Saturday, December 28, 2013

…forever dead forever stoned: GOYA – ‘777’



With their 2012 demo as a foundation Phoenix, Arizona three-piece Goya have constructed a Sabbathian altar to the heavens which emanates and projects mind-warping waves of distorted bliss and acid-soaked leads into the cosmos with their full-length debut, ‘777’. Not simply a flexing of reverential muscle, ‘777’ brings heft and groove to the forefront resulting in a perfect blend of sludge, doom, and tripped-out stoner metal with no shortage of hooks. And that is what separates Goya from the herd—the hooks. Usually in the form of a catchy guitar lead, but they also come in a well-placed peel of feedback, a vocal melody or lyric, or from the down-tuned, earth-quaking hypnotic tremors of the rhythm section.

‘777’ is instantly a gratifying listen, particularly for those who like their riffs overblown and grimy. “Night Creeps”, one of the strongest tracks of the album and a carryover from the demo, is a fine example of the band’s ability to create or potentiate euphoria through the repetition of fuzzed-out riffs and interstellar guitar leads. The majority of the track is as slothful as a Reverend Bizarre jam, but infinitely more spacious and tripped out. As a whole, if forced, ‘777’ could be labelled “stoner metal”, but the album—and “Night Creeps” in particular—brings a heavy dose of doom to the table.

It should come as no surprise that in addition to a heavy veneration for altered states of conscious Goya imbues the six tracks of ‘777’ with an occult atmosphere both musically and lyrically. With the final track—the aptly titled “Bad Vibes”—Goya adds a misanthropic edge to the proceedings resulting in one of the darkest tracks of the album. Dismiss the tales of raising the dead or the stealing of souls, “Bad Vibes” has nothing but disgust for the human race while upholding a veneration for the Beast.

Goya’s ‘777’ is a fantastic late addition to an already killer year in heavy music. Given the time to stick around and fully sink in it probably would have made several more year-end lists. As it stands ‘777’ is some of the finest sludge and doom influenced metal to be released this year. Despite an obvious debt to Black Sabbath, Goya has embraced the conventions established by their forefathers and have made travelling a well-worn path both interesting and compelling. Goya’s approach to heavy, psychedelic music will likely appeal to fans of Tombstones, Curse the Son, Wounded Giant, and ‘Witchcult Today’ era Electric Wizard.

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Friday, December 27, 2013

…all deities are nothing and dust: GRAVECODE NEBULA – ‘Sempiternal Void’



This past October Denver Doom Fest III steeped the Mile High City in two nights of suffocatingly heavy tunes from bands from around the US and even from the other side of the globe. Each and every band was killer in their own respect, but there was one in particular that plumbed depths so unfathomable and dark that they remained in a league all their own. Salt Lake City’s blackened funeral doom miscreants Gravecode Nebula gave the most harrowing and bleak performance of the festival. Stage presence and musicianship were artfully combined for a maximum effect of creepy atmospherics and nightmare psychedelia. Shortly after the band’s performance they released their full-length debut, ‘Sempiternal Void’, through the Baneful Genesis Records Bandcamp page and, in doing so, have demonstrated their unnatural ability to tune in sinister vibrations from the darkest reaches of the infernal abyss and channel them into a blackened doom cacophony of the highest order.


Perhaps putting their best foot forward ‘Sempiternal Void’ opens with “Bloodcraft of Andromeda”, a maelstrom of wailing guitars, guttural incantations, swirling noise, and occasional blasts of fury—the prime elements from which Gravecode Nebula performs their unholy, cosmic transmutations. “Bloodcraft of Andromeda” is the most textured track of the bunch and includes the most twists and turns. The vocals of The Zodiac—a highlight throughout the entirety of the album—also exhibit the greatest range by effortlessly shifting from hellish death growls, to tortured wails, to deranged gibbering. Easily one of my favorite tracks of the year. Though “Bloodcraft of Andromeda” is arguably the strongest, most serpentine track of the album, “Lunar Dionysian” is a close second by balancing blackened fury with otherworldly atmospherics. Opening with a melancholy lull in what can only be described as wind chimes gently clanging in Hell the majority of “Lunar Dionysian” simply shreds.

With six tracks and a runtime just over the hour mark ‘Sempiternal Void’ is an oppressive experience from start to finish, but despite the long runtime the album always remains engaging, albeit punishing at times. Gravecode Nebula has crafted one of the most interesting albums of the year, an album that is veiled in a seemingly impenetrable, noxious atmosphere. Before the journey ends the closing track, ‘Abhorrent Absorbant (The Salivation of Sand)’, does include sparse moments of undeniable beauty courtesy of tastefully used keyboards and effects. ‘Sempiternal Void’ is a dense album and it takes time to fully grasp it in its entirety, but for those willing to answer the call of the code it’s well worth it. Look for this to be pressed on vinyl in 2014...


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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

KHEMMIS – ‘Khemmis’ EP



As a late addition to fill the void left by the withdrawal of Fister from Denver Doom Fest III, the Mile High’s own Khemmis impressively kicked things off for night two of the city’s increasingly awe-inspiring music festival. Despite standout performances from the likes of Black Acid Devil, In the Company of Serpents, Dead Temple, and Gravecode Nebula, Khemmis had no problems bringing some of the heaviest tunes of the night to the table and leaving their sonic mark. As a live entity the four-piece was a tight, seismically heavy barrage of psychedelic doom accented with moments of melodicism.

Nearly a month after their performance the band finally released their self-titled EP via Bandcamp and it does not disappoint in the least. Everything that the band displayed live has been captured in the studio. With three killer tracks and a runtime of twenty-three minutes the ‘Khemmis’ EP is, hopefully, a favorable portent of things to come.

“Sunrise/Sunset”, arguably the heaviest track of the collection, crashes out of the gates like an armored sloth ready to wage war: lumbering and lethargic. Amidst feedback slow, bloated riffs roll out like distant thunder and flanged lead guitar turns itself inside-out before the track eases into a mid-paced groove. Clean and sparingly used harsh vocals give the song an added depth and grittiness that complements the sheer weight of the track.

The second tune, “Take the Knife”, is as close to a straight-ahead, sludgy rocker that Khemmis gets. It’s slightly faster paced than the EP opener, but features some great dual guitar harmonies on the latter half of the track and some impressive, heartfelt vocal melodies as well. It’s the perfect way to break up the trio of tunes.

Closing out the EP is the standout track “The Bereaved”, a tune that ups the ante in terms of melodicism. The song’s intro is a slow, somber buildup of drums and clean guitar before the bottom falls out and a distorted wave of bass and guitars crashes down. The track seems to marry the essential elements of “Sunrise/Sunset” and “Take the Knife” into the EP’s defining moment particularly due to the amazing, blissed-out guitar harmonies. A stellar track from start to finish.

Khemmis’ self-titled EP is an exceptional debut that does justice to the band’s live performance and an excellent production job further enhances the listening experience. The band more than adequately balances heft, psychedelia, and melodicism to create their distinctive take on sludge and doom. Fans of Sleep, Black Acid Devil, or even Bardo Pond should give Khemmis a chance. Here’s to looking forward to both more recordings and gigs in 2014…


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Monday, December 23, 2013

…spanning space and time: Bölzer – ‘Aura’ EP


Frantic, angular riffs are strewn about in a seemingly haphazard fashion amidst moments of pure ethereal beauty on the debut EP from Switzerland’s atmospheric blackened death duo Bölzer. ‘Aura’, one of the year’s finest releases, is an example of an album that can offer catharsis in many forms depending on the listener’s mood. At times ‘Aura’ is completely devastating and destructive—a journey to the dark side of the duo’s collective psyche complete with growls and howls belched forth from the chasms of the netherworld accompanied by a sonic onslaught of heavy riffs and percussion. On the other hand, there are moments of sheer atmospheric bliss—unbridled moments coalesce into sweeping anthems that seem capable of spanning both space and time. Regardless of mood ‘Aura’ remains an intense experience from beginning to end.

The opener, “C.M.E.”, is arguably the most intense track of the EP that whips itself into a Dionysian frenzy—a ritual soundtrack whose subjects feverishly offer their servitude to the gods culminating in communal prostration and self-sacrifice by the masses. The second track, “Entranced by the Wolfshook”, rivals “C.M.E.” in intensity, but surpasses the opener in its otherworldly atmospherics. Brief feedback launches into some of the catchiest, most dynamic moments of the album where sky-streaking guitars are hemmed in by coarse, earth-rending riffs. Closing out the EP is “The Great Unifier”, an epic track that plays with furious outbursts and slower, more downtempo moments. While “The Great Unifier” isn’t as immediate or initially striking as the previous tracks, it makes up for it through a prolonged, mid-tempo concentration of force offset by moments of sparse instrumentation.

Not only is ‘Aura’ one of the best releases of the year, but it is also one of the biggest surprises. The duo of HzR (skin decimation) and KzR (X String Flay, Heresy) have crafted an album that, despite a lineage that can be traced back to both black and death metal, defies easy classification. ‘Aura’ is an addictive album and is certainly the most transcendent album to be released this year. With three tracks and a runtime at 23 minutes, “Aura” is simply over too soon, but the band has a couple releases planned for 2014. Bölzer describes that 'Soma', the follow-up EP, “…is intended to complement its predecessor 'Aura' in theme and appearance. The 'spirit'/'body' concept sets a dualistic platform for a cyclic life/death introspective, revolving around war, waged in both the physical and metaphysical spheres.” The duo also reports that their demo, ‘Roman Acupuncture’, is going to get the 12” vinyl treatment as well.

