Wednesday, December 30, 2015

…come all ye faithful: LUCIFER’S FALL – ‘Fuck You We’re Lucifer’s Fall’ EP


On the heels of the excellent 2014 self-titled debut (review HERE) comes the second coming of Adelaide, South Australia’s Lucifer’s Fall. This time around the two-piece incarnation has mutated into an unholy, five-headed beast of a band and the results could not be any more impressive. Those searching for a contemporary traditional doom metal outfit that simply “gets it right” could do much worse. Fuck You We’re Lucifer’s Fall nails it from the beginning.

The EP opener, “Lost,” is an ambitious slab of molten metal that finds the Aussie quintet crafting a heavy, doom-laden anthem for the ages. A morose bassline and sluggish percussion are joined by a rising tide of tortured feedback to kick off the proceedings. It’s a simple, smoldering build-up that is as rewarding as it is downtrodden. Three minutes in and the lumbering pace reaches majestic heights with harmonized guitars before igniting into a scorching conflagration of doom. Think Saint Vitus, Reverend Bizarre, or Lord Vicar at their most upbeat. It’s a killer track that manages to remain engaging for its near fourteen minute runtime.

“Salvation” is probably the evilest sounding tune to come out of the Lucifer’s Fall / Rote Mare camp. Not only is the track centered on a handful of diabolical riffs, but the drumming is a major player in the overall sound. Add to this winning formula leads that are capable of turning rock into magma and Phil Howlett’s impressive and commanding vocal performance and you have another winner on your hands. Maybe it’s just me, but there’s a bit of a Celtic Frost vibe lurking just under the surface of this one (Hell, even the narration from "Lost" smacks of Tom G. Warrior). The latter half of the track launches into the stratosphere, both musically and vocally, resulting in one Hell of a ride.

Doom takes a backseat on the EP closer “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall” in favor of balls-to-the-wall rock and roll. It’s fast, it’s furious, and it takes no prisoners. “(Fuck You) We’re Lucifer’s Fall” is the shortest track penned by the band and it ties up the EP nicely. While the strongest, most engaging material is on the first two tracks the closer illustrates that the band has chops and aren’t afraid to indulge their whims.

The biggest disappointment with Fuck You We’re Lucifer’s Fall is that it is too damn short. Ridiculous complaints aside, it’s killer that the band has new material so close to the release of their debut. The move from being a two-piece to a full-fledged band has definitely paid off as this little EP rips. Hopefully 2016 will see more music from either Lucifer’s Fall or Rote Mare.

Facebook

Bandcamp






Tuesday, December 15, 2015

BLIZARO – ‘Demo 2015’


If there ever was a recording artist or band that was in dire need of a Bandcamp page that artist would have to be John Gallo. A search and cursory glance at Youtube would reveal a wellspring of amazing material that has yet to be officially collected and released. Whether the man is concocting a strange, otherworldly doomed brew as John Gallow or with bandmates in Blizaro the end result is always impressive and engaging. Blizaro’s latest demo continues the trend and though it may not be on the same level of “weird” when compared to City of the Living Nightmare or the excellent 2013 compilation Strange Doorways (review HERE), it is some of the best, most sprawling traditional doom to be released this year.

Before even pressing play this demo captures one’s imagination with its song titles: “Death Ressurector,” “Forlorn King,” and “Light of Charon.” Combine those titles with Blizaro’s proven track record and you know you’re in store for something special. The opener, “Death Ressurector,” is an expansive composition that is in no short supply of twists and turns. From the glorious opening through its myriad tempo changes “Death Ressurector” is a scorcher of epic proportions. The track truly hits its stride over halfway through where things get spacey—Gallo’s affected voice seems to emanate from beyond the afterlife and the rhythm section locks into a staggered, lumbering crawl. Where “Death Ressurector” kicked off with a majestic intro, “Forlorn King” goes for the jugular with a muscular, almost barbaric onslaught of percussion and bass. “Forlorn King” is definitely the most aggressive and hard rockin’ track of the collection. It simply rips. Closing out the demo is “Light of Charon,” the dreariest and perhaps grimmest composition of the lot. Gallo’s playing on this track is downright wizardly—the leads are mesmerizing and he utilizes probably the grimiest tone ever unleashed on a Blizaro recording to date. “Light of Charon” is among the best, if not THEE best, doom tracks of the year. Simply stunning.

Blizaro’s forthcoming full-length Cornucopia della Morte is long overdue, but should finally see the light of day in 2016 courtesy of I, Voidhanger Records, the label who incidentally put out Strange Doorways and Gallo’s 2014 solo album Violet Dreams (review HERE). Blizaro’s latest demo, despite its brevity, should hopefully hold fans over until the new full-length is unleashed. The demo has it all, though: Gallo’s distinct wail and unique, unmistakable guitar playing backed by a killer rhythm section comprised of bassist Mark Rapone and drummer Mike Waske. This is doom at its finest—epic, sprawling, and forward thinking.

Blizaro Facebook

I, Voidhanger Records Facebook





Thursday, December 10, 2015

Year's Best 2015




15. Goya – ‘Obelisk’

Obelisk, like the beast rising from the sea, is a multi-headed blasphemous monster of an album that demonstrates not only Goya’s propensity for crafting evil, unforgettable heavy tunes, but also their ability to manipulate the album’s overall tone with the moody instrumentals “The Star” and “Echo from Space.” Obelisk is easily the band’s most varied release to date, but it also stands as their darkest and grimiest. Goya have channeled a black, twisted psychology with their latest both musically and atmospherically. Full review HERE.



14. Khemmis – ‘Absolution’

The songs on Absolution are almost as good on wax as they are live. Almost. Khemmis’ debut album certainly deserves the hype due to the seemingly effortless blend of doom metal and infectious melodicism.








13. Venus Sleeps – ‘Dead Sun Worship’

Dead Sun Worship is an incredible, well-polished debut and one the finest psychedelic doom albums of the year. Venus Sleeps have simply nailed it: mesmerizing riffs, soaring vocals, and killer guitar harmonies.







12. Sabbath Assembly – ‘S/T’

Sabbath Assembly have consciously turned their collective attentions toward heavier pastures. Long gone, for the most part, are the pastoral, acoustic laden compositions in favor of what can be best described as occult hard rock and heavy metal. The dusky vocals of Jamie Myers are well-suited for the heavier aspects of Sabbath Assembly and remain, as always, a consistent highlight of the band’s music. She was often able to imbue her voice with both fragility and grace on the hymn-like material of the band’s previous albums. With the heavier compositions Myers often recalls those moments of grace and fragility, but the majority of her vocals are appropriately hardened and more powerful. Full review HERE.



11. Windhand – ‘Grief’s Infernal Flower’

Each of Windhand’s albums have been instantly gratifying, and though Grief’s Infernal Flower doesn’t quite ascend to the heights established on the band’s self-titled debut, it stands, perhaps, as Windhand’s most varied and nuanced release. There is nothing on Grief’s Infernal Flower that matches the intensity of “Winter Sun” from the debut, or the nefarious undercurrents of “Cossack” from Soma, but the overall atmosphere of the band’s latest is unparalleled.



