Wednesday, March 27, 2013 the fiery Hell below: DIRE FATE/ ROTE MARE – Split

I don’t know what they’re putting in the drinking water in Australia, but the land down under has spawned two exceptional traditional doom bands—Dire Fate and Rote Mare—who practice what can only be deemed as melodic doom metal. These two likeminded bands heavily mine the Sabbathian blueprint for their particular approaches, especially the haunting eponymous opening track from Sabbath’s debut, but each band proceeds to imbue their tunes with an ariose sensibility through their lush guitar leads, strong vocals, and subtle tempo changes that keep the tracks from becoming mired in plodding repetition. Dire Fate may not have the recorded output to match Rote Mare’s string of demos, debut EP, and a full-length album, but the band does manage to contribute three tracks that are within the same realm in regards to consistency and melodicism.

Dire Fate opens the split release with “Evil Ascending”, a moody, three minute instrumental that is reminiscent of Indiana’s mighty Apostle of Solitude. “Evil Ascending” slowly builds the tension that ends in a wash of feedback before “Satanic Eclipse” triumphantly rears its two-horned head. Like the best in traditional doom, the main riff is sinister and larger than life. Dire Fate kills it with this track. The vocals of Philip D. Atropos have a commanding, yet slightly theatric characteristic without sounding too over-the-top and they help carry the tune. The third track, “Salvation Through Pessimism”, continues and hones the band’s melodic sensibilities with the track’s opening guitar leads that slightly echoes Electric Wizard’s “Witchcult Today”. The remainder of the track is a slightly NWOBHM tinged traditional doom song that meanders through a variety of tempo changes. Again, Atropos’ s vocals soar on this track and add depth to an already great tune.

“Sinking Ships”, the first track from Rote Mare, is a bit uncharacteristic for the band in that it has an overall “gothic” sound to it and falling short of the three minute mark it is by far the shortest track penned by the band. Rote Mare has already established themselves as masters of melodic doom on their excellent debut EP, ‘Sorrows Path’, and the just as good follow-up full-length, ‘Serpents of the Church’, so this subtle departure in “Sinking Ships” is an anomalous detour that shows the band in a new light. The vocals of Phil Howlett are forlorn, yet more subdued on this track compared to other offerings which contributes to the gothic overtones. Whether the track works or not is almost inconsequential as the song ends almost as soon as it begins. The album ends with “Hour of Doom”—arguably the centerpiece of the split. This is Rote Mare at their finest and probably Howlett’s most expressive and powerful vocal performance to date. At nearly fifteen minutes in length “The Hour of Doom” makes it worth seeking out the split for this track alone, but the quality of the other four tunes makes this release that much better. The final track is a beast of a tune that showcases Rote Mare’s uncanny ability to craft songs that are epic in scope without testing the endurance or patience of the listener. The song effortlessly shifts from crushing, mid-paced doom groove to a contemplative crawl without missing a beat. Fine stuff indeed.

I initially sought out this split for the Rote Mare tracks, but was pleasantly surprised by Dire Fate’s contributions. Hopefully the Dire Fate/Rote Mare split is indicative of great things to come from both bands, especially the lesser known Dire Fate. While the direction of both bands have yielded a similar style of traditional doom, the two entities remain separated by impressive vocal performances. Fans of Black Sabbath, Reverend Bizarre, Gates of Slumber or even Orodruin should be able to find redeemable qualities in both of these Australian bands. Rote Mare has made a handful of releases available via their Bandcamp page including a couple of demos. Hopefully Dire Fate will follow suit.

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

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…The time has come for sacrifice: Cough/Windhand – ‘Reflection of the Negative’

Richmond, Virginia’s brethren in doom, Cough and Windhand—two likeminded yet distinct edges of a sacrificial blade—have joined forces to release one of this year’s most anticipated splits. Both bands invoke the spirits of doom from the deepest, darkest chasms through their unique down-tuned machinations. While both bands cast spells upon the listener through their distinct, earth-quaking low end rumbles, Cough delves deeper into the grimy, ritualistic side of doom whereas Windhand relies heavily on a pulsating, narcotic groove to lull the unwitting into a stupor. The simple act of committing tracks to a release from these titans of the underground metal scene has resulted in one of the most potent doom splits to be pressed on wax. ‘Reflection of the Negative’ solidifies Cough’s dominion over the realm of caustic, esoteric doom and at the same time affirms that Windhand’s excellent, self-titled debut was just an inkling of things to come.

