Saturday, December 28, 2013
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.
Friday, December 27, 2013
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...
Baneful Genesis Records Bandcamp
Tuesday, December 24, 2013
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…
Monday, December 23, 2013
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.
Thursday, December 19, 2013
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’
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
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…
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
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)