college rock radio station played amongst Bauhaus, The Sisters of Mercy, Joy Division, or The Birthday Party. This may not be the doom metal or psychedelic rock that Ice Dragon has become synonymous with, but the five tracks that comprise ‘Dead Friends and Angry Lovers’ are a collection of atmospheric, sparse compositions that channel the best of 80’s post-punk and goth-rock.

“We Want the Night” opens the album with a gentle drumbeat alternating steadily between snare and bass before the heavily reverbed lead guitar protests dreamily in the background. Lead vocalist Ron Rochondo has further developed vocally by assuming a croon that falls somewhere between the sonorous, deep baritone singing voices of Nick Cave and Andrew Eldritch. “We Want the Night” establishes the mood for the rest of the album through its barren, minimalist composition that runs like a vein through three of the remaining four tracks. “Alone and Red” veers slightly from the minimalist goth-rock tendencies of “We Want the Night” in favor of an orchestral drone. This second track adds a meditative texture to ‘Dead Friends and Angry Lovers’ and serves as a foil to the remaining spectral compositions. “Never Trust a Woman (Dressed in Black)” is, musically, the best song that Echo and the Bunnymen never recorded provided said Bunnymen were on a steady diet of downers and didn’t give a fuck of whether they sold an album or not. “Die Tonight” is the soundtrack for a torturous descent into a personal abyss. The repetitive, haunting two notes played on the keyboard drives the anguish straight into the skull. ‘Dead Friends and Angry Lovers’ ends with the instrumental track “11:54pm (Waiting on Midnight)”. While this fifth track fits in well and remains consistent with the album as a whole, it could just as easily be a long lost Portishead demo minus the trip-hop tendencies.

In the absence of Ice Dragon or Tentacle I’ll take Slow Heart any day. Ron, Joe, and Carter have nailed it by drawing inspiration from late 70’s/early 80’s goth-rock and post-punk to create an album that transcends both the scene and era that influenced it. Ice Dragon’s fifth full-length, ‘Dream Dragon’, found the trio experimenting with lighter, psychedelic rock with much success, but ‘greyblackfalconhawk’ and now Slow Heart’s ‘Dead Friends and Angry Lovers’ confirms that Ron, Joe, and Carter are more than proficient at creating dark, atmospheric tunes seemingly on a whim. Here’s looking forward to more Slow Heart in the future.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Submerge Yourself in Disease: ATOMIC CRIES ‘Suspended Between the Mouth of God and the Fist of Man’ 7”


The unholy cacophony unleashed by Saúl Do Caixão and Andy Lippoldt, collectively known as Atomic Cries, is the accompanying death knell belched forth from the mouth of hell as Death gallops onward into the realm of man. The band’s latest 7” single, ‘Suspended Between the Mouth of God and the Fist of Man’, stays true in overall mood, texture, and execution to the impressive 4-song demo, ‘For Those Who Came Before Us’, that was released earlier in the year. The duo proclaims that they “play primitive doom metal exclusively” which is right on the mark. Atomic Cries’ primitive doom metal, which also has an apocalyptic, ritual altar feel to it, fits in among other adepts who also dabble in lo-fi, primeval doom such as early Ice Dragon, Tentacle, Uzala or even Saint Vitus.

“False Prophecies”, the A-side of ‘Suspended Between the Mouth of God and the Fist of Man’, opens ominously amidst shapeless, rough-hewn distortion and drums before ultimately coalescing into a sinister doom riff accompanied by the booming, layered vocals of Saúl Do Caixão. The entire track pulses with a life of its own as the listener is eased into a slow descent of inescapable doom. While “False Prophecies” has no real twists and turns as far as tempo goes, the subtle effects on Saúl’s vocals and the addition of piercing lead guitar toward the latter half of the track add depth and character to this doleful tune. The B-side, “The Athiest”, fades in to a repeated pattern of simple, yet abrasive notes that escalates in intensity before dissolving into an all-engulfing wave of distortion. When the dust finally settles Lippoldt lets a few bass notes ring out before Do Caixão follows closely with his guitar crunch and Atomic Cries plunge into their second ritualistic slow-burn. While “The Atheist” isn’t as initially gratifying as the A-side, the tune ultimately devolves into a satisfying organ outro that makes the journey worth it.

The lo-fi, no frills approach of Atomic Cries’ self-proclaimed “primitive doom” is a welcome addition to the canon of traditional doom metal. ‘Suspended Between the Mouth of God and the Fist of Man’ picks up where the demo, ‘For Those Who Came Before Us’, left off and continues the band’s exploration of down tempo, funereal textured doom. There may be those who won’t appreciate the raw, demo quality of ‘Suspended Between the Mouth of God and the Fist of Man’ but you can’t please everyone. It’ll be interesting to see how this band develops in the future and if they will be able to diversify their sound in all of its simplicity. Get both ‘Suspended Between the Mouth of God and the Fist of Man’ and their demo through the band’s bandcamp page. The 7” single is to be released January 2013 through Finland’s Svart records.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Uzala/Mala Suerte – Split 7”


Mala Suerte and Uzala—both practitioners of heavily mired, psychedelic doom—have joined forces to release a split 7” that highlights some of the best that both bands have to offer. Mala Suerte’s Illumninati inspired, New World Order thwarting “The Veil of Secrecy” is a heavy, hook-laden response to corruption, inequality, and clandestine abuses of power. While “The Veil of Secrecy” was recorded in 2010, not long after the release of the band’s sole full-length album, ‘The Shadow Tradition’, it is a track that really fits in well with the band’s previously released material while at the same time showing compositional growth. “Burned”, Uzala’s contribution, embraces a cleaner sound than what is found on both their self-titled album and the ‘Cataract/Death Masque’ single which ultimately places even more of a focus on Darcy Nutt’s ethereal vocals.

“The Veil of Secrecy” has two things going for it that really elevates the track above anything that Mala Suerte has put out before it—the opening lead guitar and Gary Rosas’ vocals. The entire song is a mid-paced plod, but the opening lead guitar instantly draws the listener in with its emotive, killer tone. Immediately noticeable with Mala Suerte’s latest is that Gary Rosas’ vocals have been dialed-back a bit which really works well on this tune. “The Veil of Secrecy” sacrifices the abrasive, up-front vocal delivery found on ‘The Shadow Tradition’ in favor of a more restrained, chant-like cadence that complements the conspiratorial lyrics. Mala Suerte’s contribution is a welcome addition to the band’s catalogue and thankfully “The Veil of Secrecy” has finally been revealed.