10. Horisont – ‘Odyssey’

With Time Warriors Horisont managed to master the sound that walked a tightrope stretched across the narrow chasm separating the sound of 70s hard rock and early heavy metal. With Odyssey, the band’s fourth full-length, the Swedes successfully incorporate a heavy dose of progressive rock into the mix for one of the year’s catchiest, most rewarding rock records.





9. Obsidian Sea – ‘Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions’

Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions is a stunning album from start to finish and stands as one of the year’s strongest releases, particularly in the doom sphere. And while the band’s debut, Between Two Deserts, was a solid release it is heartening to hear the band progress to such a high level of songwriting. Fans of traditional doom will not be disappointed as the band delivers on every level. Full review HERE.




8. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats – ‘The Night Creeper’

The Night Creeper is a somewhat grittier affair compared to its predecessor, but the change is subtle and almost imperceptible—the guitars are grimier and the overall production is a bit rougher. While The Night Creeper does not really reveal a large degree of progression or growth for Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, it does show that catchy songwriting and strong performances can go a long way. The band has dialed into a specific sound and they are making the most of it without necessarily rehashing old ideas or recycling riffs.


7. Behold! The Monolith – ‘Architects of the Void’

Behold! The Monolith’s triumphant return, Architects of the Void, understandably marks a slight change in sound and execution. Their third full-length, like its predecessors, is a sprawling metal masterpiece marked by memorable riffs, scorching leads, and intricate song structures. The band, in the face of tragedy, have churned out their darkest album to date that incrementally exchanges the atmospherics that were in abundance on their first two releases for anger and even more aggression. Architects of the Void is not necessarily better or worse than previous efforts…just slightly different, yet still it kicks ass.Full review HERE.


6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor – ‘Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress’

Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress is perhaps Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s most abrasive and tense album thus far. The orchestral moments of sweeping beauty—often engulfed in swirling eddies of noise—are still present, yet elusive and fleeting.






5. Spelljammer – ‘Ancient of Days’

Cosmically atmospheric and seismically heavy are really just two starting points to describe Spelljammer’s triumphant return, Ancient of Days. The Swedish heavy-hitters, now acting as a three-piece, are as sonorous as ever and the reduction in personnel and shifting of duties hasn’t tarnished the band’s mission or overall sound in the slightest. Full review HERE.





4. Fister – ‘IV’

IV is a massive, labyrinthine tune that heaves and writhes like the death-throes of a fallen storm giant. Moments of pure, unadulterated menace and loathing are counterbalanced with moodier moments of sparse instrumentation. Due to the band’s sheer negative will IV stands as one of this year’s ugliest releases. Life dealt you a sour hand? Put on Fister’s IV and let the catharsis cleanse and purify you… Full review HERE.




3. Wrekmeister Harmonies – ‘Night of Your Ascension’

Wrekmeister Harmonies, under the direction of J. R. Robinson, continues to release some of the finest, yet challenging compositions in the realm of heavy music and Night of Your Ascension is perhaps the ever-evolving collective’s crowning achievement. Wrekmeister Harmonies have released a haunting masterpiece that ultimately implodes under its own weight.






2. Monolord – ‘Vænir’

Vænir, like its predecessor, is apocalyptically heavy and comes with the threat of cosmic devastation. Guitarist /vocalist Thomas V Jäger seems to transmit his vocals from beyond an interstellar void while unleashing destruction in tandem with bassist Mika Häkki. While much of the album is played out at a lumbering pace, the band has ensorcelled Vænir with an otherworldly atmosphere that few bands manage to fully capture. Full review HERE.








1. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth – ‘S/T’

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth is sonic Ragnarök—a devastatingly heavy unfolding of events that is oftentimes cinematic in scope. Whether the music is actively destructive or hinting at the windswept desolation of a fallen empire it’s hard not to imagine Surtr raining down upon the gods and bringing forth the fire that engulfs the Earth. If this is the end result of waiting six years since the band’s 2009 demo, I will gladly wait another six for the next installment. Full review HERE.






Best EP/Demo/split


1. Northwinds / Marble Chariot Split

Criminally underrated and underexposed French progressive doom band Northwinds have teamed-up with up-and-coming fellow countrymen Marble Chariot for an impressive split album that plays to both bands respective strengths. For two and a half decades Northwinds have been crafting some of the most fantastical compositions in the metal scene by incorporating elements of folk, progressive rock, and doom into a uniquely singular style that sonically embodies strange lands and wistful dreamscapes. Marble Chariot, on the other hand, may not be quite as progressive or as expansive as their compatriots, but they make excellent companions on this split release with their downtrodden, mournful take on traditional doom. Full review HERE.


2. Goya / Wounded Giant split

Goya and Wounded Giant—two heavy-hitters who have already released impressive debuts—have been united under the STB Records banner to release a split album that builds upon and surpasses much of what either band has produced in the past and, hopefully, serves as a harbinger for great things to come from both camps… Full review HERE.





3. Black Capricorn – ‘Ira Dei’ EP

Though the material found on Ira Dei is no great departure from the band’s previous work the three tracks represent some of Black Capricorn’s darkest material to date. Ira Dei is a collection of ritualistic dirges that are as heavy as they are hypnotizing. Full review HERE.






4. Watchtower – ‘Radiant Moon’ EP

The only thing disappointing about Watchtower’s Radiant Moon is that it is only an EP. This is sludge-driven doom at its finest.









5. Hexenjäger – ‘Demo’

Despite only a two track demo, there is enough stylistic variation to whet one’s appetite for more of Hexenjäger’s take on traditional doom. The band’s demo is beautifully crafted, wholly realized, and perfectly recorded. Hexenjäger is a welcome addition to the growing pantheon of killer French doom acts such as Northwinds, Marble Chariot, Barabbas, and The Bottle Doom Lazy Band. Hexenjäger are starting off on a very high note and it will be interesting to see how they develop in the future. Full review HERE.


Most Anticipated of 2016


1. Wolvserpent - ‘tba’

Wolvserpent’s incredible Perigea Antahkarana was ranked at number 10 on 2013’s year’s best list and, in retrospect, the album should have charted much higher. Perigea Antahkarana has stood the test of time and is still revealing is dark mysteries. The duo’s forthcoming album is highly anticpated…

2. Cardinal Wyrm – ‘Cast Away Souls’

Cardinal’s Wyrm’s Black Hole Gods was one of the most original doom releases of 2014 and the band managed to dial into a sound that was completely in class of its own. If the band’s forthcoming album is anywhere close to the sheer brilliance of Black Hole Gods it will easily be one of the best of 2016.

3. Lord Vicar – ‘Gates of Flesh’

Lord Vicar are simply legends and Fear No Pain and Signs of Osiris (not to mention their handful of split albums) are damn near perfect. The upcoming Gates of Flesh has been conceptualized for several years and the stars have finally aligned. No doubt, Lord Vicar will deliver another masterpiece.

4. The Wounded Kings – ‘Visions in Bone’

George Birch is back in the fold. Is there need to say more? The Wounded Kings, in any incarnation, are favorites here at Vertical Chamber Apparatus, but the magic of Embrace of the Narrow House and The Shadow over Atlantis are virtually unparalleled.

5. Curse the Son – ‘tba’

Curse the Son’s Psychache was a masterpiece and, as a result, took the top spot here in 2013. This band has it all—killer, Sabbathy riffs, an amazing rhythm section, and great vocals. This is definitely one to watch for in the coming year.