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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Year's Best 2013




Full-lengths:

1. CURSE THE SON – ‘Psychache’ *Damn, this album grabbed me by the throat at the beginning of the year and it never let go. Great tunes complemented by some great sequencing.

2. TENTACLE – ‘Ingot Eye’ *The follow-up to ‘Void Abyss’ was everything I hoped for…and more. Trippy, menacing, and utterly evil sounding.

3. UZALA – ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’ *I still maintain that Uzala is one of the most unique doom bands going today. Super cool people and they destroy live.

4. SUBROSA – ‘More Constant Than the Gods’ *The depth to this album is simply mind-blowing. Dark, often surreal atmospheres dominate every tune.

5. THE FLIGHT OF SLEIPNIR – ‘Saga’ *This band just gets better with every release. ‘Saga’ is the band’s trippiest and most varied release to date.

6. LUMBAR – ‘The First and Last Days of Unwelcome’ *I had high hopes for this release and I wasn’t disappointed. Pure rage is off-set by obscured moments of hope. My only complaint is that it’s too short.

7. IN THE COMPANY OF SERPENTS – ‘Of the Flock’ *Similar to Uzala, In the Company of Serpents have released an album that does an amazing job of capturing their live sound. The duo has progressed and the results are amazing.

8. ICE DRAGON – ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ *Seemingly content to move even further from their doom roots, Ice Dragon is still churning out amazing tunes. Is it weird that my favorite track is “(I Will) Watch My Hair Grow”?

9. WINDHAND – ‘Soma’ *Not quite as magical as their debut…nonetheless ‘Soma’ is a narcotizing wave of doom.

10. WOLVSERPENT – ‘Perigaea Antahkarana’ * ‘Perigaea Antahkarana’ is a sprawling trip that is as dark as it is invigorating. Not for everyday listening, but it fills a niche that few other bands can come close to touching.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order): GOATESS - ‘Goatess’, SUMMONER - ‘Atlantian’, GRAVECODE NEBULA - ‘Sempiternal Void’, TORTUGA - ‘Tortuga’, SHALLOW GRAVE - ‘Shallow Grave’, ROTE MARE – ‘The Invocation’ & ‘The Kingdom’, BEELZEFUZZ – ‘Beelzefuzz’



EPs/Demos/Singles/Splits:

1. BÖLZER – ‘Aura’ *I have to thank Chad Remains for turning me on to these guys. Blackened death metal isn’t usually my thing, but this EP is otherworldly and it flat-out slays. Looking forward to the follow-up, ‘Soma’.

2. COUGH/WINDHAND – ‘Reflection of the Negative’ *Despite the differences in tone and style, this team-up totally works. Two killer tunes from Windhand nicely complements the dark and twisted direction that Cough has taken with “Athame”, their strongest tune to date.

3. DIRE FATE/ROTE MARE split *I’ll admit that I initially bought this split for the Rote Mare tunes and I ended up being blown away by Dire Fate. Both bands deliver some excellent slabs of traditional doom.

4. THE GATES OF SLUMBER – ‘Stormcrow’ *Probably the most disappointing story of 2013…the demise of venerable doomlords—The Gates of Slumber. But the band couldn’t have gone out with a stronger recording. Here’s looking forward to new creative endeavors from Simon and McCash…

5. ICE DRAGON – ‘Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest’ *Ice Dragon still has it—a killer way to close out the year.


BEST LIVE PERFORMANCES

1. DENVER DOOM FEST III

2. SNOWBOARD ON THE BLOCK highlights: PENTAGRAM, KADAVAR, IN THE COMPANY OF SERPENTS, BLACK ACID DEVIL, DEAD TEMPLE

3. UZALA w/ MIKE SCHEIDT, SPACE IN TIME, & MUNIMULA

4. GOBLIN

BEST ALBUM COVERS:

1. LUMBAR – ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’

2. TENTACLE – ‘Void Abyss’

3. BEELZEFUZZ – ‘Beelzefuzz’


OVERLOOKED ALBUM OF 2012

1. BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH – ‘Defender, Redeemist’ *I was a huge fan of the band’s self-titled debut, but somehow ‘Defender, Redeemist’ escaped me. The band was scheduled to play in Denver with support from In the Company of Serpents and I was stoked for this killer lineup. I began spinning ‘Defender, Redeemist’ and I was blown away. Unfortunately the band never made it to Denver as it was announced that Kevin McDade had passed away. The sky was the limit for this unique band and though things won’t be the same I’m glad that the other members have decided to press on…

MOST ANTICIPATED ALBUMS OF 2014

1. YOB – Untitled 7th full-length

2. THE WOUNDED KINGS – ‘Consolamentum’

3. NORTHWINDS – ‘Eternal Winter’

Other highly anticipated albums: SERPENT VENOM - 'Of Things Seen and Unseen', SLOMATICS – ‘Estron’, TRIPTYKON – ‘Melana Chasmata’, BÖLZER – ‘Soma’, STOIC DISSENTION, BURNING SAVIOURS, and hopefully a demo from Karl Simon’s WRETCH…

BEST REISSUES

1. YOB – ‘Catharsis’

2. SAINT VITUS – ‘C.O.D.’

3. INTERNAL VOID – ‘Standing on the Sun’

4. DARK – ‘Dark Round the Edges’

*Originally published at Temple of Perdition



Tuesday, December 3, 2013

…nothing now remains: ICE DRAGON – ‘Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest’


It’s become exhaustive conjuring forth adjectives and explanations describing how Ice Dragon pretty much do whatever the fuck they want. Under a handful of monikers Ron, Carter, Joe, and recent addition Brad have covered Sabbathian doom, Cthulhu-inspired drone-terror, dream pop, and with this year’s masterful ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ AM radio influenced tunes that transcend the source material simply by being channeled through the subconscious collective that is Ice Dragon. Despite the occasional curveball Ice Dragon have yet to make a weak album. Though 2013 hasn’t been quite as productive as 2012, the band has released some of its trippiest, most far-out material and, as Tentacle, some of the most sinister and acerbic. With 2013 coming to an end Ice Dragon have unexpectedly unleashed ‘Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest’, two tunes that delve into the doomier side of the band. For those who have missed the doomed-out heft and crawl of ‘The Burl, the Earth, the Aether’, ‘The Sorrowful Sun’, or ‘Tome of the Future Ancients’—prepare to rock-the-fuck-out.

It’s clear from the first few notes of the opening bassline that “Steel Veins” is going to be something special. After the brief bass intro signifying nothing short of impending doom the guitars come crashing in for a wholly enjoyable experience. The guys still have it. “Steel Veins” has everything that made early Ice Dragon releases so great—crawling mid-tempo guitar crunch, simple yet ominous Mark Adams’ styled basslines, and Ron’s ability to pair his vocals with virtually any type of cacophony the band is creating. On the flip-side, “Queen of the Black Harvest” trades in a bit of the guitar crunch for a stoner-doom groove that is embellished with moments of crashing percussive noise, backwards winding tape abuse, and a return to the darker, fantasy inspired lyrics that would have been right at home amongst the tracks of ‘Tome of the Future Ancients’.

One of the most impressive aspects of Ice Dragon is that they are not afraid to experiment or push their creative boundaries. The band is able to draw from a variety of influences and styles in order to create something new without resulting in mere pastiche. And they do it well. The only significant thread throughout the band’s discography is a heavy dose of psychedelia and ‘Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest’ is no exception. Even though Ice Dragon has released a fair amount of material that could be considered doom, it had looked as if the heavier side of the band would be forever relegated to output from Tentacle. Again, Ice Dragon has thrown another curveball with “Steel Veins” and “Queen of the Black Harvest”—a Hell-of-a-way to close out the year. Highly recommended…

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

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

…preparing for the Apocalypse: SEA OF BONES – ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’


Few bands manage to match their chosen moniker with the music they play with such precision and accuracy as Connecticut three-piece Sea of Bones—a band whose name more than adequately describes the desolate, laid-to-waste atmospherics that is as suggestive of a great pestilence as it is of evoking visions of the remnants of a centuries old hecatomb. The band has also managed to release an album that rivals the malignant, misanthropic sludge/doom of Fister’s ‘Gemini’, an album that until this point was unmatched in terms of downtuned, acerbic sludgery in 2013. At six tracks and a runtime of over ninety minutes Sea of Bones’ ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ is a harrowing journey that tests the listener’s propensity for enduring prolonged exposure to seismic, gut-wrenching riffs, tortured vocals, and atmospheric blight on a grand scale.

The potent album opener “The Stone the Slave and the Architect” recalls the earth-quaking rumble found on Conan’s ‘Monnos’, and it relentlessly heaves and struggles under its own weight for nearly nine minutes. While ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ is, at its basest level, an exercise in monolithic, slow-motion drudgery, most of the tunes are embellished with enough subtle tempo changes and ambient textures to keep the album moving, albeit it at a glacial pace. “Failure of Light” is the best example of how the band deftly manages to include spacier moments into their uncompromising aural battery, particularly with the song’s intro. Despite the trippy calm, it doesn’t take long for “Failure of Light” to devolve into another writhing, unsettled beast of a track. Following in a similar vein to “Failure of Light” is the album standout “The Bridge”. Distant drums, calm, undulating noise, and clean guitar slowly build into what is one of the finest tracks on the album. After a four minute smolder, “The Bridge” launches into a mid-paced chug that is reminiscent of Neurosis’ “Through Silver in Blood”. If ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ gets released as a CD it’s going to be a two disc set, which leads to the closing title-track—an album in itself due to its forty minute runtime. As the entirety of ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ progresses so does the inclusion of ambient noise, a trend that peaks and ultimately conquers with the eponymous album closer—an instrumental tune wrought with a tension that falls somewhere between serenity and escalating dread.