The relatively cleaner production of Uzala’s “Burned” really stands out and brings Darcy Nutt’s seraphic vocals to the forefront. While the production is a bit clearer, this isn’t a night and day difference. The bands still dwells in the depths of a psychedelic slurry, though the waters are a bit less murky. “Burned” still displays all of the musical elements that make Uzala so great. The interplay between the riffs and lead guitar courtesy of Chad Remains and Darcy are ever-present as is the dark, uncompromising atmosphere that seems to permeate all of the band’s recordings. For those needing a fix while they are waiting for the band to finish their next album, “Burned” just may temporarily hold them over.

Both of the doomed-out tracks on the split are strong compositions that complement each other well and should momentarily appease fans that are looking forward to new material from either band. While Mala Suerte and Uzala approach their disciplines from different angles, each band is unified by their dedication to dark, atmospheric doom. Here’s looking forward to new material from each band in the upcoming year. Pick up the 7” from King of the Monsters Records.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Wizard Smoke – ‘The Tickler’ EP


Gasping for breath on the heels of 2011’s excellent full-length ‘The Speed of Smoke’, Atlanta, Georgia’s stoner-sludge metal specialists, Wizard Smoke, have released their two-song EP, ‘The Tickler’, which continues the band’s winning combination of scuzzy, psychedelic riff-driven stoner-metal and throat shredding vocals. Where 2009’s ‘Live Rock in Hell’ was a straight-up, in-your-face assault of distorted grooves, ‘The Speed of Smoke’ built upon that formula but also raised the stakes by including more progression, experimentation, and a cleaner production which resulted in a heavy, forward-thinking, yet catchy album. Wizard Smoke’s newest, ‘The Tickler’ EP, fits comfortably right in with their two previous releases.

“Christian Cross”, the EP opener, alarmingly takes off at a break-neck speed, but like an overweight, middle-aged burnout with the best intentions of keeping up the pace, fatigue inevitably sets in, and the band eases into a more comfortable, slug-like groove. Wizard Smoke continues to tastefully include the use of synthesizers which add additional textures by sporadically washing over the riffs and the frayed vocal stylings of James Halcrow. At over ten minutes in length “Christian Cross” has plenty of room to breath. The instrumental passages are kept alive by the drumming which allows the guitars to explore a variety of tempos as the synths help to maintain a consistent atmosphere. In contrast to the song’s upbeat beginning, “Christian Cross” drags itself to a close like a wounded sloth amidst feedback, infrequent distorted guitar strums, and agonized bellows.

“Old Snake”, the flipside to “Christian Cross”, finds Wizard Smoke mining a grittier, bluesier sound. Where “Christian Cross” spends a majority of its time in the down-tuned realm of slow-mo doom riffs, “Old Snake” has a more up-beat, blues swagger and the band sounds right at home. While Wizard Smoke are no strangers to blues-inspired stomp, they are able to switch gears and still maintain a consistency and uniformity between not only their songs, but also among their releases.

Even though “Christian Cross” and “Old Snake” are some of the longest tunes penned by the band, at only two songs in length, ‘The Tickler’ EP really only serves to fuel the anticipation for another full-fledged Wizard Smoke release. Here’s hoping to 2013. All of the band’s releases are available for free download through either their main website or their Bandcamp page. Vinyl is limited to 300 copies so act quickly to get a copy.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Revelation – 'Inner Harbor'


While it’s probably just a mere coincidence, one can’t help but notice that Baltimore, Maryland doom legends, Revelation, have churned out—counting the 2009 self-titled release, aka the ‘Unreleased’ LP— a seventh full-length album that is somewhat of an anomaly amongst their discography just as Black Sabbath’s seventh album, ‘Technical Ecstasy’, marked the beginning of a noticeable departure form the signature Sabbath proto-doom sound. Not that Revelation are mere Sabbath clones, but the band admittedly draws much of their inspiration from the doomy, Iommian riffs of Black Sabbath and the progressive tendencies of Rush. Where one of the biggest faults of ‘Technical Ecstasy’ seems to lie in that album’s terribly thin production, Revelation’s ‘Inner Harbor’ maintains a thick and heavy sound that has graced the majority of the their releases.

One of the most noticeable elements of ‘Inner Harbor’ is that the songs are spacious and have more room to breathe compared to previous albums. Seemingly missing are the forlorn, dirge-like wall-of-sound meditations that made ‘For the Sake of No One’ and ‘Release’ so memorable. Instead, ‘Inner Harbor’ embraces even more deeply the progressive side of the band and perhaps blurs the identities of Revelation and their alter-ego, Against Nature. It’s always been difficult to classify Revelation as simply a doom band…they have always seemed to transcend the confines of genre conventions based on their synthesis of influences and their solid musicianship. Much of the spaciousness of ‘Inner Harbor’ can be attributed to the band’s focus on progressive rock opposed to the doom that many fans have grown accustomed to and to startling effect. ‘Inner Harbor’ may initially dash expectations, but that isn’t a bad thing at all.

Another element that really separates ‘Inner Harbor’ from the band’s previous works and, at the same time, exhibits more similarities with Black Sabbath’s ‘Technical Ecstasy’ is the pervasive use of keyboards. In the case of both bands it’s initially a tough pill to swallow due to the consistency of earlier recordings. In Sabbath’s case specifically the band wasn’t necessarily healthy or in working order and ultimately succumbed to drug use, weak production, and the use of keyboards or synths that didn’t quite coalesce like on previous albums. Revelation, on the other hand, have managed to craft songs where, f the use of keyboards, for the most part, act as accents to the tunes and provide additional atmosphere and vibes as is the case with the second track of the album, “Terribilita”.

Many consider ‘Technical Ecstasy’ as the beginning of the end of Ozzy-era Black Sabbath. The same cannot be said in regards to ‘Inner Harbor’ and Revelation. ‘Inner Harbor’ may take a few listens to fully appreciate the slight shift that the band has made from doom to more hard rock, progressive territory, but Revelation’s latest remains wholly and unmistakably a Revelation album. If there’s any album this year that deserves the tag of “grower” it’s ‘Inner Harbor’ which includes some of Revelation’s strongest compositions and is embedded with some blisteringly amazing guitar leads courtesy of John Brenner. ‘Inner Harbor’, as well as the rest of the band’s discography, is available for download through the band’s own Bland Hand Records website. Be sure to later this year either pick up the vinyl which is going to be released through Pariah Child Records or the CD through Shadow Kingdom Records.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Slomatics – ‘A Hocht’


The sheer weight and magnitude of Slomatics’ third full-length, ‘A Hocht’, easily crushes and surpasses the band’s previous works by increasing not only the overall heaviness of their sound, but also by including and exploring darker textures and atmospherics. Tony Roberts’ “Flaming Octopus” album cover encapsulates the unadulterated visceral offensive launched by the Belfast trio—it’s a massive, fiery slab of impending doom that is awash in moments of beauty and calm. Without the presence of a bass player, the low-end thrum created by guitarists David and Chris and singer/drummer Marty is nothing short of amazing. Slomatics are able to plunder the depths of suffocatingly heavy music without sacrificing catchiness or momentum.