6. Slomatics – ‘tba’

Slomatics, another VCA favorite, are an unstoppable force. This band is HEAVY in every sense with just the right amount of experimentalism. A Hocht is nothing short of genius and the follow-up, Estron, was no slouch either. Expect one of the heaviest albums of 2016 from the Belfast trio.

7. The Skull – ‘tba’

There have been a few changes in The Skull camp in the past year, but hopes are still high for the follow-up to 2014’s excellent For Those Which Are Asleep.

8. Inter Arma – ‘tba’

Inter Arma have been on a roll with both Sky Burial and The Cavern. The band is forward thinking and manages to successfully harness a variety of sounds and styles into one Hell of a potent concoction.

9. Goatess – ‘Purgatory Under New Management’

Two Chritus fronted releases in 2016? Fuck yes.

10. Wretch – ‘tba’

Really looking forward to where Karl Simon will take listeners with his new project. There’s been a void since the demise of The Gates of Slumber and hopefully Wretch is the answer.

11. Lucifer’s Fall – ‘Fuck You We’re Lucifer’s Fall’ EP

Though it seems that Rote Mare is on the back burner for now, Lucifer’s Fall is a more than capable substitution. Phil Howlett never seems to rest and a follow-up to Lucifer’s Fall is highly anticipated around these parts.

12. Witchcraft – ‘Nucleus’

If the year was currently 2011 anticipation for a new Witchcraft would be through the roof. Legend really seemed to divide listeners and I, for one, found the album to be a huge letdown. The band’s latest single ”The Outcast,” however, shows hints of the Witchcraft of old so Magnus Pelander and his new rhythm section definitely deserve a spot on this list. Fingers crossed on this one…





Saturday, November 28, 2015

…on the edge of space: SPELLJAMMER – ‘Ancient of Days’


Cosmically atmospheric and seismically heavy are really just two starting points to describe Spelljammer’s triumphant return, Ancient of Days. The Swedish heavy-hitters, now acting as a three-piece, are as sonorous as ever and the reduction in personnel and shifting of duties hasn’t tarnished the band’s mission or overall sound in the slightest. Ancient of Days plays out as both a logical extension and worthy successor to their last epic sonic offering, Vol. II (review HERE). 

Album-opener “Meadow” is a smoldering, pulsating slab of intergalactic debris set for a collision course with the Sun that perfectly establishes the tone for the ensuing onslaught of amplifier worshipping aftershocks to follow. Anyone who has had the privilege of catching Sleep live since reforming in 2009 should have a pretty good idea of what to expect while listening to and experiencing Spelljammer’s latest. The riffs, when in full-effect and dialed-in to crush, are all-encompassing and damn near impenetrable. “Meadow” is mostly a slow burn—a sorcerous wall-of-sound force capable of obliterating a small planet. Spelljammer’s proficiency with intertwining massive barrages of distorted riffs with softer, spacier moments has only grown over time.

The trippy, yet bluesy, intro to “From Slumber” elucidates Spelljammer’s deftness with crafting subtle textures and ability to manipulate tension—a tension that is eventually laid-to-waste by the heft of “The Pathfinder.” In addition to highlighting the psychedelic side of Spelljammer, “From Slumber” also illuminates the fluid, wave-like bass playing of Niklas Olsson who had previously played guitar on prior releases. The bass presence on the entire album takes Spelljammer’s music to previously unattainable planes.


Ancient of Days is a more-than-welcome addition to Spelljammer’s stellar discography, especially when not long after the release of Vol. II the band’s future appeared uncertain. Ancient of Days is as good as anything they have released prior and the band is just as potent, if not more so, as a three-piece. Fans of immense, psychedelic doom and heavy rock will not be disappointed in Ancient of Days. Easily one of the year’s very best…

Facebook

Bandcamp






Tuesday, November 17, 2015

TOMBSTONES – ‘Vargariis’


With 2013’s Red Skies and Dead Eyes it was apparent that Norway’s Tombstones had joined a select and elite class of musicians who seemed to improve and progress with each subsequent release. Red Skies and Dead Eyes was an immense, earth-quaking album from start to finish that upped the ante in terms of songwriting and musicianship. After spending a few weeks with the band’s upcoming fourth full-length, Vargariis, it’s safe to report that Tombstones have not only matched the obliterating heft found on their standout albums Year of the Burial and Red Skies and Dead Eyes, but they have miraculously somehow managed to make their largest leap stylistically and compositionally. Vargariis finds the Oslo three-piece plummeting into a blackened abyss and unleashing their darkest and heaviest material to date.

The most striking element of Vargariis is how unbelievably immense the album sounds. It’s simply monstrous. Once the feedback begins to wane on the album opener, “Barren Fields,” Tombstones unload a sonorous assault of riffs and percussive battery that is almost unprecedented in their discography. The first thing that comes to mind is the seismic aural attack of Belfast’s Slomatics. The remainder of the album isn’t quite as heavy as the opener, but it comes extremely close.

Though Tombstones have increased their overall heft and expanded their tunes compositionally they have also expanded their sonic palette.  Vargariis finds the band stretching their tunes out to even greater lengths and incorporating more blackened elements into their repertoire. “Oceans of Consciousness,” for example, kicks off at a furious, blasting pace before settling into a more familiar Tombstones-like groove. At over ten minute in length “Oceans of Consciousness” barely edges out the other five tunes for longest song length, but Tombstones are able to keep things interesting with shifts in tempo and a few returns to the blasting onslaught that opened the track.

With a release date set for December 4, 2015 it is safe to say that, without a doubt, Vargariis is one of the heaviest albums of the year. And though the band has adopted a darker, grimmer sonic approach the band has not abandoned their love of heavy, mesmerizing riffs. Returns to bluesy, laidback stoner jams also surface on the latter half of “Oceans of Consciousness” and are embedded throughout the album closer “Pyre of the Cloth.” Fans of Tombstones will not be disappointed and Vargariis will undoubtedly garner new fans. Vargariis is a triumph in every way.

Facebook

Bandcamp





Thursday, November 5, 2015

…dirges from the Abyss: BLACK CAPRICORN – ‘Ira Dei’ EP


Over the span of three full-lengths and a killer split with fellow countrymen Bretus (review HERE), Italy’s Black Capricorn have been harnessing and channeling cosmic emanations into potent meditations of trance-inducing psychedelic doom. On the heels of their excellent split comes the unexpected, limited time only release, Ira Dei EP. Though the material found on Ira Dei is no great departure from the band’s previous work the three tracks represent some of Black Capricorn’s darkest material to date. Ira Dei is a collection of ritualistic dirges that are as heavy as they are hypnotizing.

Among the many things that Black Capricorn does well is building palpable tension with their song intros and the EP opener, “Evil Horde of Lucifer,” is no exception with its rising-tide of cryptic noise and briefly backmasked instrumentation that ultimately yields to a lumbering groove. The track effectively weaves chant-like French vocals with more forceful vocals sung in English to powerful effect.

“Zeernebooch,” the most memorable track of the EP, spins a grim tale about the destruction of the human race at the hands of the dark god who holds dominion over the dead. The instrumentation is more than suitable for the subject matter and the track features fuzzed out, acid-rock leads buried within the hulking riffs, along with some deceptively nuanced percussion.

