Monday, December 31, 2012

Year's Best 2012


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’


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’


1. TENTACLE – ‘Void Abyss’

2. BURNING SAVIOURS – ‘Förbannelsen’ 7” Series

3. APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE – ‘Demo 2012’


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.



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)



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)



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)


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)



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)