“Inner Space”, the ominous introduction to ‘A Hocht’, is an exercise in ambient intensity. A depth-charged, low-end rumble is accompanied with washes of feedback that ultimately concludes with a cymbal roll crescendo that ebbs into nothingness. Like a down-tuned air raid siren, “Flame On” pierces the silence with a thunderous roar. This second track is the accompaniment to martial law as Marty’s bellows have a dictatorially quality that rises authoritatively above the din. “Flame On” simply crushes. “Beyond Acid Canyon” slows things down to a doom crawl with sluggish, heavy riffs and the tolling of a bell. Over the next six minutes Slomatics manage to exert the equivalent pressure of being submerged 18,000 ft. below the surface of the ocean with only a brief respite as “Beyond Acid Canyon” momentarily drifts through more dreamy, tranquil waters. “Return to Kraken” amps things up with a tumultuous, driving riff that sounds as if David and Chris have exchanged their guitars for a couple of impossibly distorted basses. The song is a continuous wave of distorted fury until it breaks down into a slower section layered with memorable leads.

The glorious “Tramontane” ushers forward the second half of the album with an anticipatory slow burn. The mood is established through intense, sporadic drumming, and steady, sloth-like riffing which is glazed over with a mesmerizing hum before erupting into an all-out assault of doomed-out proportions. At just over seven minutes in length “Tramontane” is the longest track on ‘A Hocht’ and not a single second is wasted or unnecessary. The oppressive, sludge-suffused doom of “Tramontane” ultimately yields to the delicate placidity of “Blackwood” which offers the listener a haven of ambient textures and alluring, siren-like vocals before Slomatics resume their mission of crafting megalithic tunes of the utmost density. The instrumental “Theme From Remora” relies almost exclusively on repetition for its entrancing effect which is accented through both the drumming and background noise. Finally, all good things must come to an end and the appropriately titled “Outer Space” bookends the album by combining the ambience and repetition found on the previous two tracks into an eerie amalgamation of desperate noise.

Every release from Slomatics is worth checking out, but they have made tremendous strides since their last full-length release, 2007’s ‘Kalceanna’, strides which were intimated on their 2011 split with Conan. The band has crafted one of the heaviest and most memorable releases of the year, but they have also managed to imbue ‘A Hocht’ with moments of serenity and beauty—a feat not easily accomplished. One of the year’s best.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Thursday, October 25, 2012

Demonic Death Judge – ‘Skygods’


Finland’s psyche-sludge overlords, Demonic Death Judge, have closely followed the orbit established by 2011’s excellent full-length album, ‘The Descent’, with another earsplitting slab of progressive minded stoner metal entitled ‘Skygods’. Not to dismiss their self-titled EP, but the band has been on an upward trajectory since the release of 2010’s ‘Kneel’ EP. Each successive release has found the band layering impossibly heavy riffs with atmospheric passages and Jaakko Heinonen’s sinisterly harsh vocals. While their method of attack has remained consistent, the band’s sound has subtly evolved over the past three releases. The ‘Kneel’ EP was an all out attack of abrasive, mind-melting catchiness capable of leveling a skyscraper. ‘The Descent’ found the band branching out by coupling more complex arrangements with classic rock influences and an increased depth of psychedelic textures. ‘Skygods’, the next logical step in the band’s evolution, makes an incremental sacrifice of their acerbic sludge in favor of Sabbath-inspired riffs and a deeper investigation of ambient soundscapes.

“Skygods”, the album’s namesake, kicks off the release in majestic fashion by layering post-metal guitar leads atop mesmerizing riffs. The element that truly elevates the opening track to greatness is the penetrating, fluid basslines of Pasi Hakuli, which is imprinted all over this release. The second track, “Salomontaari”, slows things down by featuring a more doom-oriented sound. The song twists and turns through its near eight minute run time, eventually breaking down not once, but twice into instrumental passages that selectively features lead-guitar jamming, Pasi’s infectious basslines, and even keyboards. The brief, dreamy, ambient passage “Latitude” gently lulls the listener into a false sense of calm before escalating into the onslaught that is “Knee High”, a tune that could easily have been lifted from the “Kneel” EP. “Knee High” competes as an album highlight due to the staggering, up-tempo riffing of Saku Hakuli which Heinonen’s vocals complement perfectly.

The second half of the album begins innocuously enough with an instrumental passage featuring acoustic guitar before Heinonen’s shriek pierces the calm. “Aqua Hiatus” easily flows between calmer, acoustic inflected moments and doom-inspired riffing. Again, Demonic Death Judge knows how to mix things up and keep every composition interesting. The sludge-swagger of “Cyberprick” has a jazzy breakdown incorporating a brief spoken-word sample that menacingly claims: “You're looking at me and you're looking at the future. See, this country is gonna blow. And people like me are gonna light the fuse. The despised, the betrayed. We're gonna light the fuse and this country is gonna blow. This country is gonna blow…” Eerie lead guitar launches into “Nemesis”, another effectively atmospheric track in the vein of “Latitude” though more song oriented, which features a rarity from Demonic Death Judge…clean vocals. While the song embraces atmospherics in favor of the hard-hitting sludge that the band is notorious for, “Nemesis” really stands out as an album highlight. The longest track, “Pilgrimmage”, appropriately closes out the album. At ten minutes in length, it allows the band to really spread their wings and really venture into a moody composition that seems to combine all of the softer elements that make the other seven tracks on this album so great.

Demonic Death Judge’s ‘Skygods’ is another addition to an already stellar discography. The band has managed to effortlessly combine seemingly disparate elements into a cohesive whole of psychedelic-inflected sludge metal. While this album may not be as immediately heavy as the ‘Kneel’ EP, it does manage to surpass that early recording in terms of songwriting, and overall mood. ‘Skygods’ is easily the band’s most mature and varied album to date. It’ll be interesting to see how the band continues to evolve on future releases and where their sonic explorations will take them.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Ice Dragon – ‘greyblackfalconhawk’


Ice Dragon is here to ruin your day. The Boston, Massachusetts trio has spawned no less than three full-length albums—four if you include the release of their previously recorded self-titled debut—and a couple of split 7”s within the short span of seven months. Beginning with the self-titled debut and continuing with both ‘Dream Dragon’ and ‘greyblackfalconhawk’, Ice Dragon has evolved from their psych-heavy doom sound into a band willing to indulge their whims without sacrificing their identity or overall essence. There is no mistaking an Ice Dragon release for anything other than an Ice Dragon release.