Don’t sleep on this one as Ira Dei is only available for a limited time (one week) as the band hopes to use the proceeds from the as-of-now digital only release to help with their upcoming European tour. Though the EP is only available for a limited time digitally the band hopes to use the tracks for either a split release or as part of an EP in physical format.

Facebook

Bandcamp

Thursday, August 27, 2015

…the Devil descends on you: GOYA – ‘Obelisk’


And the dragon stood on the sand of the seashore. Then I saw a beast coming up out of the sea, having ten horns and seven heads, and on his horns were ten diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.

Obelisk, the second full-length from Phoenix three-piece Goya, is a monumental step forward from what was already an impressive beginning. The band’s debut, 777 (review HERE), was a grimy, acid-drenched excursion into the seedy underbelly of heavy music occupied by the likes of Electric Wizard, pre-’93 Monster Magnet, Blood Farmers, and, of course, classic era Black Sabbath. The band followed their debut with the excellent 2014 EP Satan’s Fire (review HERE) and a split with Seattle’s Wounded Giant featuring Goya’s “No Place in the Sky” from the forthcoming Obelisk. Each successive release has found Goya transcending and, in many ways, eclipsing their influences.

Obelisk, like the beast rising from the sea, is a multi-headed blasphemous monster of an album that demonstrates not only Goya’s propensity for crafting evil, unforgettable heavy tunes, but also their ability to manipulate the album’s overall tone with the moody instrumentals “The Star” and “Echo from Space.” Though both are brief, “The Star” and “Echo from Space” add ominous textures to the doom-laden album. The best example of Goya’s growth and their willingness to spread their wings can be heard on the haunting “300 Eyes.” It is a sparse acoustic number that is equal parts melancholia and self-loathing. Jeff Owens gives a nuanced vocal performance that simultaneously conveys sadness and a seething, underlying rage.

Although “The Star,” “Echo from Space,” and “300 Eyes” are all nice distractions, at the end of the day—with Goya—it is all about the riffs and Obelisk is in no short supply. While there is no single weak track to be heard on the entirety of the album nothing quite stands out like the seemingly Richard Ramirez inspired “Beyond Good Evil.” The track is not only among the heaviest of the collection, but it is also imbued with the album’s most infectious chorus—both musically and vocally.

Since the release of 777 every subsequent Goya release has been highly anticipated around these parts and they have yet to disappoint. Obelisk is easily the band’s most varied release to date, but it also stands as their darkest and grimiest. Goya have channeled a black, twisted psychology with their latest both musically and atmospherically. Obelisk, with its heavy, overblown riffs and feedback strewn soundscapes, is top-tier material that easily stands among the year’s best. Highly recommended…

Facebook

Bandcamp





Wednesday, August 12, 2015

…the world ends when you’re dead: FISTER – ‘IV’


Pain or damage don't end the world. Or despair or fucking beatings. The world ends when you're dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. –Al Swearengen


And St. Louis, Missouri three-piece Fister will be the instrument of your punishment. The prolific sowers of destructive doom seem to sink to new, despicable lows with each successive release and the band’s latest continues the downward descending trend. Rather than molest the listener’s senses with a handful of tunes the masochistic trio have opted to assault the unsuspecting with an aural ear-depredation of no less than 40 minutes of sonic despair (or infinity,as it happens, if one never lifts the needle).


Gemini, the band’s previous effort (review HERE), was a masterpiece of depravity and downtrodden doom. With David Cronenberg’s ‘Dead Ringers’ as their guide Fister managed to unleash a disturbing soundtrack—their deepest, most well-rounded recording to-date—that illuminated the band in a new, if not lurid, light. Gemini, though the band’s grimmest release, was also their lushest with the inclusion of piano, violin, tuba and trombone. IV makes no such pretense as the album, for the most part, is a journey through a no-win void. If hopelessness is a finite well, then Fister manage to pass through the bottom—a seemingly impenetrable obstacle—to unbeknownst depths of futility and woe.

IV is a massive, labyrinthine tune that heaves and writhes like the death-throes of a fallen storm giant. Moments of pure, unadulterated menace and loathing are counterbalanced with moodier moments of sparse instrumentation. Due to the band’s sheer negative will IV stands as one of this year’s ugliest releases to-date. Life dealt you a sour hand? Put on Fister’s IV and let the catharsis cleanse and purify you…

Facebook

Bandcamp





Tuesday, August 11, 2015

…BRUME – ‘Donkey’


On their debut album, Donkey, San Francisco three-piece Brume summon a dense, often impenetrable fog of distortion and rhythmic battery—the only respite from the enveloping miasma being the occasional atmospheric break and the seraphic vocals of bassist Susie McMullen. With Brume it’s all about the riff and each track is a perpetual cascade of hazy and inescapable riffs.

Though the band is following a well-worn path their greatest attribute, other than the larger-than-life guitar tone, is centered on vocalist/bassist McMullen. While the vocals are slightly buried in the mix her voice remains a luminous beam of solace in an otherwise suffocatingly heavy storm and, at times, recall the vocals of shoegaze/noise act Medicine’s Beth Thompson, particularly on “Shadows” and “Win.”
“Help Me,” the album’s third track, is not only the catchiest track of the collection, but it also best showcases McMullen’s vocal talents. While her vocals often reach angelic heights, they also are delivered with an unparalleled force compared to anything else on the album.

Not content to merely craft their own material, Brume pursue an unlikely detour by taking the melancholia folk of Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy’s “Even if Love” and taking it to its doomed-out conclusion. And it works. “Even if Love” lends itself well to Bume’s brand of downtrodden heaviness and is a welcome addition to the band’s own compositions and features some of the album’s strongest drumming.

Brume have made a powerful debut with Donkey and the trio should appeal to fans of other likeminded bands such as Windhand, Tombstones, and Chrch—acts who practice and have mastered the sludgey wall-of-sound aesthetics of narcotizing doom. Brume effectively and tastefully wield feedback in addition to well-placed wah pedal manipulation adding texture and depth to the tunes. Hopefully Donkey is just the beginning for this three-piece…

Facebook

Bandcamp

Big Cartel





Monday, August 10, 2015

…here lay the tattered King: SABBATH ASSEMBLY – ‘Sabbath Assembly’


Throughout the band’s six year existence Sabbath Assembly have released four albums with an ever-changing group of musical collaborators. Despite the fluid lineup, the band—the brainchild of drummer David Christian (aka Dave Nuss of No-Neck Blues Band)—has remained consistent in its dedication to musically (re)interpreting and consequently spreading the hymns of The Process Church of the Final Judgment. Until now. Though the band’s 2013 album Quaternity marked the emergence of original material (inspired by Processsian ideas) intermingled with Process Church hymns the band’s forthcoming self-titled LP, their fifth overall, establishes Sabbath Assembly’s independence from Process Church ideology. With ties severed, Sabbath Assembly have decidedly turned their collective attentions toward heavier pastures. Long gone, for the most part, are the pastoral, acoustic laden compositions in favor of what can be best described as occult hard rock and heavy metal.