“Athame”, the lone track contributed by Cough, begins innocuously enough with slug-like drumming before being joined by some seriously sinister sounding organ. This begins the spiraling descent into a pit of loathing and despair. “Athame” uncoils past the 18 minute mark and is easily some of the best material the band has put out. Despite the length, the track doesn’t overstay its welcome, though the listener must be prepared in full for a punishing education in the dark arts. Midway through the track the listener is rendered helpless and, in stasis, is subjected to ritual incantations, and an unholy assault of wah pedal abuse and feedback. The entire track is an unwavering battery of contempt that sways and staggers with a wounded gait.

Windhand’s first contribution to the split is “Amaranth”, a track that was first unveiled in demo form for Rue Morgue’s Hymns from the House of Horror. A culminating wave of feedback kicks off “Amaranth” before the band launches into their signature low-end groove. Dorthia Cottrell’s vocals, like on their debut, is mixed perfectly and complements the music by seemingly crying out amidst the din. “Shepherd’s Crook” is warmer, slower, has a more soulful feel compared to the first track and includes a more expressive vocal performance from Cottrell. While neither “Amaranth” or “Shepherd’s Crook” have made the progressive leap that Cough has achieved with “Athame”, they are still killer tracks that could have easily have been produced by the same sessions that birthed the band’s debut.

‘Reflection of the Negative’ is one damn fine split album and both bands, despite their own unique approaches to doom, perfectly complement each other. Cough manages to drag the listener through a foul bog of profane, ritualistic licentiousness while Windhand provides a warmer, enveloping sound due to the band’s oscillating grooves and Cottrell’s vocals. Both bands have succeeded by crafting tunes that are worthy successors to their previous releases and have definitely built up anticipation for their forthcoming full-lengths.

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

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

…This is where the nightmares go: CURSE THE SON – ‘Psychache’

If Connecticut’s Curse the Son flew by undetected with their 2011 debut, ‘Klonopain’, then they should be a giant fucking blip lighting up the radar screen with the release of their newest collection of doped-up doom and gloom—‘Psychache’. While ‘Klonopain’ was a thoroughly enjoyable album from start to finish, ‘Psychache’ is a more refined and focused effort due to the addition of Michael Petrucci on drums and guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore’s heightened, more expressive vocal performance. Rather than rely solely on the plod-heavy riffs that defined the debut, Vanacore has injected the six tunes that comprise ‘Psychache’ with a nod-inducing sinister groove that falls somewhere along the spectrum of Black Sabbath’s ‘Master of Reality’ and Iron Man’s ‘I Have Returned’.

The overall production of ‘Psychache’ is dense, heavy, and slightly muddy which suits the band well, especially on album opener “Goodbye Henry Anslinger” a tune that flat-out lays waste to anything the band has previously recorded. The main riff of the opening track is both impossibly thick and catchy. Vanacore’s vocals have come a long way and seemingly soar above the din, particularly during the higher-pitched chorus of “…Anslinger”. The second track, “Spider Stole the Weed”, is mired in the same slurry of fuzzed-out doom as the album opener, but it allows the bass lines of Cheech to breath and accent the song, particularly during the bridge. The title track, “Psychache”, is a pummeling, up-tempo instrumental scorcher that is followed by the brief, ambient indulgence of “Valium For?”. The aptly titled “Somatizator” is a lethargic, lumbering behemoth that grudgingly comes to a halt—pausing briefly for the swirling eddies of noise—before shambling forth again. “Somatizator”, probably more than any other song on the album, equally showcases the talents of all three players. The album closes out with “The Negative Ion”, a tune that would have fit in comfortably among the seven tracks of ‘Klonopain’.