Referring to the band’s albums by year is almost an exercise in futility at this point. So, if July’s ‘Dream Dragon’ was the feel good, blissed-out summer album of the year, then September’s ‘greyblackfalconhawk’ is the grim, rainy-day flipside to that coin. Long gone are the Summer of Love influences that graced tunes like “Dreamliner” or “Stumble Onto Magic” and absent is the baroque-pop homage of “Every Little Star” and “A Dragon’s Dream, Part I” in favor of a darker hypnotic approach that is wrought with an air of discontented introspection.

‘greyblackfalconhawk’ isn’t the band’s most immediate or accessible release, but it is probably their most singular and consistent full-length in regards to overall atmosphere. This is meditative doom for the downtrodden, a sentiment best exemplified by the album’s second track “takeitallaway”, a claustrophobic anthem of suffering and release. Down-tuned, electric bass drone, occasional acoustic guitar strums, and wailing vocals march this melancholy dirge toward its conclusion. The second half of the track is accented by a shift in drumming dynamics and the chorus lamentation of “takeitallaway”. The end result is a trance-inducing tune of subtle dynamics.

Even though the album induces an overall mood of paranoia and desperation through its combination of ambient textures, droning guitars, and discordant tones, there are still moments of poignant tenderness. “everythingisawaste”, one of the shortest tracks on the album, stands out as a sliver of light amidst the shadows for its delicate, heartrending instrumentation and vocal delivery. Despite its subdued simplicity “everythingisawaste” stands as one of Ice Dragon’s most memorable tunes and shines as an album highlight.

While the band has slightly strayed from the sound of their first three proper releases, they have not completely abandoned the world of doom, but rather have found new ways to channel and express their shadowy arts. ‘greyblackfalconhawk’ may take some time to fully appreciate, but the elements that make every other Ice Dragon release so memorable are still present, it’s just that these alchemists have adjusted the potency and balance of their ingredients. The album is currently available for purchase on the band’s Bandcamp page. Do yourself a favor: download a copy and listen to it while dwelling on missed opportunities and the wrongs that you have committed…

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

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Friday, September 21, 2012

These are the blackest of times: Apostle of Solitude – ‘Demo 2012’



Few bands can effectively mine misery and heartache with such woeful proficiency as Indianapolis, Indiana’s Apostle of Solitude. In preparation for the band’s third full-length, the revised lineup—now including Steve Janiak of Devil to Pay on guitar and multi-band alumnus Bob Fouts on bass—has recorded a three song demo conspicuously titled ‘Demo 2012’. Despite the lineup changes the overall mission and approach has remained the same. Chuck Brown’s unique, emotive vocals are still at the forefront as the band doles out a potentially lethal cocktail of crushing traditional doom, hard rock, and metal. If anything, the lineup change has focused and fine-tuned the band’s sound.

‘Demo 2012’ opens with “Blackest of Times”, one of the strongest tracks ever penned by the band. The song’s slow build can be attributed to a lone, lumbering doom riff that is eventually joined in unison by a second, overlapping riff, and Corey Webb’s hard-hitting percussion. The song’s intro isn’t overly long before it storms into a mid-paced groove that is highlighted by some heavy-as-Sabbath doom riffs, catchy lead guitar, and propulsive drumming. “Blackest of Times” doesn’t merely march to its end, but rather it launches into an up-tempo, head-banging metallic gallop before its conclusion. The second track, “Die Vicar Die”, comes crashing in, but eventually puts on the brakes. The majority of the track is slower than the demo opener and Chuck’s vocals really carry the weight of the tune. It’s not all snail-paced doom and gloom as the song builds in intensity and similar to “Blackest of Times” the song breaks into an up-tempo burner before returning to the chorus and ultimate conclusion. “Good Riddance” closes out the demo and returns to the doom metal chug intimated by “Blackest of Times”. “Good Riddance”, like the rest of the demo, really stands up to anything in Apostle of Solitude’s catalogue.

‘Demo 2012’ is a powerful statement from one of doom metal’s most unique bands. The addition of new members has not drastically changed Apostle of Solitude’s overall sound, but has seemed to result in heavier songs with more complexity. The band continues its cathartic examination of human existence by plumbing the depths of despair and uncertainty while crafting memorable tunes. The production of ‘Demo 2012’ is excellent and the release could easily be marketed and sold as an EP. Based on the strength of this demo Apostle of Solitude’s impending third release could result in the band’s heaviest and memorable album to date. As a teaser ‘Demo 2012’ has effectively built suspense and their newest release is highly anticipated. The limited run of CDs has sold out some time ago, but the demo is streaming on the band’s Bandcamp page and Sarlacc Productions is planning a limited run cassette release with download code. Highly recommended.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)








Sunday, September 16, 2012

Figures in black will reign supreme: Bedemon’s ‘Symphony of Shadows’



Disappointment is nothing more than dashed expectations. While 2012 has been a killer year for doom releases, there have still been a handful of high profile albums that have not lived up to expectations primarily due to sharp shifts in songwriting, production, or overall modus operandi. Enter Bedemon, a recording project that has existed primarily as a curiosity due to its affiliation and shared personnel with Bobby Leibling’s doom revanent, Pentagram. To be honest, when I heard that Bedemon’s ‘Symphony of Shadows’—an album at least ten years in the making—was finally going to see the light of day my anticipation level was less than zero. The ‘Child of Darkness’ recordings were an oddity of excellent, albeit incomplete ideas that were hopelessly marred, as many basement recording projects are, by terribly thin production. Another factor complicating the completion and ultimate release of ‘Symphony of Shadows’ was the untimely death of Bedemon’s doom visionary and head guru, Randy Palmer. Surviving members Geof O’Keefe, Mike Matthews, and new vocalist Craig Junghandel were left to pick up the pieces, build on Randy’s ideas, and finish the album while trying to remain true to the spirit of Bedemon and their deceased friend. What could have easily of ended up as a disaster has in fact turned into one of the best surprises of the year. Regardless of Pentagram/Bedemon history, ‘Symphony of Shadows’ stands on its own as one of the strongest releases of the year primarily due to its seamless mix of old school doom, hard rock, and punk.