The change in overall sound should not be surprising as Sabbath Assembly have often flirted with heavier moments as attested by “I, Satan” from Quaternity, and, to a lesser extent, “And the Phoenix is Reborn” from their debut, Restored to One. With Sabbath Assembly, the band has almost exclusively foregone the psychedelic flourishes that were in abundance on their Jex Thoth fronted debut, Restored to One, and the gospel inclinations of their entire catalogue in favor of straight-up traditional heavy metal. Sabbath Assembly have certainly carved out a unique niche with their past endeavors so an abrupt change in both songcraft and inspiration can understandably be met with resistance. To Sabbath Assembly’s credit they make the transition quite gracefully and have recorded a solid, occult themed album.

The dusky vocals of Jamie Myers are well-suited for the heavier aspects of Sabbath Assembly and remain, as always, a consistent highlight of the band’s music. She was often able to imbue her voice with both fragility and grace on the hymn-like material of the band’s previous albums. With the heavier compositions Myers often recalls those moments of grace and fragility, but the majority of her vocals are appropriately hardened and more powerful. “Ave Satanas” best represents her range as she effortlessly reaches angelic heights contrasted with moments of gritty vitriol.

Musically, Sabbath Assembly have crafted an album that is both dark and catchy with nods to 70’s and 80’s heavy metal. The recurring lead guitar intros of “Only You” and “The Firey Angel of Desire” recalls the irrefutable heavy metal hooks of Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing during Judas Priest’s decades-spanning prime. “Only You” also captures the band at their moodiest as the song ebbs and flows between moments of dreamy calm and up-tempo rock. “The Fiery Angel of Desire” has moments reminiscent of Uli Roth-era Scorpions and is accentuated by some of Myers’ most beguiling vocal melodies.

The closest that Sabbath Assembly comes to the softer, hymn-like atmospheres of previous albums can be found on “Sharp Edge of the Earth” and the closing track, “Shadows of Emptiness.” “Sharp Edge of the Earth,” begins as a somber, folkish number accented with viola. Near the midway point it picks up to a galloping pace and remains one of the most affecting tracks of the album. “Shadows of Emptiness” is by far the most delicate track and works effectively as an album closer. Gentle acoustic guitar is accompanied with viola to support the Myers’ performance which shifts between delicate croons and soulful wails.

With their forthcoming full-length Sabbath Assembly have successfully reinvented themselves. While their previous four albums have loomed under the shadow of The Process Church of the Final Judgment their emergence from beneath that specter has yielded impressive results. The band’s shift in style is not completely unsurprising and their predilection for occult themes is understandable due to their fascination with bringing the hymns of The Process Church into the 21st century. Despite the shift in style Sabbath Assembly is an impressive heavy metal album that is both engaging and full of hooks.

Homepage

Facebook

Bandcamp





Wednesday, August 5, 2015

…frozen in time: NORTHWINDS – ‘Eternal Winter’



It’s no secret that the French progressive doom band Northwinds is a favorite here at Vertical Chamber Apparatus as the band continually pushes themselves both creatively and compositionally. Despite their two-and-a-half decades of existence and a bulletproof discography the band still dwells in relative obscurity to the world at large. While the group is often and not necessarily unfairly labelled as a “doom metal band” that label is really only a fraction of the story. Northwinds definitely invokes the ancient rites of doom metal—mostly in an organic, proto-doom spirit—but they also voyage extensively into the realms of progressive rock, folk, psychedelia, and 70’s inspired hard rock thus taking the listener on phantasmagorical journeys into uncharted lands. With four outstanding releases already under their collective belts the band is poised to release their fifth full-length, the long-awaited and highly anticipated ‘Eternal Winter.’

The band’s excellent 2012 album, ‘Winter,’ (review HERE) was initially conceived as a double album appropriately titled ‘Winter…Eternal Winter,’ but the idea was shelved by Black Widow Records as a risky venture. ‘Winter’ was a career defining moment for the band as the release seemed to capture them not only at their doomiest, but also at their most mystical. Based on the strength of ‘Winter’ it is exciting to know that most, if not all, of the material of ‘Eternal Winter’ was conceived and composed during the same writing cycles that have produced some of Northwinds’ strongest and darkest material to date.

‘Eternal Winter’ is unquestionably an extension of ‘Winter,’ though the latest doesn’t quite descend into the same dark depths as its predecessor, nor does it establish the consistent magical atmosphere that was threaded throughout the previous album. These points should not be mistaken as criticism, but should be taken as mere observation as Northwinds has yet to disappoint and ‘Eternal Winter’ is no exception from that rule. While the magical atmospherics that were in abundance on ‘Winter’ are in slight decline on the band’s latest they definitely are not absent. The dreamy intro of “Chimeres” gives way to one of the most powerful tracks of the album. “Chimeres,” with its effective use of synths and ghostly sound effects, shares a stylistic and tonal kinship to other standout tracks from the band’s discography like “Black Tower” or “Winds of Sorrow.” Adding to the atmosphere of “Chimeres” is a sinister, phantom-like vocal effect that echoes the vocals of Sylvain Auvé—a subtle, yet effective detail that enriches the track as a whole.

Where ‘Winter,’ for the most part, was steeped in darkness ‘Eternal Winter’ chooses to travel paths more related to progressive influenced hard rock. The flute heavy “Crossroads” has an epic, classic rock vibe that is fueled by majestic guitar solos, organ, and Auvé’s soulful vocals. The uncharacteristic “From the Cradle to the Grave,” one of the shortest non-instrumental songs written by the band, is dominated by a 70’s style strut that seemingly burns out almost as soon as it starts. “A Light for the Blind” may just be the best representation of Northwinds’ sound. It is a sprawling track that is embedded with moments of catchiness—particularly due to the lead guitar—juxtaposed with sonic explorations to other dimensions. It’s a great track that captures Northwinds doing what they do best—crafting intricate, often emotional tunes that never fail to keep the listener engaged.

Northwinds have, impressively, continued their upward trajectory by releasing another stunner in a succession of stellar albums. The band is poised to have an incredible year with the upcoming release of ‘Eternal Winter’ hot on the heels of their killer split 7” with fellow countrymen Marble Chariot (review HERE). In addition, the vinyl release of their 1995 demo courtesy of metalloscope-music has just been released. ‘Eternal Winter,’ like the rest of Northwinds’ discography, is an enchanting album that is comprised of a multitude of layers. Fans of doom metal and progressive rock will undoubtedly discover and hear a lot to admire in the music of Northwinds and ‘Eternal Winter’ is no exception. An engaging listen from start-to-finish. Highly recommended.

Facebook





Monday, August 3, 2015

…exposed to the Dragon’s Breath: KRÖWNN – ‘Magmafröst’


The intersection of metal and fantasy is far from new, but few bands have embraced it as wholeheartedly and so convincingly as stoner-doom savages Kröwnn. With a void left by the unfortunate dissolution of traditional doom champions The Gates of Slumber the land has been without a king. Enter Kröwnn. The Italian trio, though practicing a groove-laden sonic form of barbarism quite different from TGoS’s Saint Vitus inspired traditional doom, is more than poised to assume the mantle. With an impressive debut already under their belts, the six track foray into the fantastical—‘Hyborean Age’—the band have returned with a vengeance on their sophomore album, ‘Magmafröst.’

While ‘Hyborean Age’ was indeed an excellent debut, ‘Magmafröst’ takes every aspect of that album and heats it in Hephaestus’ forge, re-works it and folds it, then hammers it out upon the anvil of Crom. The end result is that ‘Magmafröst’ rumbles with an intensity that eclipses its predecessor. The basslines are thicker, the riffs are dirtier, and the band, as a whole, locks into an irrefutable aural assault from beginning-to-end, save perhaps the atmospheric pieces, “Bennu” and “Cernunnos,” that bookend the album.