‘Psychache’ is a vast improvement over Curse the Son’s debut—an album that was good to begin with. The riffs are heavier, thicker, and more memorable while pushing further into druggy psychedelia. The addition of Petrucci behind the kit has given the band new life and added depth. The biggest complaint that can be leveled against ‘Psychache’ is that it’s too short—it comes on strong, peaks too soon, and the comedown is way too abrupt.

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



Thursday, March 21, 2013

…Seperation can be a…terrifying thing: FISTER – ‘Gemini’

St. Louis, Missouri’s masters of malevolent doom, Fister, have on all accounts topped their previous EPs and excellent debut full-length, ‘Bronsonic,’ with a nod to the King of Venereal Horror on their latest-and-greatest, ‘Gemini’. I was turned on to this acerbic, three-headed doom beast by Grant from In the Company of Serpents and have been floored ever since. With ‘Gemini’ the band has managed to incrementally increase and focus their loathing into a full-on aural assault without completely sacrificing the atmospherics that made the ‘Violence’ EP so memorable. While this newest collection of tunes is filthier, angrier, and seemingly steeped in hopelessness it is not completely devoid of moments of melody or tenuous beauty. The band has included some extra players in the studio and widened their scope and instrumentation with the additions of piano, violin, tuba, trombone, upright bass and added guitar work. This is easily Fister’s deepest release to date.

“Antitheist”, initially, brings Fister’s sound to abominable, unfathomed depths and really sets the tone for the remainder of the album. The opener kicks off with a staggered, triumphant riff that is embellished by torturous feedback before settling into a monstrous crawl. There’s almost no escaping the baleful grasp of “Antitheist” until the band lets the listener up for air near the three minute mark with a doom-as-fuck Thin Lizzy guitar attack. The closing moments of the track ultimately spiral into a maelstrom of tormented bellows that is contrasted with transcendent strings for a brief moment of sublime beauty and despair. The band’s balance of scorn and ambience that was so apparent on the ‘Violence’ EP has been perfected and is selectively threaded throughout the seven tracks of ‘Gemini’. “Suicide Hessian” amps things up and finds the band shredding with an intensity and fury that is uncharacteristically at odds with their “If it’s too slow, you’re too young” doctrine. But it’s not all hateful, up-tempo blackened doom with “Suicide Hessian” as the song still manages to put on the brakes. It’s the subtle inclusion of clean vocals at the end of the track that really elevate “Suicide Hessian” above and beyond.

Like no other, the title track, “Gemini”, appropriately encapsulates the dichotomy between venomous sludge and moments of delicate instrumentation. It is a symbiotic and fragile bond that, for the most part, leans heavily toward the venomous sludge end of the spectrum as far as Fister is concerned. But “Gemini” finds the band teetering on a precipice between these two chasms. Piano and bowed bass are intermittently savaged by outbursts of malignant rage and it effectively cleaves the album in two. Another album highlight and the longest track, “Permanent Chemical Psychosis”, finds the band at their doomiest while still taking the time to rock the fuck out. The band ultimately finds a steady, repetitive rhythm and the lead guitar sprawls out over the groove. The weight of album closer “Invisible Corpse” is initially carried by the distorted bass and steady drumming of the rhythm section, but finally devolves into a stop-and-go cadence of utter despair. The thread of ambience or any semblance of anything other than disdain has clearly run its course.

Fister has has only gotten better with each subsequent release by honing their particular brand of blackened doom and sludge. Despite the inclusion of additional instrumentation ‘Gemini’ is mean as Hell and may be the band’s ugliest album yet. ‘Gemini’ is certainly on par with their last EP, ‘The Infernal Paramount’, and in many regards eclipses that achievement. Each track writhes with a life of its own and the tunes are more expansive than on previous releases. Not only can Fister churn out some of the most caustic tunes out there, but they also know how to craft a song and include some subtle, yet discordant hooks.

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