Album opener “Saviour” is a dark meditation on the abuse of power, the spoiling of innocence, and the ultimate aberrance associated with modern day religion, particularly the Catholic Church. What could have merely been a straight-forward rocker is accented and darkened with chorus chants, superb lead playing courtesy of O’Keefe, and a diabolical vocal delivery of Junghandel. Musically the following track “Lord of Desolation” is doomier than the album opener and the track is really carried along by Matthews’ bass playing and the occasional gong crash while providing the album’s most memorable mantra “Figures in black will reign supreme/No one wakes from this infernal dream” delivered by Junghandel in a sinister whisper. “Son of Darkness”, arguably the strongest track on the album, is an up-tempo doom masterpiece that channels the best of ‘Master of Reality’ era Sabbath without resorting to mere emulation. In the album’s liner notes O’Keefe claims that “Son of Darkness” is the ultimate collaborative effort of the band members and it shows by highlighting the individual talents of every member.

“The Plague” slows things down a bit compared to the energy of “Son of Darkness”, but the song is no less effective in grabbing the listener’s attention. Again, Matthews’ bass playing really carriers the tune along with some atmospheric guitar strums and blistering guitar leads to close out the tune. “D.E.D” falls on the hard rock end of the spectrum compared to a majority of the tracks on ‘Symphony of Shadows”. While it wouldn’t be fair to call “D.E.D.” filler material, it simply doesn’t have the impact as the rest of the tracks on the album. If “D.E.D.” is the album’s weak spot, “Kill You Now” is the ill-fitting bastard child that somehow manages to work. While the tune isn’t nearly as hard-hitting or raw as “Search and Destroy”, it does seem to channel the best of Iggy and the Stooges with its lyrics, punk-inspired riffing, and handclaps.  After the detour of “D.E.D.” and “Kill You Now” the album returns to the realm of doom with “Godless”, another solid slab of doom-tinged hard rock as is the following track, “Hopeless”. Album closer “Eternally Unhuman” aptly closes out the album for its last two minutes alone. The repetitive recitation of “Nothing will ever be the same” accompanied by screams as the music fades out is nothing short of chilling.

It’s difficult to say how ‘Symphony of Shadows’ would have sounded with the continual involvement of Randy Palmer to its ultimate conclusion, but it would be hard to imagine that he could possibly be disappointed with the finished product as completed under the supervision and care of his bandmates and friends. ‘Symphony of Shadows’ is a welcome surprise with its grim lyrical content, chants, doom riffs, and tremendous bass playing. Despite the mix of doom, rock, and punk, each one of these tracks are stamped with a distinct, infectious, unifying sound. It’s sad to know that Randy’s genius is lost to the music world, but this collection of songs—finished posthumously—is an admirable legacy. Based on the strength of all of the players it is hoped that these musicians will continue on, in some form, to bestow their brand of doom metal on their fans.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)











Tuesday, September 4, 2012

(the) Melvins – ‘the bulls & the bees’ EP



Workhorse, freak-metal traffickers (the) Melvins can be depended on for two things. First off, they reliably churn out new full lengths and EPs annually or, at the very least, on a biennial basis. Secondly, they bring the weird—seemingly never satisfied to repeat themselves and fiercely opposed to indulging expectations. Well, at least up to the release of 2006’s excellent ‘(A) Senile Animal’. It’s not that ‘Nude with Boots’ and ‘The Bride Screamed Murder’ were necessarily bad albums, but not since the Melvins/Big Business amalgamation has the band retained such a familiar sound over the span of multiple releases.

Approaching ‘the bulls & the bees’ EP I would have been surprised if I wasn’t surprised. The first two tracks “The War on Wisdom” and “We are Doomed” certainly didn’t startle. I’ll be clear: these definitely aren’t bad tunes. In fact, they are probably the two greatest tracks that weren’t on ‘(A) Senile Animal’—which is a welcome return to sound after the classic rock indulgent ‘Nude with Boots’ and slightly uneven ‘The Bride Screamed Murder’. Dale Crover and Coady Willis don’t fail to pummel the listener with their twin drum attack—one of the highlights of latter day Melvins. Probably the biggest contributing factor to the Melvins’ current sound is the dual shared vocals of Buzz Osborne and bassist Jared Warren which is all over these first tracks.

“Friends Before Larry” brings some of the weird that made ‘Hostile Ambient Takeover’ such a rewarding trip. The wind wails, a muffled buzzsaw rips, and a tortured soul bellows before the drums kick in and the feedback squalls. The song is drenched in sinister synths that wash out and bury the vocals in the mix. It’s a noisy affair that marches too soon to its conclusion. Three songs deep and my mind is finally blown.

The synths die down and the wind continues to blow segueing into the film score appropriate “A Really Long Wait”. Tortured strings begin to cry out. For thirty seconds the song emanates the cinematic flair of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but instead of a spoken word diatribe against the evils of capitalism and the post-industrial world hymnal vocals mournfully wail. The solemnity of “A Really Long Wait” is impressive as it may be the most emotionally wrought tune ever composed by the band.

The EP closer, “National Hamster”, rivals “Friends Before Larry” as the standout track due to some hook heavy lead guitar and Beatles-esque backing vocals which may sound out of place on a Melvins track, but they fit just right. It just goes to show that the band seemingly never fails to have a trick or two stuffed up their collective sleeves.

‘the bulls & the bees’ EP may not be the freak-out departure that a segment of fans have been wishing for, but it’s a solid effort and is a testament to the creativity and staying power of a band that is pushing 30 years of existence. Few acts, past or present, can make such a claim. Oh, did I mention this EP is free? Download it free from Scion Audio Visual.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Reino Ermitaño – ‘Veneración del Fuego’


Consistencey is one thing, but it’s a rarity when a band is able to continuously top itself over the span of multiple releases. Peru’s Reino Ermitaño are one such beast and have released not only their finest album to date, ‘Veneración del Fuego’, but they have released an album that should—provided that it’s not criminally overlooked—trudge its way to the top of many year end lists.

For the uninitiated, Reino Ermitaño practice a heavy, raw, groove-laden form of psychedelic doom that is as unique as it is infectious. Much of the album’s catchiness can be attributed to not only solid songwriting, but to the killer riffing and guitar tone courtesy of newcomer, Eloy Arturo, and the engaging vocal melodies of Tania Duarte who is somehow able to elevate her vocal performances with each successive release. For non-Spanish speakers the fact that Duarte sings in her native Spanish is not problematic and serves to accentuate her voice, the vocal melodies, and contributes deeper to the mystical aura of the album as a whole.

Production-wise the album is near flawless and each instrument is clear, distinct, and mixed perfectly. The guitars roar with a gritty tone while riding atop the thunderous heft of Marcos Coifman’s basslines. While Reino Ermitaño has always been experimental, the band has further broadened their musical palette by incorporating even more instruments into their repertoire such as Andean harp—an essential element for the quieter moments of album standout “Sangre India”—Moog synthesizer, flute, and violin, among others. The band’s masterful inclusion of atypical instrumentation not only separates the band from the herd, but it also serves to firmly establish their identity as a uniquely Peruvian doom band.

