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)



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)