Sea of Bones have released one of the ugliest sludge/doom albums of the year, not an easy feat considering some of the band’s competition from the likes of both Fister and In the Company of Serpents. Despite the album’s ugliness there are still fleeting moments of calm, though they are inevitably engulfed by heaving waves of distortion. If it wasn’t for the group’s deft handling of ethereal sounds and ambient textures, ‘The Earth Wants Us Dead’ could run the risk of falling prey to gratuitous, mind-numbing repetition. Instead, the band has crafted a subtly dynamic album that pays off in the long run. Fans of Neurosis, Conan, Yob, and even Gravecode Nebula should appreciate Sea of Bones’ brand of atmospheric sludge.

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

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

…you hear the ancients call your name: BRIMSTONE COVEN – ‘II’


On the eve of the vinyl release of their excellent self-titled debut courtesy of STB Records, Brimstone Coven have conjured forth ‘II’, an album that expands on the vintage vibes that the band established on their 2012 release. Rather than simply going through the motions by trying to recreate past successes the band has expanded on their sound by incorporating a wider range of influences and seemingly spending more time translating their tunes into a final recorded product. The end result is that ‘II’ is a richer listening experience reflecting subtle nuances that were not as apparent on their debut. Overall ‘II’ is a more subdued album that foregoes the predominant doom-laden groove of its predecessor in favor of a singular, melancholic mood that is perfect for an autumn day. This isn’t to say that ‘II’ is devoid of heavy grooves—quite the contrary—but the album is masked by a monochromatic filter that produces an all-enveloping atmosphere that is forlorn and distant.

Where the self-titled album had an unwavering focus on proto-doom and 70’s inspired psychedelia—still a priority for the band—‘II’ seems to include within its gaze the entirety of 70’ hard rock and early metal which has yielded tunes that are more complex and varied. Album outlier “The Black Door”, “Blood on the Wall”, and “Vying” are examples of the band’s growth and willingness to experiment. The “retro-future” vocal effect during the chorus of “The Black Door” is a bit disarming at first, but the mesmerizing bassline and layered clean vocals more than make up for it. “The Black Door” is easily the catchiest track on the album due to the pulsating groove and layered vocal harmonies of John Williams who, again, does an outstanding job complementing the songs with a dose of soul. The morose “Blood on the Wall” has a dusty, road-weary feel that fits right in with the overall tone of the album. “Vying”, for the most part, is a scorcher where rhythm section swing is emblazoned with killer leads until the song fizzles to a slow-burn instrumental fadeout.

While the band has clearly expanded on their sound ‘II’ isn’t completely defined by songwriting progression. Brimstone Coven haven’t forsaken the doom and occult leanings that ran rampant on the debut. The second track “Behold, the Anunnaki”, is probably the best tune that Witchcraft or Burning Saviours never recorded. It’s a deceptively simple track that channels the best of 70’s inspired doom with catchy vocals and a shredding finale. Other album highlights in a similar vein include “The Grave” and “The Séance”—a tune that comes crashing in following the gentle denouement of “Vying”. “The Séance” flat-out rocks with an urgency unmatched by anything on the album and despite the fact that it’s one of the shortest tracks it still finds room to take a respite from the riffs for a breakdown that showcases the individual talents of the players. The ominous “Hades Hymn” is a simple, yet effective instrumental that features a lone organ accompanying a thunderstorm. At only a minute-and-a-half the instrumental doesn’t overstay its welcome and builds up perfectly to “The Folly of Faust”, an epic tale of woe and misery that finishes out ‘II’.

What’s interesting about Brimstone Coven’s ‘II’ is that though the songs are more varied, complex, and have greater depth, the album is united by an overarching mood that is cheerless and, at times, remote. And in a good way. While the self-titled album was instantly gratifying and familiar, ‘II’ is densely layered and rewards multiple listens. The band has minimized some of their more overt influences in favor of an all-inclusive approach to their songwriting allowing them to experiment and expand their sonic palette. Not only is ‘II’ a well-rounded, kickass record, but it also stands as a portal that gives a glimpse into the possibilities of prospective recordings. Brimstone Coven have made an impressive leap with their second outing and it will be interesting to see how the band further develops in the future. The vinyl of the band’s debut is about to be released through the excellent STB Records imprint. ‘II’ is available for download through the band’s Bandcamp page and on CD directly from the band upon request.

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

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Thursday, November 14, 2013

…all has fallen: SUMMONER – ‘Atlantian’


With a subtle shift in direction and a name change from Riff Cannon, Boston’s atmospheric psych-rockers Summoner had released one of the great surprises of 2012 with their debut, ‘Phoenix’, a trippy, hard rocking album that didn’t receive the widespread attention that it deserved. Summoner have returned with their sophomore effort ‘Atlantian’, a sprawling, progressive journey that builds upon the elements that the band had developed on ‘Phoenix’. In addition to the catchy riffs, dual guitar harmonies, mesmerizing grooves, and psychedelic flourishes of the debut, ‘Atlantian’ swells with a languid, ethereal atmosphere resulting in an album that arguably has more depth than its predecessor. Over the span of forty-five minutes Summoner drenches the eight tracks of ‘Atlantian’ in moments of blissed-out psychedelia and bluesy, acid-tinged leads all of which are anchored by heavy riffs and an upbeat, groovy rhythm section.

What really separates ‘Atlantian’ from the band’s earlier work as either Summoner or Riff Cannon is the craftsmanship and refinement of the band’s songwriting. Rather than attack with the immediacy of ‘Phoenix’ or ‘Mercury Mountain’, ‘Atlantian’ unfolds to reveal a myriad of layers that engulf the listener. Initiated by “The Gatekeeper”, a track that captures the essence and feel of ‘Phoenix’, the album really begins to reveal its secrets on tracks two through four. “The Prophecy” begins with a mesmerizing, fluidic bassline before kicking into overdrive. The song heaves and swells, alternating between moments of lysergic groove and riff-slinging rock before plummeting into the depths of a watery abyss. “Horns of War”, another up-tempo burner, is accompanied by gusts of swirling psychedelia and intertwining dual guitar leads that melt and coalesce. “Changing Tides”, one of the softer tracks of the album, serves as an instrumental interlude that best captures the aquatic themes of ‘Atlantian’. It’s an easy-going, blissful ride that is punctuated by moments of turbulence and upheaval only to be lulled into complacency by slide guitar. Another album highlight, “Under the Crystalline Sky”, infuses elements of doom into the band’s distinct take on psychedelic stoner rock.

Though each of the tracks of ‘Atlantian’ unfold in countless directions and include a wide range of textures and tempos, it is not a huge departure from the band’s accomplishment with ‘Phoenix’. The aquatic themes of ‘Atlantian’ lend themselves to the tranquil moments and trippier atmospheres that trickle into each of the eight tracks to varying degrees. Summoner’s evolution from album-to-album has been a natural progression and despite an increase in serene, ethereal moments the album still rocks and it rocks hard. Aided by thoughtful and effective sequencing, ‘Atlantian’ is an engaging listen from start to finish, particularly for those who are seeking heavy, psychedelic metal with a progressive edge. ‘Atlantian’ is set for digital release on November 19th but “Horns of War” and “Under the Crystalline Sky” are available to stream on Magnetic Eye Records’ Bandcamp page.

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

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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

…waking to an endless Hell: LUMBAR – ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’


Numbness, disbelief, denial, anger, and rage—a whirlwind of five emotions that barely begins to encompass the tumultuous, world-shattering doom represented on ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’, the debut from one-off project Lumbar featuring artist/musician Aaron Edge with additional support and camaraderie from Tad Doyle and Mike Scheidt. The seven tracks of ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’, entitled “Day One” through “Day Seven”, chronicles the visceral reaction to the sudden and unexpected onset of life-altering events, namely Aaron Edge’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. While it’s difficult to ignore the context in which Lumbar was ultimately conceived and formed, the album stands on its own merits though is made more poignant with proper perspective and understanding. ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’ is an uncompromisingly heavy sonic journey—both thematically and musically—that is as ugly as it is cathartic.

Beginning with a sample from The Twilight Zone episode “The Little People”, “Day One” seems to suggest the miniscule place that man occupies in the cosmos and how, as a species, humankind is at the mercy of chance and chaos. This futility and helplessness is echoed in a sound bite from the opening sample, “And if you've got tears to shed, you save them for bedtime and weep them into your pillow; don't spray them all over me! It's a waste of time, and it's a waste of effort; it's also dull, and it's tough to live with…And while you're dwelling on it, you might count a few blessings.” In other words, you had better look deep within yourself to find the strength to stand up to the forces beyond your control, or succumb to those forces by choosing to curl up and die. This sentiment contrasted with Edge’s lyrics of loss and numbness found on “Day One” seems to stand as the inciting incident and impetus for crafting ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’. Despite the lyrical bewilderment and associated numbness of “Day One”, musically the song has an ethereal beauty unmatched by the remaining six tracks.