‘Veneración del Fuego’ is a solid album from beginning to end and each track is a beguiling, atmospheric journey. Despite the consistent, high quality songwriting, “Sangre India” stands out above the rest of the tracks as an album highlight by containing not only the album’s heaviest and catchiest moments, but also some of the most serene moments as well. When the song is in full swing the bass pulses and the drums really drive the song forward under the spell of Tania’s bewitching vocals.

2012 has stood witness to essential releases from two unique, female-fronted doom bands, first with Uzala’s excellent self-titled debut and subsequent ‘Cataract/Death Masque’ single, and now Reino Ermitaño’s ‘Veneración del Fuego’. All of Reino Ermitaño’s releases are highly recommended, but the band has surpassed all of their previous efforts with ‘Veneración del Fuego’. Highly recommended and essential listening…

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Black Magician – ‘Nature is the Devil’s Church’



The United Kingdom is arguably the birth place of doom metal and the sovereign state has not failed to produce quality bands and musicians. Though one group in particular has cast quite a large shadow over the entire doom scene, particularly in the UK, it is almost impossible not to have high expectations for doom traffickers hailing from that side of the Atlantic, especially considering their lineage. Black Magician’s first release, ‘Nature is the Devil’s Church’, is a welcome addition to the canon of dark, atmospheric doom. Musically the band shares much in common with Dartmoor’s The Wounded Kings in that each band is capable of producing some of the slowest, most somber, affective tunes of the past few years without testing the patience of the listener.

‘Nature is the Devil’s Church’ innocuously opens with a brief, delicate piano passage. While “The Foolish Fire” doesn’t even surpass the one minute mark, it does succeed in suggesting that there is something sinister lurking just beyond the intro in pure Hammer horror fashion. “Full Plain I See, the Devil Knows How to Row” slowly builds from a wash of feedback, organ and drums, before reaching a hypnotic doom metal plod. Organ has been used successfully by many doom bands, but Black Magician has wholly incorporated the instrument tastefully into their sound. “Full Plain I see, the Devil Knows How to Row” could be the soundtrack for the damned souls of the Demeter. Birds chirping, a crow cawing, and a lone bell ringing signal the beginning of “Four Thieves Vinegar”, another brooding excursion into the dark chasm of doom. At this point in the album two things become apparent: the band is adept at concocting lengthy, engrossing tunes that are not strictly relegated to a crawl, and singer Liam Yates has a distinct, yet singular approach to his vocal delivery. The vocals are raspy and the delivery is unwavering, but it seems to work. For now. It will be interesting to see if Liam can imbue more dynamics into his delivery on future releases. The folk inflected, “Ghost Worship” is another instrumental that is upbeat and pastoral. Finger-picked guitar and organ are central to the song’s composition. “Ghost Worship” may be divergent, but it serves to showcase the band’s influences and act as a foil to the darker songs of the album. The fifteen minute epic, “Chattox”—a reference to Anne Whittle and the Pendle witch trials—appropriately closes out the album. “Chattox” unfolds slowly at first, but is spurred on with driving percussion and atmospheric organ. It’s an effective album closer that solidifies Black Magician’s grim vision.

It would be easy, albeit lazy, to pass Black Magician off as just another occult doom band. While the occult is certainly an aspect of their music, it has more to do with the band’s fascination with England’s rich, yet dark, historical eras. References to the epidemic destruction of the bubonic plague, flagellants and their mortification of the flesh, and the forced confession of witches are all fair game for Black Magician. ‘Nature is the Devil’s Church’ is a solid debut that incorporates a variety of influences. The band has surely put themselves on the map with this release and it has managed to stand out among some of the other great albums already released this year.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)







Friday, August 24, 2012

To Hold You Over: Iron Man - 'Att hålla dig over' EP




Maintaining consistency over the span of four full-lengths and almost as many EP’s is a task that most bands can’t even dream of achieving. Iron Man is not only one of the select few who have managed this feat, but they have arguably done so while improving with age. Over the years, Iron Man linchpin Al Morris III and his revolving cast of supporters have continued to release some of the heaviest, up-tempo, doom metal around. The release of the band’s third EP, ‘Att hålla dig over’, has proven two things: Al Morris III is a never-ending chasm of massive, doomed-out riffage, and the band’s seemingly current stable lineup is capable of surpassing the heft and groove of previous releases.

The one-two punch combination of “Quicksand” and “Crucified”—two of the strongest tracks ever recorded by the band—are propelled by a group in unison. Not to take away from Al, but the band is now a culmination of all the players and not simply based around gargantuan riffs. Of note is the bass playing of Louis Strachan who helped bring the ‘I Have Returned’ album to the next level, but who is now further brought to prominence by the production of “Att hålla dig over”. The songs simply have a depth that was unattainable with former incarnations of the band. If you’re ever in need for a soundtrack for vengeance you could do much worse than the EP’s first single, “Quicksand”, a tune that vocalist “Screaming Mad” Dee has explained, “If you’re mortally wounded, you have two choices: you can either die quietly and alone, or you can reach out and grab the people who did it to you and make damn sure you drag them down with you. This song is about the second choice in that analogy.” Dee Calhoun is without a doubt Iron Man’s most powerful and versatile vocalist and it’s both humbling and near quake-inducing when he belts out, “Are you scared of what has come for you/To call to task atrocities come true/At the end—each take my hand/And come with me down to the sand”. 

Tracking wise ‘Att hålla dig over’ is quite similar to 2011’s ‘Dominance’ EP. Both EP’s begin with two standout Iron Man tunes and are followed by acoustic numbers. Whereas the ‘Dominance’ EP showcases a haunting instrumental interlude in the form of “Eternal Sleep”, ‘Att hålla dig over’ utilizes acoustic guitar, harmonica, and vocals for “Suffer the Children”, a tune that really reveals another side of the band by showcasing a gentler vocal delivery of Dee and some really deft guitar playing on behalf of Al. The main divergence with ‘Att hålla dig over’ is that the band has used the opportunity to re-record an Iron Man classic, “On the Mountain”, for the fourth track. ‘The Passage’ and ‘Generation Void’ of the Michalak era are stone cold classics, so the re-recording of “On the Mountain” is a bit superfluous, though it is interesting to see how a current lineup can interpret material from the past. While the bassline stands out and the drums have a pop that is absent on the original courtesy of new drummer, Jason "Mot" Waldmann, the track from ‘Generation Void’ is still the definitive version.