The most potent statement to be found on the album and, consequently, the track that best exemplifies Kröwnn’s modus operandi is undoubtedly “Wyvernking.” At just over the eight minute mark “Wyvernking” is an onslaught of armor piercing feedback, down-tuned grooves, and the bellows and resonate vocals of guitarist/vocalist Michele el Lello Carnielli. “Wyvernking” brings more to the table than just crushing riffs as the track launches into spacier territory due to some excellent wah pedal manipulation and tempo shifts.

Kröwnn have clearly bested themselves with their sophomore release as ‘Magmafröst’ improves on their debut in every conceivable way. The winning combination of the band’s quake-inducing rhythm section and Michele el Lello Carnielli’s catchy riffs and vocal swagger have catapulted Kröwnn to the forefront of the doom metal movement. ‘Magmafröst’ is a stellar follow-up to an excellent debut. Hopefully Kröwnn will continue to further develop and hone their sound for future releases.

Facebook

Bandcamp








Saturday, August 1, 2015

…a triumphant return: BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH – ‘Architects of the Void’



The degree to which tragedy and the will to rebuild cannot be underestimated when listening to Behold! The Monolith’s stellar third full-length release, ‘Architects of the Void.’ The three year gap between albums marks a period of mourning, adjustment, and rebuilding on the parts of guitarist Matt Price and drummer Chase Manhattan. Welcomed into the fold are Sasquatch bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova and vocal acrobat Jordan Nalley, thus rounding out Behold! The Monolith’s ranks in the absence of the band’s fallen comrade and brother, Kevin McDade. It’s no secret that the band’s second album, ‘Defender, Redeemist,’ (review HERE) is a favorite here at Vertical Chamber Apparatus, so it is understandable that ‘Architects of the Void’ would not only have high expectations to live up to, but it would also fall under close scrutiny. Does ‘Architects of the Void’ live up to the legacy established by the band’s first two releases? That question can be answered with a resounding YES.

While ‘Architects of the Void’ is indeed stunning, certain expectations were dashed—understandably so—considering the circumstances and changes to personnel. Many of the highlights of ‘Defender. Redeemist’ and, to a lesser extent, the band’s self-titled, were the charismatic vocals of McDade and the atmospheric nuances that were woven throughout the albums. ‘Architects of the Void’ proves to be a different beast altogether by being fueled by an unparalleled darkness, a darkness that is occasionally conveyed through speed, but ultimately through sheer aggression. The blackened, frenetic aural assault of “The Mithriditist” backed by the chugging riffs of “Lord of Bones” encapsulates the collective mindset of the band and equally represents the descent into darker territories. While the atmospheric touches are not completely absent, as the haunting three minute interlude “Black Days Of…” proves with its unsettling swirl of chaos and inhuman spoken-word vocals, they have been incrementally inhibited in favor of a more forceful approach.

One area where Behold! The Monolith have excelled, ever since their inception, is producing progressive-minded tunes that are labyrinthine in nature and ‘Architects of the Void,’ as a whole, follows suit. The closing title-track best exemplifies this dimension of the band. The fourteen minute closing track is a sprawling masterpiece that not only stands out as an album highlight, but it also stands as some of the strongest, most engaging material that the band has written to-date. Near the five minute mark the track devolves into a crawling mindfuck of noise and sound bites akin to Steel Pole Bath Tub’s acid trip gone awry, “The River.” When the track regains steam and picks up the pace the end result is a glorious blast of unrestrained emotion and unforgettable instrumentation—one of the finest sonic moments to be released this year.

Perhaps the biggest potential wildcard of Behold! The Monolith mark II undoubtedly would revolve around the vocals of Jordan Nalley. While the gruff, charismatic vocals of Kevin McDade are sorely missed there is no denying that Nalley has an incredible range backed with impressive power. The songs of “Architects of the Void” work well with his style and his performance on the title track elevate that song to soaring heights that would otherwise be unattainable. Nalley is a welcome addition to the band and his contributions are complementary to say the least.

Behold! The Monolith’s triumphant return, ‘Architects of the Void,’ understandably marks a slight change in sound and execution. Their third full-length, like its predecessors, is a sprawling metal masterpiece marked by memorable riffs, scorching leads, and intricate song structures. The band, in the face of tragedy, have churned out their darkest album to date that incrementally exchanges the atmospherics that were in abundance on their first two releases for anger and even more aggression. ‘Architects of the Void’ is not necessarily better or worse than previous efforts…just slightly different, yet still it kicks ass. 'Architects of the Void' is set to be released on September 29th. Highly recommended…

Facebook

Bandcamp

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

…come my saviour: BEHOLD! THE MONOLITH – ‘Defender, Redeemist’



Behold! The Monolith’s sophomore full-length, ‘Defender, Redeemist,’ was an egregious omission from my radar in 2012 and I wasn’t turned on to its brilliance until later the following year. I had been a casual fan of the band’s self-titled debut—especially blown away by the sprawling ambience of the album’s second track, “Battle for Ball’s Deep,”—but somehow the follow-up escaped me. I had been anticipating the band’s trek through Denver playing alongside Sadgiqacea and In the Company of Serpents—a killer bill around. Unfortunately, tragedy struck due to the untimely passing of Behold! The Monolith’s bassist and vocalist Kevin McDade and the band’s fate seemed to be sealed. Whether or not I picked up a copy of ‘Defender, Redeemist’ before or after these fateful events is inconsequential, what truly matters is that ‘Defender, Redeemist’ has become one of my favorite albums of all time and has never been far from my stereo. It is a modern metal masterpiece that is rife with fantastical world-building, expansive song structures, and tastefully implemented atmospherics.

Behold! The Monolith defy easy categorization and are probably best served by simply being referred to as “Metal.” Still, few band so effortlessly and successfully combine elements of doom, sludge, progressive rock, and thrash all executed with a weighty nod to traditional heavy metal. The short instrumental “Guardian’s Procession” opens the album and lives up to its namesake with an unsurpassable grandeur. Despite its brevity, “Guardian’s Procession” is stately, epic, and even elegant. There is a false lull with this graceful introduction as ‘Defender, Redeemist,’ is, for the most part, relentlessly heavy. The blistering, thrash-heavy onslaught of “Halv King” is perfectly juxtaposed with “Guardian’s Procession” for maximum potency. McDade’s bass kicks off the tune with Motorhead-like intensity and guitarist Matt Price and drummer Chase Manhattan follow suit. McDade’s vocals are raspy and savage—often spat with a vitriolic intensity. While the majority of his vocals are often harsh and acerbic, McDade had a great voice as evidenced on “Desolizator.” McDade switches up his vocals from a hellish bellow to clean vocals on his third run-through of the closing lines, “Sent forth from his body / He closed his eyes to believe / I cast a shadow on his dormant body / And took his life for reprieve / Fell on desolization / The judgement sent from unknown,” a subtle yet effective technique that highlights the band’s ability to craft infinitesimal, yet impactful, hooks.