If “Day One” represents the loss of innocence and the lingering splendor of the not-too-distant past, then the remainder of the album is the exacerbation of neurological symptoms and the associated turmoil on body and mind. What began on a note not completely devoid of beauty—perhaps related to the incomprehension of the severity of a diagnosis—even if in passing, turns woefully sour as time progresses. “Day Two” is the antithesis of shock and numbness as it channels pure hate and rage—a trend that spreads like disease through the remaining six tracks. “Day Five” in particular is a seething, atmospheric beast that acknowledges the severity of illness from the depths of a heart of darkness. With lyrics consisting of only two words over the span of four lines, “Careless/Cureless/Cureless/Cureless”, it represents the harsh reality of a severe, progressive chronic illness and the despair associated with that realization.

While the album can essentially be characterized by rage—a smoldering rage that questions the quality of and potential for a future—the album is also underscored by a glimmer of hope, of overcoming adversity no matter what the struggle. And pain. Incomprehensible and overwhelming pain that few people can truly understand, but thought processes and emotional turmoil that some may identify with. The overall sound is what you would expect from the union of Edge, Scheidt, and Doyle. ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’ is a wounded monstrosity of rumbling bass tones and crushing, heavily distorted guitars. Though all of the instruments were played by Edge, the stylistic execution coupled with vocals provided by Scheidt lands ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’ somewhere between Yob’s ‘The Great Cessation’ and Scheidt’s work with Middian. Unfortunately, this is probably the only release we’ll see from Lumbar, but the band’s sole album, despite its overall themes of loss, pain, and rage, will stand as a beacon of hope and inspiration for those willing to defiantly look catastrophe and affliction in the eyes and say, “Fuck you”.

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

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

…an evening of redness in the West: IN THE COMPANY OF SERPENTS – ‘Of the Flock’


By mixing laid-back, ominous swamp guitar licks with the hazy, sun-scorched twang of the American Southwest, Denver’s own In the Company of Serpents have succeeded in pushing beyond the limitations of the straight-forward yet unrelentingly heavy sludge of their self-titled debut into a realm of brimstone, lost souls, and abandoned faith that would leave Sergio Leone and Cormac McCarthy cowering and at a loss for words. ‘Of The Flock’ finds the duo of Grant Netzorg (vocals, guitars, fuzz) and Joseph Weller Myer (drums, apothecary) tweaking the band’s brand of boot-to-the-teeth, doom-as-fuck sludge by including regional influences that ultimately provides a soundtrack suitable for terrorizing a village, avenging a tragedy, or simply to finding redemption through blood. It’s clear that the band has evolved and progressed and ‘Of the Flock’ has a unique, distinctive tone and style that was missing from their debut.

The majority of tracks that comprise ‘Of the Flock’ have been rigorously road-tested in a live setting prior to the band entering the studio. Recorded locally by Jamie Hillyer and mixed and mastered by none-other than producer/engine-ear Billy Anderson, ‘Of the Flock’ manages to successfully capture the essence and live sound of the band—a recording feat previously achieved and rivalled by Tad Doyle’s accomplishment with Uzala’s excellent ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’. The five tracks of In the Company of Serpents’ latest burn with an intensity and ferocity that nearly matches the band’s live performance, particularly on the album versions of live staples “Craven” and “Of the Flock”. “Craven” manages to almost perfectly reproduce the busy, frantic drumming style of Myer along with the harsh, damning bellows of Netzorg, not to mention the guitar tone which is spot on. The title-track “Of the Flock” is another example of the band’s intense live sound caught on tape. The unassuming Spaghetti Western-style guitar lick is soon replaced with blasts of fuzz and huge, spastic drumming—a potent combination underscoring Netzorg’s throat-shredding demand to know, “What makes a man abandon faith?”

‘Of the Flock’ is, in essence, the sonic equivalent of damnation and Hellfire for the high plains drifter. Fans of the band’s self-titled should have no problems making the leap to the more expansive and progressive sound that encapsulates their newest release. And, consequently, anyone who has caught their live shows and have dug what they heard will definitely be on board. The dirty, low-end riffs and drumming acrobatics have remained intact, but the duo has incorporated additional influences to carve out a unique sound and vision all their own. In what has been a stellar year for heavy music, In the Company of Serpents have released an album that is easily “Top 10” worthy. ‘Of the Flock’ manages to be huge, ugly, and uncompromising while still remaining accessible and engaging—a balancing act that few bands can successfully manage. Get the album digitally from the band’s Bandcamp page, or better yet, order the vinyl.

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

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Thursday, October 24, 2013

…haunted by the shadows: SubRosa – ‘More Constant han the Gods’


Following a two-year hiatus Salt Lake City’s SubRosa have resurfaced with the intact core lineup of Rebecca Vernon, Sarah Pendleton, and Kim Pack along with the addition of a new rhythm section consisting of bassist Christian Creek and Andy Patterson on Drums. 2011’s sublime ‘No Help for the Mighty Ones’ was a doomy, post-apocalyptic journey that was equal parts beauty and despair. For the band’s latest, ‘More Constant Than the Gods’, SubRosa have retained their otherworldly, atmospheric approach, though the soundscapes have a heightened nightmarish quality as if awaking from a dream only to realize what was tangible in sleep is disappointingly ungraspable in wakefulness. The balance and ultimate collapse between yearning and disenchantment provides a surreal tension for the duration of the band’s latest.

From the beginning, what has separated SubRosa from other acts is the band’s tasteful use of violin. The addition of a second violinist for their second full-length, ‘No Help for the Mighty Ones’, helped to elevate the band’s overall sound to soaring new heights that effortlessly shifted from majestic ebbs-and-flows to melancholic, dirge-like meditations that were simply unattained on the band’s initial outings ‘The Worm Has Turned’ demo and ‘Strega’. Together, Pendleton and Pack have helped to transform SubRosa into the hauntingly beautiful entity that it is today. With ‘More Constant Than the Gods’ the violin duo take on an even more atmospheric role by providing a darker, more claustrophobic backdrop for Rebecca Vernon’s voice and guitar to enact her shadowy, esoteric tales of death, doom, and decay which is best represented by the dizzying, phantasmagorical din of album highlight “Fat of the Ram”. This nightmarish journey heaves and swells around the unmistakable guitar tone and vocals of Vernon who manages to exude glimmers of light as well as casting impenetrable shadows—a duality that SubRosa has managed capture perfectly on their latest release.

The six tracks of ‘More Constant Than the Gods’ have been painstakingly composed and each one flows as a unique eddy amidst the tumultuous current of the album. “Cosey Mo”, perhaps the most straight-forward track of the release, is most representative of the sound attained on ‘No Help for the Mighty Ones’. Similar to “Borrowed Time, Borrowed Eyes” in both sound and structure, “Cosey Mo” is carried by the distinct, heavy riffs of Vernon with the violins serving a similar accenting role. Not only has SubRosa released a darker album, but they have pushed their boundaries into new and exciting territories. While the final track, “No Safe Harbor”, is the “softest” tune to be found on the album it is arguably the most interesting musically. Melancholic piano opens the track and is eventually joined by flute. Initially, what really elevates this track above being a mere diversion is the vocals and lyrics of Vernon who is eventually joined by Pack and Pendleton to stunning effect. As the track progresses the melancholia gives way to paranoia, torment, and defiant sacrifice with the inclusion of electric guitar, cello, tortured violins, and hammered dulcimer. What began as an ode of adoration, “For you I would give up mountains of gold/And possessions untold, health of body and of soul” turns woefully sour with the lines “A perfect mirror tells no lies/That's why I shattered you/The truest mirror in my life”. Amidst the collection of haunting tales, “No Safe Harbor” is perhaps the most persistent and indelible of the lot.

Whether it was the break following the demise of the band in 2011 or simply the logical trajectory following the release of ‘No Help for the Mighty Ones’ that is ultimately responsible for the darker, more expansive sound of the newly invigorated SubRosa is uncertain. Regardless of the reasoning, the band has crafted an ominous, heart-rending release that sticks with the listener long after the album has stopped playing. While ‘No Help for the Mighty Ones’ was initially more gratifying and straight-forward—a relative concept as far as SubRosa is concerned—‘More Constant Than the Gods’ is a worthy successor of unparalleled depth that makes this one of the year’s finest albums.

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

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Thursday, October 10, 2013

…watch out for the reaper: NYMF – ‘From the Dark’


With alchemical precision Sweden’s NYMF has managed to distill a potent elixir of stoner metal, doom, and thrash with minute traces of death metal for their second full-length album ‘From the Dark’. This curious, multi-headed beast of an album may sound as if it is composed of incongruous elements, but the band largely manages to weave the disparate styles into a cohesive whole while also including a fair share of hooks. Filthy distortion, occasional double kick drums, and wide-ranging vocals are threaded throughout the thirteen tracks that comprise ‘From the Dark’, all of which are mortared together on a foundation of downbeat stoner rock.

Composed of veterans of the Swedish rock and metal scenes, most notably The Graviators, NYMF’s sophomore outing is, at times, filled with familiar elements, particularly the vocals of Niklas Sjöberg. Though his approach used with the 70’s influenced hard rock of The Graviators is still ever present, Sjöberg often ventures into grittier territory with a gravelly intonation and even moderately harsh vocals as found on the album’s standout second track, “Fear of the Doom”.

‘From the Dark’ is, essentially, an interesting journey through some of the musicians’ favorite genres of music. It would seem as if anything from the past forty-or-so years of hard rock and metal is fair game as long as it is has a dark and evil edge to it. If nothing else, ‘From the Dark’ exists as an interesting stylistic experiment that is as gratifying as it is puzzling. Despite any disparities, the album is held together with a killer guitar tone, some excellent vocal melodies, and an overall mood that dwells on the darker side of the spectrum.