While ‘Dominance’ may have a slight edge over ‘Att hålla dig over’, it is still as consistent and heavy as any other release in the band’s catalogue. Hopefully ‘Att hålla dig over’ can indeed hold fans over until the band can record their next full-length album. Based on the latest efforts and the strength of this current lineup expectations will be high. Order ‘Att hålla dig over’ straight from the band.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)










Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Uzala – ‘Cataract/Death Masque' 12” Single


The murk-dwelling, psych/doom band, Uzala, has finally issued the missing puzzle piece to their brilliant self-titled debut. Collectors of vinyl were rewarded with an amazing album, albeit lacking “Cataract”—one of the band’s strongest tracks—while downloaders and cassette collectors were graced with the full nine track album. At War With False Noise has remedied the situation by releasing the ‘Cataract/Death Masque 12” Single’. While many fans may be familiar with “Cataract”, it’s an opportunity for completists and vinyl fetishists to pad out their collections while gaining an added bonus…“Death Masque”.

The Eastern-tinged “Cataract” opens the single and showcases vocalist/guitarist Darcy Nutt’s soaring, emotional vocals that easily rise above the murky din created by both the band and the production. While there are those who feel that Uzala could benefit from a cleaner, clearer production, they are totally missing the mark and “Cataract” continually reveals its many layers as the listener wades through its turbid waters. “Cataract” easily flows between majestic, drowsy-paced doom and up-tempo groove while Chad Remains’ devilish, whispered vocals sporadically slither their way through the slurry. If any song is worthy of being released as a single from the debut it is “Cataract”. Following a few distorted notes “Death Masque” drops like a clap of thunder and peals off into the darkened aether with Darcy’s vocals remaining as the only finger of light amidst the gloom. The music twists and turns from head-nodding euphoria to plodding, feedback driven freak-out. Like most of Uzala’s compositions “Death Masque” has enough complexity, depth, and shifts in tempo to remain interesting and warrant repeated listens.

Uzala has, up to this point, released one of the most unique doom metal albums of the year with their self-titled debut and have now successfully followed it with the release of the ‘Cataract/Death Masque 12” Single’. Currently there are very few bands that are successfully pushing the boundaries of doom metal and Uzala is accomplishing this by effortlessly combining doom, noise, and psychedelia all while being able to retain a consistent, atmospheric vision. Act quickly to get this very limited vinyl or download from the band’s Bandcamp page. Highly recommended.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)








Sunday, August 5, 2012

Destroyer of Light - 'S/T'



Over the last several decades Texas has produced some heavy-hitters in the music scene dating back to the saccharine, early pop-rock sounds of Buddy Holly or the freak-out psychedelic scene of the 60’s with the likes of The 13th Floor Elevators, The Golden Dawn, and Cold Sun. It seems as if The Lone Star State has never lifted its finger from the pulse of the purveyors of the outlandish as illustrated by such noise acts of the 80’s and 90’s like the Butthole Surfers or Cherubs to the current psychedelic resurgence concentrated around Austin, Texas. While the state has been called home by luminaries of the psychedelic and noise scenes, it has also birthed many notable doom acts such as Elliott’s Keep, Las Cruces, and the mighty Solitude Aeturnus.  What does all of this have to do with Destroyer of Light? Well, the band, for the most part, plays a gritty form of traditional doom metal, but it’s slightly colored with a wash of feedback driven noise—particularly during song intros—and unique, often over-the-top vocals.

Destroyer of Light’s debut is a grim, dark journey into the depraved depths of the occult and the dark side of human nature. “Greet Death” sets the album in motion and takes the listener straight to the abyss with a plodding, Sabbathian riff to witness the fate and ultimate demise of a serial killer. The song also serves as an introduction to the varied vocal delivery of singer/guitarist Steve Colca. Sound-wise, Colca’s voice has a slight nasal quality akin to Hour of 13’s Phil Swanson, but Colca mixes things up for better or worse by switching between straight-forward singing, lackadaisical locution, and death growls.

Continuing with the album’s grisly subject matter, “The Virgin” tells the tale of summoning forth the dark lord through virgin sacrifice and boasts one of the album’s catchiest choruses. “So Divided”, the third track, possesses the most groove of all the songs and showcases Colca’s most soulful vocal delivery. Lyrically, the song sticks out like a sore thumb as it addresses socioeconomic issues of inequality opposed to dealings with the devil or the blood of virgins. A sample from Majestic Pictures’ ‘The Vampire Bat’ opens the fourth track, “Coffin Hunter”—a song about? You guessed it…hunting vampires. “Coffin Hunter” musically is the weakest track on the album. The riffs just aren’t as doomed-out or memorable as the other five outings. At six and a half minutes in length, “The Swamp” is the albums’ longest track and it feels it. Initially it competes with “Greet Death” as the album’s strongest track and includes some swirling, psychedelic noise, but suffers from overstaying its welcome by limping along for far too long. A bluesy guitar lick, tambourine, and feedback driven noise sets-up “Asteroid”, a strong, no frills, up-tempo album closer that has an odd, but welcome, sci-fi bent and a main guitar riff quite similar to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”.

From a musical standpoint the album works completely due to the strength of the players and the somewhat filthy production. The riffs are heavy, thick, and raw, and there are enough tempo changes to keep the music interesting. The band’s predilection for the occult may be a turnoff for many listeners, particularly for those who see occult themed doom as being overplayed. The vocals may also be a bit of an obstacle as well. Colca’s voice is unique, but his delivery is even more so, especially when he sings in a conversational style. The biggest misstep perpetrated by Destroyer of Light is the inclusion of death growls that frequent the latter half of the tracks. It simply just doesn’t work.  The growls sound out of place and they really detract from the strength of the tunes. Still, ‘Destroyer of Light’ is a worthwhile, if not flawed release, and worth investigating. The band is still quite young having only formed this year so it will be interesting to see how they develop on future releases.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)













Saturday, August 4, 2012

Bow down to the superwizard from outer space: Ancient Warlocks - 'Superwizard' 7"



“…The primary focus is the groove, more than anything, and all of the other ingredients are a response to that. The vocals, the guitar sounds, the whole band's sound, the riffing, all of it…” –Ancient Warlocks Facebook

Seattle, Washington four-piece, Ancient Warlocks, not only admirably live up to their self-professed dedication to the groove, but they do it with a fuzzed-out, sonorous perfection. The ‘Superwizard’ 7” single is an exercise in finding an ideal equilibrium somewhere between feel-good, blissed-out catchiness, and head-nodding, stoner-rock heaviness. Both tunes that comprise this 7” single are able to maintain a steady, mesmerizing groove until ultimately devolving into sluggish instrumental passages dominated by feedback-sopped, exploratory psych-guitar leads.