At just short of the five minute mark the parasitic ode “We Are the Worm” may be one of the shortest tracks of the album, but it is definitely one of the richest in terms of song craft. And Hell, I may be crazy, but there are echoes of Thin Lizzy scattered throughout as sections of Price’s layered guitar are interspersed with spacey, frantic bursts of psychedelia. Though the entire album is an example of perfect sequencing “We Are the Worm” followed by “Witch Hunt Supreme” hits the listener almost as hard as “Guardian’s Procession” followed by “Halv King”. “Witch Hunt Supreme” is easily the moodiest track of the album. Ominous waves of atmospheric guitar blight the song like an encroaching storm as McDade spins dark tales of witches and woe.

All of the compositions of ‘Defender, Redeemist’ are grandiose and epic in essence, if not in scope. The fourteen minute opus “Cast on the Black / Lamentor / Guided by the Southern Cross” manages to be both. It is an ambitious track that highlights the band’s progressive tendencies and their traditional metal sensibilities. The opening riff is noble and stately and also seems to resonate with the album opener “Guardian’s Procession.” While there are moments scattered throughout the album that could be directly descended from doom metal they are in greatest supply on “Cast on the Black / Lamentor / Guided by the Southern Cross.” The first “movement” of the track is played out at a staggering doom crawl that eventually succumbs to an acoustic guitar passage yielding one of the albums few serene moments. The song continues to evolve and meander through realms of acoustic laden prog-rock and riff-heavy metal.

‘Defender, Redeemist’ bears no chink in its armor nor impurity in its faith. Based on the growth from 2009’s self-titled debut the band’s rising trajectory can only be speculated upon. It took a while, but Matt Price declared that he would carry on with Behold! The Monolith with blessings from McDade’s family and friends. Following a three year wait Behold! The Monolith is about to unleash the promisingly titled ‘Architects of the Void,’ their first as a four-piece with bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova and vocalist Jordan Nalley. While the four-piece incarnation has a lot to live up to live clips have been promising and seem to indicate that Price is still determined to craft sprawling heavy metal epics complete with atmospheric textures, blistering solos, and unforgettable heavy riffs. Though Behold! The Monolith are entering a new era the fact remains that ‘Defender, Redeemist’ is a juggernaut of an album from the grandiose opening of “Guardian’s Procession” to the fading feedback of album closer “Bull Colossi.” The album is a modern day classic that sets the bar high for the succeeding four-piece lineup. Anticipation is high for the late September release of ‘Architects of the Void.’






Homepage

Facebook

Bandcamp

Sunday, July 12, 2015

…beware the haunter and the hound: BLACK CAPRICORN / BRETUS – 7” split 2015


Italian doom acts Black Capricorn and Bretus have teamed up for a split 7” release that is almost as evil as it is heavy. Slow ominous riffs are the rule and both bands bring a fair-share of shadowy psychedelics to the proceedings, particularly Black Capricorn—a band that has been successfully quarrying elements from the dark underbelly of space rock over the span three excellent full-length albums. Bretus may not have spiraled as far down the rabbit hole as their fellow countrymen in terms of overt psychedelia and noise manipulation, but they have mastered the craft of composing engaging, hook-laden traditional doom metal that seems to get murkier and heavier with each successive release. Though officially released in 2015, Bretus’ Lovecraft indebted ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ (review HERE) was a 2014 favorite here at Vertical Chamber Apparatus.

Bretus’ contribution, “The Haunter of the Dark,” definitely has more in common with the dark sonic vibes that emanate from ‘The Shadow over Innsmouth’ as opposed to the varied, still excellent debut full-length ‘In Onirica.’ The tone for “The Haunter of the Dark” is set from the get-go with pouring rain, distant thunder, and the portentous tolling of a bell clanging gloomily at the fore. Clichéd? Perhaps, but who cares? It works perfectly with the ensuing auditory assault unleashed by Bretus. “The Haunter of the Dark” is classic sounding doom metal that could best be described as classic-era Trouble meets Germany’s Dawn of Winter. “Haunter” is a mid-tempo scorcher with enough heft to get the adrenaline flowing, yet still slow and atmospheric enough to remain foreboding. This is some of Bretus’ finest work to date.

Black Capricorn’s “The Hound of Harbinger God” is an entirely different abomination altogether. A rising tide of white noise engulfs the listener and as the swell reaches its bursting point the band settles into a slow, lysergic groove. Without a doubt, this is some of Black Capricorn’s strongest material. The liquid lead guitar playing—contributed by both Fabrizio "kjxu" Monni and Daniele Manca—seems to bleed through the cosmic aether and out of the listener’s stereo speakers. “The Hound of Harbinger God” is a trippy, stoned-out tune that burns with the intensity of a candle at a black mass before fading away, engulfed by the returning wave of white noise.


Both bands put their best foot forward and pull no punches on this split release. “The Haunter of the Dark” finds Bretus further exploring horror and the macabre seemingly with ease and with great success. As much as I loved the band’s debut, ‘In Onirica,’ their current excursions are just as satisfying. Black Capricorn’s “The Hound of Harbinger God” is a dark trip that, at eight-and-a-half minutes, ends far too soon. Highly recommended split from these excellent, on-the-rise Italian doom acts…

Bretus Homepage

Bretus Facebook

Black Capricorn Homepage

Black Capricorn Facebook





Wednesday, July 8, 2015

…open your eyes: MANGOG – ‘Daydreams Within Nightmares’


It’s unfortunate that Baltimore, Maryland’s influential progressive doom pioneers Revelation have gone on an indefinite hiatus, but from Revelation’s slumber arises the mighty Mangog. Initially conceived by former Revelation and Against Nature members Bert Hall Jr. and Steve Branagan, Mangog admirably continues the tradition and legacy of the Maryland doom scene. Sadly, Branagan has since departed Mangog, but he has been ably replaced by former Iron Man heavy-hitter Mike Rix. Though the band has only been together for a short while they have managed to put together the three song EP entitled ‘Daydreams Within Nightmares,’ and the results are impressive to say the least. Wisely, Mangog doesn’t try to tread the same somber path that Revelation had blazed, but instead they seek their own route through doomed landscapes populated with woes such as loss, despair, and unrest.

The EP opener “Ab Intra” is easily the standout track of the three and probably best illuminates the musical prowess of each and every one of the players. Of note is that Bert Hall Jr., with Mangog, has forgone bass duties in favor of guitar and the man conjures up some heavy riffs and coaxes out some amazing leads. Vocalist Myke Wells exhibits both range and power—the perfect complement to Mangog’s musicianship and hard rocking style. Rix and bassist Darby Cox are completely locked in sync and are the driving force behind the track. “Ab Intra” is characterized by a reeling main riff rounded out by the rhythm section and Wells’ admonitions. While much of the track is blasted out at a doom crawl the band doesn’t hesitate to display their chops by shifting gears and blasting into an up-tempo, frenzied groove. “Ab Intra’ is straight-up one of the finest doom tracks of the year.

The two remaining tunes, “Daydreams Within Nightmares” and “Of Your Deceit,” slightly pale in comparison to the EP opener, but that’s what happens when the bar is set so high from the get go. “Daydreams Within Nightmares,” the shortest track of the three at four minutes, is a straight forward, up-tempo rocker chock-full of everything that seemingly make Mangog a great act—heavy riffs, engaging basslines, and some truly standout drumming. “Of Your Deceit,” on the other hand, is the most morose track of the lot with its plodding pace and Wells’ tortured wails recalling tales of deception and loss. The bass definitely sets the mood and the pace, but Hall’s riffs add a suffocating weight.