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

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

…Fall to your knees: IRON MAN – ‘South of the Earth’


From the destructive, groove-laden riff that tears open the title track from Iron Man’s latest, ‘South of the Earth’, to the piano fadeout of “The Ballad of Ray Garraty” the band makes it clear that their sole mission is the complete and utter obliteration of the sonically weak. With the addition of Screaming Mad Dee behind the mic and Mot Waldmann on drums the reinvigorated Iron Man continues to make good on the promise intimated on their ‘Att hålla dig over’ EP by crafting devastatingly heavy, adrenalized doom . Not to diminish the influence of Iron Man founder and sole original member, Al Morris III, the man is a seemingly never-ending chasm of riffs, but it seems as if Iron Man is finally the sum of its parts.

While past incarnations of the band have released some stone cold classics, particularly ‘The Passage’ and ‘Generation Void’, the contributions of Dee and Waldmann cannot be denied. At the center of previous Iron Man releases was the unmistakable riff-slinging tone and groove of Morris III and everything else—vocals, drums, and bass seemed to be either supportive or incidental. Don’t be mistaken, Iron Man has always boasted excellent vocalists and supporting musicians, particularly Dan Michalak’s vocals which worked flawlessly with the doomier side of the band, and Gary Isom’s drumming on ‘The Passage’ is nothing short of top-notch, but the current lineup is the perfect storm of musicianship and personality.

Screaming Mad Dee is nothing short of a wailing banshee possessing both the dynamic range and power to match the heft of Morris III’s riffs, the pulsating, funky pop of Louis Strachan’s basslines, and the thunderous timing of Waldmann’s drums. ‘South of the Earth’ is an incredibly well-balanced album allowing the individual players to standout and shine. Lyrically, ‘South of the Earth’ is mired in tales of betrayal, madness, misery, and woe without failing to acknowledge the darkness that lies beyond the realm of men with tunes like “IISOEO (The Day of the Beast)” and “Half-Face/Thy Brother’s Keeper (Dunwich pt. 2)”. With Dee penning the lyrics, Iron Man is a darker, grimmer beast grappling with real world adversity and struggling against the supernatural forces from beyond.

Iron Man’s latest incarnation has taken the band to new heights both musically and thematically. Production-wise ‘South of the Earth’ is flawless—heft is equally balanced with clarity and every member’s contributions are essential to the end product. While Iron Man is still rooted in upbeat, mid-to-faster paced doom, ‘South of the Earth’ also incorporates more straightforward elements of hard rock and metal. There may be those who lament the subtle shift from the heavy doom that Iron Man has traditionally dealt out, but the band’s current lineup is a force to be reckoned with as ‘South of the Earth’ achieves its weight from a solid collective effort—another worthy addition to the Iron Man discography.

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

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

…Ashes to ashes: UZALA – ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’


With five tracks examining the historic and folkloric wickedness of human nature, Uzala has triumphantly returned with their aptly titled second full-length album, ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’. Last year’s excellent self-titled debut was a murky, atmospheric journey to the dark side, occasionally blackened by the berserker howls of vocalist/guitarist Chad Remains. The remainder of the album, despite the melancholic tunes and hazy production, was given to moments of shimmering beauty due to the juxtaposing vocals of Darcy Nutt radiating from deep within the whirlwind of wah pedal abuse and distortion. For the recording of their sophomore effort the band recruited the inimitable Tad Doyle and his Witch Ape Studio which, in the end, has yielded a clearer, heavier album without completely sacrificing the dark moods and bad vibes of its predecessor.

Despite the clarity found on ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’, the album still exhibits a foreboding atmosphere of tension and anxiety that, as Chad has commented, “…works perfectly for many of the songs since the subject matter deals with being hunted, murder, obsession, vengeance, despair, and loss.” Accompanying the cleaner production is the huge, cataclysmic drumming of Chuck Watkins and a redefined focus on Darcy’s vocals. Rather than escaping from amidst the tumult, her vocals are more pronounced, dynamic and, at times, commanding. Also catapulting Darcy to the forefront is the lack of vocal contributions from Chad this time around which, in the end, reigns in the aggression and unpredictability that so satisfyingly jarred the listener midway through their debut. Despite his absence vocally, Chad’s presence is imprinted on the five tracks that comprise ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’ as his guitar is seamlessly entangled with Darcy’s to create earth-rending doom riffs, fuzzed-out walls of distortion, and mesmerizing leads.

What the band has sacrificed in ambient atmospherics they have gained in heft and lumbering aggression without delving into the whiplash frenzy found on either “Fracture” or “Wardrums” from their debut. Though the songs are heavier and the guitars snarl with an angrier tone, the album is still laced with quieter passages of calm psychedelia punctuated by bursts of distortion and Darcy’s ever-engaging vocals. For ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’ the band re-recorded “Burned” from their 7” split with Mala Suerte and it flat-out rocks with a groove unrivalled by anything else on the album. Like with their previous work, Uzala continues to experiment with noise and sonic textures. A rising tide of feedback kicks off the album opener “Seven Veils” and returns for the final track, “Tenement of the Lost”, where it fully engulfs the listener for what is Uzala’s most indulgent foray into the noise-as-aesthetic ideology before devolving into what is arguably their “softest”, most poignant track to date. Without Chuck’s destructive percussion and only the lone, heavily reverbed guitar accompanied by the lingering swell of distorted noise to carry the tune, the focus is placed squarely on Darcy’s wavering vocals—the perfect way to close out the album.

Uzala has crafted a masterful follow-up to their stunning debut by slightly altering their overall sound with a cleaner, weightier production. Despite the added heft and crispness, the album still smolders with a narcotizing burn capable of anesthetizing a woolly mammoth. ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’ is one of the most interesting and immersive albums released this year and with only five tracks and a runtime near the forty-five minute mark the trip ends way too soon. Preorder the album through King of the Monsters Records and, for those who missed it the first time around, look out for the re-release of their self-titled album bundled with the ‘Cataract/Death Masque’ 12” single.

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

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Sunday, September 22, 2013

…Isolating the quintessence: WOLVSERPENT – ‘Perigea Antahkarana’


Pushing their way through the spheres of terra, aqua, aer, and ignis and drifting into the void beyond for their Relapse Records debut, Wolvserpent have reimagined, refined, and re-recorded their excellent 2012 demo, ‘Perigaea' (review HERE). The end result, ‘Perigea Antahkarana’, finds the Boise, Idaho duo of Blake Green and Brittany McConnell adding depth and layers to what was already a stunning release. Not simply content to re-record for the sake of attaining a “better” production, the band has, to a degree, altered their demo’s compositions and sequencing for ‘Perigea Antahkarana’, especially on the latter half of the album. As if sensed through precognition or recalled from a sedated sleep-state, moments of ‘Perigea Antahkarana’ are familiar to those who have listened to the demo, but there are still segments constructed from nothing and suffused with the essence of the album’s former incarnation.

Album opener “Threshold:Gateway” is instantly recognizable as “Perigaea I” from the band’s demo. Like its predecessor, this opening track could be a field recording from a windswept wasteland beyond the physical realm. It’s nearly four minutes of contemplation balanced precariously between an uneasy calm and a comfortable tension. At just under the four minute mark—a mere fraction of the album’s runtime—it doesn’t take the listener long to be initiated into Wolvserpent’s explorations of the classical elements of fire, water, air, and earth. Also retaining much of its original form is the album’s second track ‘Within the Light of Fire’. As with the demo version, ‘Within the Light of Fire’ is the bluntest, most overtly abrasive track of the album. The eerie violin tremolo of McConnell opens the track and remains embedded deep within the heart of the song allowing the riffs and guttural wails of Green to writhe from within the conflagration. “In Mirrors of Water” is the calm following the storm, a serene soundscape belied by the mournful strings of McConnell. Here, Wolvserpent have dug deeper into their own composition and have extended the track for an additional ten minutes of music that eventually evolves from a pulsating, kraut-rock drone to a frantic, blackened frenzy.

The remaining two tracks, “A Breath in the Shade of Time” and “Concealed Among the Roots and Soil”, are less recognizable than the first half of the album when compared to the demo. In fact, the songs have been broken down into their base elements, some of which have been removed, and reassembled into two complete, yet new, wholes. In almost every instance Wolvserpent has refined and improved their compositions, but it is lamentable that what was once “Perigaea IV” was so drastically broken down and reassembled, losing the sublime, transcendent beauty of the track’s ambient intro. Despite the vast difference “A Breath in the Shade of Time” is still a stellar tune, and the differences merely contribute to the vitality and replay value of the ‘Perigaea’ demo. Album closer “Concealed Among the Roots and Soil” borrows elements from the final two tracks of the demo and ultimately brings the listener round full circle to the cawing crows and crackling fire of “Threshold:Gateway” thus ending the listener’s journey.

In almost every respect ‘Perigea Antahkarana’ is an improvement over the seedling that was the ‘Perigaea’ demo. The band’s commitment to perfection has yielded one of the year’s most unique and powerful albums, particularly for travelers seeking dark roads, bad trips, or heady introspection. And while ‘Perigea Antahkarana’ isn’t completely new, the album and the demo offer journeys that are divergent enough to warrant checking out both. Wolvserpent’s latest may not be for everyday listening, but it certainly fills the void that is left untouched by anything lacking the sheer beauty and terror of ‘Perigea Antahkarana’.