Side A blasts off with, “Into the Night”, a rollicking, up-tempo charmer so catchy it’s capable of animating a corpse. A mere handful of seconds into the first track and comparisons to Fu Manchu will inevitably come to mind due to both the vocals and the heavy fuzz-laden sound. But whereas Fu Manchu exudes a So-Cal, desert-rock swagger, the Ancient Warlocks inject a serum of 20-sided die stoner-metal of otherworldly proportions straight into the vein. The single’s namesake, “Superwizard”, opens side B with a brief drum intro followed by a catchy low-end rumble, reminiscent of Big Business, that is able to convert non-believers into humble supplicants. While “Superwizard” is arguably heavier than the side A opener, it doesn’t lack in catchiness or groove. It’s everything a song entitled “Superwizard” should be: heavy, hypnotic, and fun.

Make no mistakes about it—Ancient Warlocks have unleashed two tracks suitable to be the soundtrack for your party—no matter your vice. The ‘Superwizard’ 7” is an impressive first physical release and really sets the bar high in terms of expectations. According to the band’s Facebook page they have a full-length album recorded waiting for a release. Hopefully the band is able take their sound further into the stratosphere while continuing to craft memorable, heavy tunes. Check out the band’s website to stream a handful of demo tracks. Fans of Fu Manchu, Big Business, or even early Mudhoney should be able to appreciate Ancient Warlocks’ brand of fuzz-worshipping stomp. Order the second pressing of the 7” straight from the band.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)








Monday, July 30, 2012

Ice Dragon/Kroh Split 7"



The ever prolific psyche/doom outfit, Ice Dragon, has teamed up with industrial influenced miscreants, Kroh, for a split 7” that is a diametrically opposed study in the dark arts separated by both essence and execution. Musically, both bands unleash up-tempo rockers that are thoroughly distinct within their catalogues while managing to maintain a semblance of familiarity to each band’s chosen path. Birmingham, England’s Kroh infuse a dose of early 90’s, Wax Trax! era industrial rock that is equal parts 1000 Homo DJs, ‘Psalm 69’ era Ministry, and the Butthole Surfers at their most mainstream, without sounding as abrasive or experimental as any of the above bands. Ice Dragon, on the other hand, embrace their familiar lo-fi production to beckon forth a galloping, sword-and-sorcery fueled anthem straight from the Enchanted World.

Kroh’s offering, “White Lies”, is an anomalous union of tribal drumming, charged industrial guitar riffs, and melodious vocals. The vocals of Francis Anthony are a distinguishing characteristic of Kroh’s sound and a key element that really separates the band from many of their influences. Kroh ignores the dominance of heavily distorted vox celebrated and selectively employed by many of the late 80’s/early 90’s era industrial acts in favor of a style that is more tuneful and saccharine. While initially cloy, the vocals offer an interesting juxtaposition to the dark lyrical content and instrumentation that dominates the band’s songs. “White Lies” easily stands out as one of Kroh’s strongest tunes to date and, despite its divergent approach, complements Ice Dragon’s contribution to the split.

“The Hooves of My Lord” gallops up and tramples the listener from the onset with a mesmerizing, infectious riff suitable as a soundtrack for strutting your stuff at the renaissance faire in a homemade tunic.  The track marches along triumphantly—slowing down to allow for some psychedelic lead guitar—only to bridle up and dash into the nether at a breakneck pace. Hail to thee, Oh Minotaur. This may be one of Ice Dragon’s catchiest endeavors and, yet again, illustrates that their creative depths are seemingly boundless.

The Ice Dragon/Kroh split is essential listening for fans of either band as both bands have contributed memorable, catchy tunes that make this split 7” a worthwhile purchase. The 7” is limited to 80 orange and 120 green discs of standard weight vinyl, so pick this up before it’s gone for good. Track it down through either band’s Facebook or Bandcamp page.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

Ice Dragon:

Kroh:






Thursday, July 26, 2012

Moon Curse - 'S/T'



Being just another drop in the bucket isn’t necessarily a bad thing and Milwaukee’s riff-rocking trio, Moon Curse, contribute their straight forward brand of doom-tinged, stoner rock to an already overflowing pail with mixed results. Falling somewhere between the beer soaked grooves of Red Fang, the classic rock inspired stoner riffs of Egypt, or Dead Meadow’s homage to 60’s and 70’s psychedelia, Moon Curse treads a well worn path with little innovation or individuality to truly carve out their own niche. This lack of innovation or individuality hasn’t stopped a multitude of bands from finding success either through the sheer determination of a road-warrior work ethic, word-of mouth praise, or simply satisfying the need for more of a good thing. Enter Moon Curse. While the band probably won’t baptize new initiates in the murky waters of stoner or doom metal, it does have the potential to satiate the need for more of a good thing.

Barely creeping beyond EP status, Moon Curse’s self-titled debut opens strong with the album’s doomiest riff and some impressive, eruptive drumming. The initial promise of “Medicinecoma” quickly erodes, though, as the song launches into bouncy, hard-rock/stoner-rock territory. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it certainly is unremarkable. The song finds life again in the chorus which utilize the song’s excellent, doomy intro, and amid the beautiful, acid-toned guitar solo in the song’s latter half. The second track, “Brontis”, is not too far removed from the album opener, save it relies more heavily on lead guitar soloing. It’s another capable, up-beat, hard rock number that establishes a groove early on and it doesn’t let up. “Northern High” is easily the standout track of the album and it’s the band’s most moody and interesting composition. It’s hard to dismiss the vocals of this track as they employ a similar, if not identical, vocal effect to Black Sabbath’s “Planet Caravan”, and guess what? It works. The song is carried along by a catchy bassline and atmospheric riffing until it propels into a whirring, stoned-out instrumental passage that is mesmerizing. “Chandra” is an odd-ball tune that can only be designated as filler. While it serves as an introduction to the organ that is used on the last song, it’s a two-minute long instrumental that is both mediocre and misplaced. The longest track and album closer, “Black Elk”, is easily the second strongest tune on the album and it contains the most impassioned vocal delivery of the lot. It’s the most complex composition and fluctuates between classic rock inspired stoner metal and doom.

Moon Curse have unleashed a competent, if not average, debut that is slightly marred by its lack of consistency and originality, but based on the strength of tunes like “Northern High” and “Black Elk” the band displays promise. They may not be innovators, but they certainly are adept students and most fans of the genre should be able to appreciate Moon Curse due to the familiar territory they choose to occupy. Though the band’s Bandcamp page doesn’t identify this release as a demo, it surely sounds like one and it could be an indicator of greater things to come.

Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Doommantia)

Moon Curse Bandcamp