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

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

…WINDHAND – ‘Soma’


With their highly anticipated second full-length Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand hold fast to the formula firmly established on their ‘Practice Space Demo’ and their self-titled debut, and continue their mission to envelop the listener in an impenetrable wall of distortion thus potentiating narcotic and psychotropic effects. Like its predecessors, ‘Soma’ roars with an earth-churning rumble of seismic proportions that is only partially kept in check by the percussive timing of Ryan Wolfe, Dorthia Cottrell’s wails from within the maelstrom, and occasional fluidic blasts of lead guitar. For the band’s first outing for Relapse Records they stick close to what they know and have released a worthy, if not similar album to their self-titled debut.

With only six tracks and a runtime of well over an hour ‘Soma’ is irrefutably a monster of an album. And while no track quite reaches the heights of self-titled album closer “Winter Sun” the band still manages to craft individual and unique tunes that undulate and writhe with an insufferable heaviness all their own. Though there are similarities to the band’s earlier work, particularly in heft and tone, it would be a mistake to simply label ‘Soma’ as “‘Windhand II’”.

The band has taken a few detours and branched out enough to keep things both vital and interesting. The fourth track, “Evergreen”, is a somber, acoustic number that puts the spotlight completely on Cottrell who also plays guitar on this track. Though “Evergreen” is stylistically out place, it fits right in contextually and offers a brief respite before “Cassock” lays waste to everything in its path. Like a giant trudging its way across the earth, “Cassock” hasn’t a care for who it crushes underfoot by featuring the band’s heaviest, most sinister low-end riffs. The album closes with “Boleskine”, an epic, mesmerizing track that accounts for nearly half of the album’s runtime.

Windhand have ultimately crafted an album on par with their excellent debut, though ‘Soma’ is colder, darker, and heavier. Fans of their earlier work will undoubtedly gravitate toward their newest release and for good reason—tidal waves of distortion, feedback harmonizing, acoustic guitars, and Cottrell’s vocals. ‘Soma’ is uncompromisingly heavy and Windhand have further developed their unique style of doom, albeit incrementally.

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

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Friday, September 13, 2013

…Getting to know Satan: DIRE FATE – ‘Ritual/Rehearsal MMXI’ Demo


Dire Fate first came to my attention earlier this year with their excellent contribution to the split with countrymen and fellow traditional doom cohorts Rote Mare. This little gem, ‘Ritual/Rehearsal MMXI’ demo, though recorded and officially released in 2011 has been given a wider circulation through the band’s official Bandcamp page. Based on their three tracks from the Rote Mare split the bar was set particularly high for the band and, without reservation, I can say that my expectations for their earlier demo recordings weren’t dashed. ‘Ritual/Rehearsal MMXI’ reveals the band’s quest to tread the traditional doom path while incorporating melodicism and a unique, dismal atmosphere—a prerequisite for crafting memorable and enduring doom.

Each of the three tracks of ‘Ritual/Rehearsal MMXI’ are singular exercises in arcane rites emanating dark and foreboding vibes suitable for raising the dead or conversing with demons. “Ah Satan… (Do You Know Him?)” is a Faustian tale of life extended beyond death through the treachery of a pact with the devil. This is straight-up old school doom with enough tempo changes to keep things interesting. Chant-like backing vocals and a tormented cry from the netherworld briefly accent the main vocals of Phillip D. Atropos whose voice is not too dissimilar from Bauhaus’ Peter Murphy. The remaining two tracks, “Cast the Spell” and “Spire of War”, continue the band’s allegiance to the dark arts of doom by spinning tales of near forgotten magic and the invocation of a god-like entity—an entity that should have remained dormant—whose lust for war sows nothing but death and destruction.

‘Ritual/Rehearsal MMXI’ is a killer demo that incorporates the best elements of traditional doom—ominous riffs, expressive vocals, and an unwavering devotion to creating a heavy and foreboding atmosphere through their compositions alone. Fans of traditional doom, particularly in the vein of Rote Mare or Funeral Circle’s self-titled album, won’t be disappointed with Dire Fate’s recently unearthed demo. Hopefully the band is on track for some studio time in the near future because their demo and split contributions are simply not enough.

Words Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

…Come ye faithful, meet thy maker: SAINT VITUS – ‘C.O.D.’






Saint Vitus’ seemingly misunderstood and long out-of-print sixth full-length, ‘C.O.D.’, has finally been dug up, dragged from its grave, and remastered and reanimated with the addition of two lost tracks courtesy of Season of Mist. Maligned by many—including main songwriter Dave Chandler—and revered by few, ‘C.O.D.’ is clearly the black sheep of the Saint Vitus discography, an outlier that has divided fans and critics from its inception. And sure, the one-off effort with Chritus Linderson at the mic is distinguished from the band’s prior work due to a step-up in the production department and a playing time that essentially dwarfs their other releases, ‘C.O.D.’ is nevertheless a masterpiece in its own right and an album whose “failure” ultimately paved the way for the reunion with original vocalist Scott Reagers and the recording of the band’s magnum opus ‘Die Healing’. But make no mistake…‘C.O.D.’ rocks and it rocks fucking hard.

Remastered or not, ‘C.O.D.’ has always sounded great. While the leap in production value from ‘V’ to ‘C.O.D’ is apparent, the band hardly transitioned to a clean, radio-friendly polish. Chandler’s guitar still rips and his solos claw and leave marks all over the album accompanied by Mark Adams’ doom-as-fuck basslines. Probably the most noticeable improvement over the band’s previous albums is the sound of the drums. Acosta’s drums are heavier and more prominent in the mix which lends an unprecedented barbarian heft to the twelve tracks of the album proper. Few bands have so effortlessly transitioned from vocalist-to-vocalist as Saint Vitus and the standalone release featuring Linderson is arguably one of the band’s finest.

With over an hour’s worth of doom-and-gloom ‘C.O.D.’ covers a lot of ground and includes many of Saint Vitus’ most memorable and unique tracks. Following a brief and moody intro is the anthemic call to arms “Children of Doom”. Here Chandler’s guitar bleeds and wails throughout the track while Linderson presides over his flock of lost souls while reciting the riddle of doom. The third track, “Planet of Judgement”, has the lone distinction of being credited to the entire band with words penned by Linderson and Acosta. Not to dismiss the individual songwriting talents of Chandler, but “Planet of Judgement” is easily one of the band’s strongest tracks. The main impact of “Planet of Judgement” not only comes from Chandler’s memorable riffs and mind-bending leads, but also from Linderson’s vocal melodies. The shift from an atonal, riff-following pattern to a forlorn, emotional delivery on the latter half of the track leaves a haunting and indelible impression on the listener. Other greats such as the hard rocker “Shadow of a Skeleton”, the woeful crawl of “Plague of Man”, and the Joy Division-esque “Get Away” have never sounded better.


As an added bonus the reissue of ‘C.O.D.’ includes two bonus tracks, “To Breed a Soldier” and “The Chameleon”. The two tracks, originally recorded as demos for the follow-up to ‘C.O.D.’, give a glimpse into what could have been had things worked out between Chandler, Linderson, and their label at the time. Production-wise the two tracks are understandably rougher than the rest of ‘C.O.D.’ and the vocals of Linderson are more dynamic and consistent with his later work with Lord Vicar and Goatess. Chandler hasn’t missed a beat on these unearthed tracks as he seems to strangle the life from his protesting guitar on the squalling, fuzz-drenched lead of “To Breed a Soldier”. “The Chameleon” is classic, mid-paced Vitus that also features Chandler’s signature wah abuse and the solid rhythm section of Adams and Acosta.

The re-release of ‘C.O.D.’ has been long overdue and Season of Mist has done an amazing job. The inclusion of two bonus tracks simply sweetens the deal. Personal preference in regards to vocalists within the Saint Vitus discography will always be a point of contention, but I find the Chritus-era to be second only to the band’s output with Scott Reagers. It’s too bad that Linderson’s tenure began and ended with ‘C.O.D.’, though his further involvement may have irreversibly altered the band’s trajectory thus depriving the masses of the excellent ‘Die Healing’ album.

Words Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

…producing psychotropic effects: Interview with Ron Vanacore of CURSE THE SON


It seems as if the world is slowly starting to wake-up and take notice of Curse the Son’s stellar sophomore effort, ‘Psychache’. The menacing riffs of Ron Vanacore combined with the propulsive rhythm section of drummer Michael Petrucci and bassist Cheech have yielded one of the year’s finest albums to date. The band’s debut, ‘Klonopain’, was a solid slab of stoner-doom, but Curse the Son has managed to push their sound to dizzying new heights with a refined focus on head-nodding groove and bleary-eyed psychedelia. Vocalist/guitarist Ron Vanacore was cool enough to shed some light on the making of ‘Psychache’, the future of the band, and more…



VCA - Hey, Ron, thanks for taking the time for chatting with me on behalf of the Temple of Perdition. I have to say that ‘Psychache’ is easily my most spun album of the year. While your debut, ‘Klonopain’, was a solid album and well worth the purchase ‘Psychache’ seems as if it’s on a whole other plane in terms of progression and musicianship. Is there anything that went into the making of your sophomore album that stands out or was different, or is it just a matter of “practice makes perfect”?

RV - First off, thanks so much Steve. I am thrilled that you enjoy the record so much. We receive messages from people all over the world, telling us how much they enjoy our music and what it means to them. We are blown away each and every time, and I can’t begin to tell you how much it truly means to us.

You are correct in your suggestion that ‘Psychache’ is on a different level than ‘Klonopain’. ‘Klonopain’ was a collection of songs that had been created over the course of 3 years. The music was written and arranged entirely by me, and some songs had been written before I even had a band to jam with!

Subsequently, the songs on ‘Psychache’ were written rather quickly. We wrote those tunes between July and December of 2011. The songs for ‘Psychache’ were written with more of a “band” concept in mind, and some of the riffs and ideas were born just from jamming. The biggest difference between ‘Klonopain’ and ‘Psychache’ was the addition of Mike Petrucci on the drums. He joined us in June of 2011 and all we did was write that entire summer. Mike is a trained musician, and a top-notch drummer. As soon as he joined the band, it was immediately obvious that he was going to help us to grow as musicians and songwriters. His impact cannot be understated! I had known Mike for a long time, and hoped of playing with him in a band at some point. Luckily, the stars aligned properly and we haven’t looked back since.


VCA - The band put out ‘Psychache’ earlier in the year as a self-release and I was expecting fans of doom, stoner, and sludge to be all over it. Recently the album is seeing a bit of a resurgence that seems to coincide with the digital release through your Bandcamp page. Why did it take six months for ‘Psychache’ to finally be available digitally? Any chances of seeing ‘Psychache’ on vinyl?

RV - Well truth be told, there was a false start with the release of ‘Psychache’. It had always been our intention to shop this record in the hopes of landing a record deal, so we wanted to wait a bit before we self-released it. There were some promo copies of the CD distributed at the Stoner Hands of Doom festival last year in New London, CT and some of the songs found their way onto YouTube. The cat was out of the bag, so we just went with it. The first round of reviews/interviews, and the subsequent requests to purchase the CD soon followed.

Our management (313 Inc.) entered into serious negotiations with some labels in the late fall, and it was decided to wait and sit on the record for a bit. Even with negotiations still ongoing presently, we decided that we could not wait any longer. We knew ‘Psychache’ was too good to rot on the shelf, so it was given its proper release a couple weeks ago in the digital download format. It is available as a CD as well, and YES; there is a very good chance that you will see the ‘Psychache’ record on vinyl at some point very soon!

VCA - In response to ‘Psychache’, Ulla Roschat of The Wicked Lady Show and Temple of Perdition has said, “I'm totally hooked. It's of an outstanding beauty, everything comes together as if it's just natural.” I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. Did the pieces fall into place from the get go? Is ‘Psychache’ the end product that you had envisioned before going into the studio?

RV - That was really cool of Ulla to say, comments like that not only make my day, they make my LIFE!

I was taken aback by the response to ‘Klonopain’. As a musician, you always hope that your creation will resonate with others and make an impact. I was pleasantly surprised with the way that record made its mark. The reviews from the stoner/doom press were overwhelmingly positive and the fan reaction was amazing.

Due to the success of the ‘Klonopain’ record I felt a tremendous amount of pressure when planning its follow up. This was a situation I had never found myself in before, and we’ve all heard of the “sophomore slump”. When mixing began, the feel and vibe of the record really began to all fall into place.

We didn’t want to make “Klonopain II”, so it became very important for us to make this one a different experience entirely. As the mixing progressed, each and every song began to take on its own life. As a perfectionist, ‘Psychache’ became an obsession for me. I poured everything I had into mixing the record. It was a very exciting experience, but also difficult and emotionally draining at times.




VCA - Related to Ulla’s comment about ‘Psychache’ coming together naturally, how much time was spent on the album’s sequencing?

RV - A lot!

When I was a kid, I was so into the sequence of songs on the records I dug. I loved the concept of 2 sides and all the thought that is involved in picking which song leads off, which one is the closer, etc. Again, as the mixing progressed and the characteristics of each song began to appear, it became clearer and clearer which songs would go where.
I sincerely think that the CD ruined the pacing of a record. I enjoy the ebb and flow of the classic records, and have always tried to upkeep that old-school tradition.

VCA - The only real criticism that I could possibly launch at ‘Psychache’ is that the album seems too short, though there can be something said about being concise and leaving the listener wanting more. It’s the same feeling I get after listening to most of Saint Vitus’ discography. Were there any tunes left on the “cutting room floor”?

RV - I always think it is better to leave the listener wanting more, whether that be live or on a recording. Why overstay your welcome? That is another problem that arose with the advent of CD’s. 15 songs on an album? Nah, I dug it when there were 7 or 8 tunes on a record. All killer, no filler…ya know?

No, there were no songs left over. As a matter of fact, a couple of the songs were written in the studio as the session was progressing. I won’t divulge which ones though!

VCA - One of the coolest things about both ‘Klonopain’ and, to a greater degree, ‘Psychache’ is that the riffs are menacing, yet still possess a hypnotizing groove. Was this the ultimate goal behind the formation of Curse the Son, or are the tunes just the end result of three guys getting together to jam?

RV - Well as I stated previously, at one point Curse the Son was just me. I wanted to be super fucking heavy, fuzzy and slow. I wanted a sound that was huge, fat and analog.

The riffs are what they are. I write what I write. I can’t play other bands songs and I never played covers. The only music I play is mine, so the riffs are of obvious importance to our music. There is NOTHING like getting stoned and locking onto some badass hypnotic riffage. Pure ecstasy!

VCA - I remember reading a post on your Facebook page that stated that Curse the Son never tours and you play about four gigs a year. Is playing live a priority for the band? Are there any gigs on the horizon?

RV - Playing the RIGHT gigs is a priority for Curse the Son. I would much rather play 4 meaningful shows a year, than play every other weekend at dive bars just to make a couple bucks. I am a long time veteran of the Connecticut metal scene and I have paid my dues. I’ve learned that playing too many shows can become detrimental to the overall psyche of a band and end up working against you.

We would like to tour if we can find a label that will help us with some tour support. My personal life doesn’t really allow for extended periods away from home, so it is something that I could only do once in a while. We have people from all over the country (and the world) who write to us daily asking us to come play their hometown. I think it would be so awesome to play in different areas and meet the people who know and love our music. Someday it will happen, when I am not sure.

VCA - What’s the music scene like in Connecticut, particularly around your hometown of Hamden, and how does Curse the Son fit in?

RV - The music scene in Connecticut is a victim of its location. We are stuck between New York City and Boston. There are a few really great bands around here, but it is so difficult to gain any traction. There are very few places to play and the majority of the bands around here are death metal. You wouldn’t think it, but it plays to our advantage when we gig with a bunch of death metal bands. We stand out. We make our mark and people remember whom we are.

There are only a few bands in our area that are doing the stoner/doom thing, so there is not much of a scene for our music. Sea of Bones and Lord Fowl are the two bands that immediately come to mind. It is tough to get people to come out to local shows now. There are so many other things that are competing for their attention. Plus, they can always watch it on YouTube the next day right?? All things considered, we have developed a pretty decent following in our area.

VCA - What’s the current status of Curse the Son? Are you guys working on any new material or do you have any plans to record in the near future?

RV - We are currently writing material for the 3rd release. At present time we have 4 songs in the can and hope to begin recording by October/November 2013. I hope that the next record will be released mid winter 2014.

VCA - I can say without reservation that ‘Psychache’ is one of those rare albums that I can reach for regardless of how many times I’ve listened to it or what my mood is and I can still totally get into it. Are there any albums, classic or contemporary, that you never seem to tire of?

RV - That’s a great question! I never tire of ‘Deliverance’, ‘Back In Black’, ‘Sabotage’, ‘Master Of Reality’, ‘Unleashed In The East’, ‘Diary Of A Madman’, ‘Zeppelin III’, ‘Dopes To Infinity’ and ‘Black Masses’ by Electric Wizard amongst many others! I generally only listen to music that was made previous to the mid-90’s. I also enjoy a lot of the early thrash music from the 80’s, like ‘Hell Awaits’ and ‘Infernal Overkill’ by Destruction.

VCA - Any last thoughts on future recordings, the status of Curse the Son, or the big existential questions?

RV - Well, like I said we are currently busy writing material for the next record. We are in a really good headspace right now as a band. The sales and downloads of ‘Psychache’ has been mind blowing to say the least. The best part is that a lot of people who are grabbing ‘Psychache’ are grabbing ‘Klonopain’ too, which means we are gaining lots of new fans everyday. It is a very exciting time for us. We hope to have some record label support by the time the 3rd record is released, but if not, we will just do it on our own again. The music biz has become a very D.I.Y. system and that is OK with me.

Anyone interested can still purchase a copy of the ‘Psychache CD, and we have T-Shirts for sale as well.

The last thing I would like to say is thank-you to everyone who has shown us such love and support so far. Please keep spreading the word about us. Word of mouth is the only way a band like us will continue to grow and so far it has been a magical ride. Keep the faith brothers and sisters and let’s keep the party going…..Get HIGH!!

Interview by Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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Friday, August 23, 2013

…dark moods and bad vibes: Interview with Chad Remains of UZALA

Uzala’s self-titled debut was one of the highlights among the many stellar releases of 2012. Their atmospheric, downtrodden blend of doom, psychedelia, and noise carved out a niche all its own. Further separating Uzala from the pack are the haunting, seraphic vocals of Darcy Nutt who yielded an ethereal quality to six of the album’s eight tracks. The band is about to unleash ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’, the follow-up to their impressive debut. Guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter Chad Remains was kind enough to take some time from his busy schedule to shed some light on the status of the band and the highly anticipated forthcoming album.


VCA - 2012 was a killer year for doom metal and other like-minded genres and reigning at the top of my year end list was your self-titled debut which still gets spun on the regular. I tried to turn others on to Uzala and I found that the hazy, muddy production tended to polarize listeners. Personally, I found that the production enhanced the album and added atmosphere and really emphasized Darcy’s vocals. Is there going to be a noticeable shift production-wise like there was on the split that you recorded with Mala Suerte on ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’?

CR - The LP got mastered for the AWWFN release in a dark manner. It will be reissued by King of the Monsters Records later this year with Mell Dettmer mastering as well as a bonus 12" single with Cataract and Death Masque included. Essentially the entire Blake Green produced Visual Arts Collective sessions will be available in one vinyl package. Tony Roberts will be doing the LP layout/design this time and there will be slightly different photos/art, etc. It will be a deluxe release, as are all King of the Monsters releases.

Tales of Blood & Fire is different in many ways. Darcy and I wrote everything on this one, for example, and also we had a different vision for how to make the guitars sound. The drums are heavier for two reasons. One, Chuck Watkins was raised on raw meat and punk and metal. Two, Tad Doyle is a drummer and I'm pretty sure he built his entire studio to emphasize heavy drumming. The first record was made in a very big concert venue so there is more space and ambient sounds in the whole thing. Which I feel was perfect for that session. The atmosphere of the session was hazy and the record is too. It's great that Blake could capture the feeling that we were still trying to figure out how to make those songs come to life or pull them over from the other side.




VCA - What was it like recording with Tad? Did he bring anything new to the table as far as influencing your sound or altering the way that you ultimately envisioned the final product?

CR - Tad was great. Very welcoming and laid back. Just kinda "roll it and go for it" kind of style with us. We weren't smart enough to send him a demo so he didn't even have any idea what songs we were bringing him to record. He just went with the flow. He was open to my harebrained ideas for guitar stuff. He did rein me in a bit because of time limitations. If I had it my way there would be nine guitar tracks on each song. I stayed the hell out of the way when it came to drums and vocals of course. My opinions are highly valued only by myself in those situations.

When I recorded the drone/noise wall guitar parts for Tenement of the Lost he just handed me his pedal board and said "try this out for a bit". After 45 minutes or so his voice came over the headphones "I think we've got some good stuff here". I had no idea he was recording! Definitely a good way to keep thing loose and improvisational. I used my Laney gh100s Tony Iommi head for most of the guitar tracks, but there is some Fender Champ on there as well. Plenty of it, actually. Darcy used a Peavey vtm60 that we borrowed from Thomas Wilson from Black Cloud. That thing sounds MONSTROUS and Tad brought out the depth of it. Some of Darcy's guitar riffs sound like boulders rolling over villages. IMMENSE. Her clean guitars were played through a mix of a Marshall Studio 15 that we borrowed from Darren Chase of Ancient Warlocks and a super weird top secret solid state 50 watt amp with the throbbiest tremolo/vibrato sound. Both Darcy and I used Black Arts Toneworks pedals on all of the dirty guitars. I leaned heavily on the Revelation Superbass to create the basis of my dirty sound.

VCA - One of the cool things about your debut was that you and Darcy divvied up the vocal duties among the eight tracks. “Fracture” and “Wardrums” definitely stand out due to the shift in tone and aggression, yet the album still sounds balanced. I thought that those two tracks broke up the album nicely and your berserker wails tended to juxtapose with Darcy’s more ethereal approach. Is that trend going to continue on the new album?

CR - Darcy sings all of the songs on this one. The only reason is because I didn't write any songs that were for my voice. We have a new songwriting cycle starting soon. It's possible that I will sing on one or more of these. It's not really important to me whether or not I use that voice. The important thing for us is to do service to the song. It's never been about individual mastery of an instrument or voice. We only wish to craft good songs that are memorable and capture the mood of the idea behind the song.

The singing on Tales of Blood & Fire is more emotive and expressive than the s/t. With the cleaner mix the vocals sit right above the other instruments. Darcy's range on this one is quite evocative of an older era of singers. Comparisons to Grace Slick have been put forth and I can't really argue with that.

VCA - Is there anything that stands out as an influence to the making of ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’, whether it be another band’s music, a certain film, novel, artist or piece of art? Were there any significant differences in how these compositions came together compared to the last album?

CR - Each song is a story, so each song was inspired individually by the story behind it. Sometimes the initial inspiration came from the histories and myths of the Salem Witch Trials, Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations for Salomé, films, art and songs about Elisabeth Bathory, or dreams. Then the inspiration came from bands as well because we feel rooted in a tradition. You can probably hear the influences almost as clearly as we felt them. We are not here to reinvent the bloody wheel.

On the s/t album we had a long time to write and play the songs live and for the most part the band was based here in Idaho. On this one Darcy and I had many rehearsals with no drums or bass and all of the writing was done by us without much outside influence from other band members. We had a short rehearsal session and then went straight into Witch Ape Studio with Tad. So there is a tension and anxiety underlying the entire thing since it had to be done in six days. It works perfectly for many of the songs since the subject matter deals with being hunted, murder, obsession, vengeance, despair, and loss.

Nick (bass) left after day two of the recording, so that was it for his involvement. He is no longer in the band since his commitments were not with us.

VCA - Is the band still split between Boise and Portland? How does that affect the overall songwriting process and preparation for live gigs? Any plans developing to tour behind ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’?

CR - Chuck Watkins (drums) lives in Portland and we are continuing without a bassist, at least for now. Chuck also plays in Ephemeros. Their new album, All Hail Corrosion, just came out on Seventh Rule and Parasitic Records. They are destructive.

So far as preparing for gigs, recording, etc., we try to split our travels. The reality is that Chuck travels more over this way than we do over that way. We are touring the US in October with Mike Scheidt (YOB, VHÖL) doing his solo acoustic material and part of the tour will also be with Mount Salem from Chicago. The Texas dates will be with the unbelievably incredible Sabbath Assembly. We will play a couple of festivals along the way. Starting with Fall Into Darkness Fest in Portland, Oregon October 13 with Mike Scheidt, Hammers of Misfortune, and The Skull (ex - Trouble) and about mid way we will play Baltimore, Maryland's second installment of Autumn Screams Doom Festival on October 26th with Serpentine Path, Dopethrone, LOSS, Churchburn, and a bunch of others that I will regret not mentioning later. Along the way we will play gigs with new friends and old. Like fucking BONGRIPPER in Chicago?!? HELL YEAH! EAGLE TWIN in Salt Lake City?!? GOD DAMN! We will announce all of the dates soon. Still finalizing two or three towns.

VCA - Your debut was the perfect mix of doom, psychedelia, noise and despair. What’s in store for the listener this time around?

CR - Well, although that's very kind of you to say, I feel there are ways we could have done better on the s/t record and I'm sure that I would have done something differently with the split 7" and this new album given enough time and space between takes of songs. The lens of time can be clearer than the moment in time, so taking all of that into account and also the fact remains that I can't change it...

This album has heavier drumming like I mentioned before. The guitars are clearer although there is still a psychedelic feel to the recording even with the added aggression to the sound. Dorando from Lesbian mentioned to me that he thought we sound like Flower Travellin' Band more with these songs. I had never thought of it before but I reckon he's right. Something in the extension of the high end of the songs and the warble of the wah pedal. Or maybe we are secretly Japanese, from the 60's, and on loads of bad acid and speed.

VCA - I’ve been into music my whole life and I can’t imagine not owning physical copies of alums whether it’s on CD or an LP. In this day and age exceptions are made and I’ll go the digital route if an album is scarce, out-of-print, or a band doesn’t have the means to get their music out in a physical format. Your debut was one of the reasons I dusted off the turntable and sought out a new needle. How important is it for Uzala to put out a physical release?

CR - I actually don't give a fuck about digital downloads. If someone wants to help us further our band and help us to cover the costs of being on the road, in the studio, procuring vintage gear, etc then by all means they are welcome to buy a digital download from us. If someone wants to "steal" it from a download site, so fucking what? They actually "have" nothing, in my opinion. I'm sure that my age has a lot to do with the formulation of that opinion. I grew up listening to tapes and LPs, watching the needles bounce on dual vU meters on my Dad's old Pioneer and Kenwood gear, blasting my eardrums with old eggshell headphones or cranking Bose 301s and pointing them in different directions to alter the sound in the room.

We take great care in the presentation of the physical formats that we present to the world because we want to put out something that we would enjoy owning. A few of our releases have fallen short in the past, but we will correct that with reissues. Our first thirty or so copies of the demo were made in a very big hurry and they look like utter shit. We would like to reissue that someday to make up for the shoddy handiwork on that one. I think that some future releases will go even further into the realm of crazy packaging, but I reckon we will always try to have a "normal" version for those who just want a black slab and a sleeve to house it in. I don't want to do something stupid and so exclusive that only ebay assholes will buy it. We are still a small band so we do smaller editions for economic reasons.

VCA - Both Uzala and Pallbearer (on their ‘2010 Demo’)—among many artists over the past several decades—have recorded versions of “Gloomy Sunday”. Any renditions that you particularly enjoy? What was it that attracted you to that song and are there any other similar indulgences on the upcoming album?

CR - Diamanda Galas was the sole reason that we recorded Gloomy Sunday with the Desmond Carter lyrics. There was no possible way for us to even reach for what she did, but it was inspirational to us and we had to try our hand at it for our own reasons.

VCA - Any other thoughts on ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’ or life in general?

CR - We will be writing and recording more for some splits with a few other bands soon. Look for us in October and November in the US, and we hope to bring UZALA to Europe in the spring. We are talking with some folks about that.

Interview by Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)

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