Though Mangog is in its infancy the veteran musicians have really come together quite quickly as a cohesive whole. The band is a welcome addition to the Maryland doom scene and should appeal to fans of hard rockin’ doom. The ‘Daydreams Within Nightmares’ EP is an excellent debut and should, based on this initial effort and the experience and output of the band members, herald even greater things to come. Mangog may not necessarily scratch the itch left by the absence of Revelation and Against Nature, but they sure have risen to the occasion by releasing a solid debut with its fair-share of twists and turns.

Facebook

Bandcamp

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

…Doomraiser – ‘Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)’



Over the past decade Italy’s Doomraiser have released nothing but the finest doom metal that the genre has to offer and it seemed as if each successive release was an improvement or refinement of what had come before. Not to discount any of the band’s discography, but 2009’s melancholic masterpiece ‘Erasing the Remembrance’ and 2011’s moodier and mellower follow-up, ‘Mountains of Madness,’ should be considered doom metal classics. Despite Doomraiser’s dubious mantra of “heavy drunken doom” or “slower, harder, drunker” the band has actually been releasing finely crafted and emotionally charged albums with no shortage of heavy riffs complemented with subtle psychedelic atmospherics. With ‘Reverse (Passagio Inverso),’ the band’s fourth full-length, changes behind the scenes and to the band’s lineup have definitely impacted Doomraiser’s overall sound. ‘Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)’ is the first album to be written and recorded with the “Drunken Mark III” lineup and also finds the band straying away from sound engineer Danilo Silvestri, among others, in favor of the services provided by “Engine Ear” Billy Anderson.

Perhaps the most noticeable change to be heard on ‘Reverse (Passagio Inverso)’ is the lack of slow, atmospheric build-ups that would smolder and smoke, eventually erupting with cataclysmic intensity due in no small part to the emotional release of Nicola “Cynar” Rossi’s soaring vocals and tortured vocal melodies. It is no surprise that the “Drunken Mark III” lineup has altered the sound of the band considering that longtime guitarist Drugo and more recent guitar player Willer Donadoni have been replaced by the twin axe attack of Giulio Marini and Marco Montagna. The album is almost completely bereft of the quieter moments that left an indelible impression upon the listener. It is the absence of tracks similar to “Another Black Day Under the Sun” or “Phoenix” that ultimately undermines Doomraiser’s newest effort as the mysticism and appeal found on earlier albums is greatly diminished. The gentle streams of feedback that eventually intensify into distant, siren-like wails accompanied by a slothful bassline during the intro to “Dio Inverso” or the brief, yet mournful violin opening of “Mirror of Pain” are the closest things to the former magic once wielded by Doomraiser.

Production-wise ‘Reverse (Passaggio Inverso)’ is, for what it’s worth, grittier, heavier, and angrier than any other Doomraiser album. Even Rossi’s vocals are often spat forth with an acerbic venom that was only hinted at on earlier releases. The aforementioned “Dio Inverso” may initially recall some of the quiet tension that Doomraiser effectively utilized in the past, but it also tips the scale in the other direction with double-bass drum kicks punctuating the throat-shredding, hellish howls frequently issued forth by Rossi. The album opener, “Addiction,” sets the stage for the rest of the album. Doomraiser, from the outset, burn with a fiery intensity and virtually do not let up until the album’s conclusion. Anderson’s touch has yielded an album that is dense and heavy, but, unfortunately, ignores the emptiness that made previous albums so moving.

Despite the changes, this is still an admirable doom album and it could not be confused as a release from any other band, mostly due to the vocals of “Cynar” Rossi. While there are no tracks that quite attain the emotive, doomed splendor of “Another Black Day Under the Sun” or “Phoenix” the album’s longest track, “Ascension 6 to 7,” stands out as an epic highlight. At nearly twelve minutes in length “Ascension 6 to 7” gives Doomraiser an opportunity to spread their wings and cover a giant swath of stylistic ground. Here, Anderson’ touch serves the band best when they lock into a chugging, staggered groove. The Doomraiser of old rears its head midway through the track as spacey keyboards jump to the fore for one of the most satisfying moments of the album.

I would hesitate to call Doomraiser’s ‘Reverse (Passagio Inverso)’ a disappointment, but I would be lying if I said expectations were not dashed. The loss and subsequent replacement of two guitarists—particularly Drugo’s “slow hand of doom”—have expectedly and understandably altered the band’s sound. Still, ‘Reverse (Passagio Inverso)’ is a strong album that exhibits nary a weak track and only has the strength of its predecessors to blame for any perceived shortcomings.

(Originally published at Heathen Harvest Periodical, edited by Sage Weatherford)

Homepage

Facebook

BloodRock Records Bandcamp





Monday, July 6, 2015

…NORTHWINDS / MARBLE CHARIOT split


Criminally underrated and underexposed French progressive doom band Northwinds have teamed-up with up-and-coming fellow countrymen Marble Chariot for an impressive split album that plays to both bands respective strengths. For two and a half decades Northwinds have been crafting some of the most fantastical compositions in the metal scene by incorporating elements of folk, progressive rock, and doom into a uniquely singular style that sonically embodies strange lands and wistful dreamscapes. Marble Chariot, on the other hand, may not be quite as progressive or as expansive as their compatriots, but they make excellent companions on this split release with their downtrodden, mournful take on traditional doom.

The wait for Northwinds’ follow-up to 2012’s ‘Winter’ (review HERE) has been wrought with anticipation, especially since their forthcoming fifth album, ‘Eternal Winter,’ was conceived and recorded during the ‘Winter’ sessions. Though a release date has yet to be announced for ‘Eternal Winter’ the band has remained busy and their ‘Demo 1995’ is about to be released on vinyl and their split with Marble Chariot has yielded the excellent track “Witchcoven.” Flute and acoustic guitar—Northwinds staples—follow a brief, blustering wind that initially carries the listener to a desolate faraway land. A bell tolls and the lull eventually gives way to heavier, mid-tempo riffs that are supported with keyboards and sporadically accented with organ and piano. What really brings “Witchcoven” to life is the brilliant lead guitar playing that dominates the second half of the track. The playing is slow and fluid and the tone is melodic—one of the most sublime moments to be found in Northwinds’ discography.

Marble Chariot’s contribution, “Darkness Descends,” builds upon their debut EP, ‘The Burden Is So Heavy…,’ and continues the band’s explorations of heartrending, emotive doom. It’s a shame that it has taken Marble Chariot three years to follow their excellent debut, but the wait is well worth it. “Darkness Descends” is a dreary, crawling slab of melancholia. Marble Chariot’s rhythm section carry much of the burden and, similar to Northwinds’ side of the split, the lead guitar playing takes the track to the next level. As the bass and drums lock into a down-tempo stumble tortured wah-pedal lead guitar cuts a swath through the din. The vocals were great on ‘The Burden Is So Heavy…’ EP, but are even better here. Sebastien Fanton has a soaring, resonate quality to his vocals and with “Darkness Descends” he has further developed a commanding presence.

It goes without saying that a full-length from both bands is far overdue, but in lieu of new albums this split should briefly satiate initiates of either act. Two of France’s finest have released some of their strongest offerings on a perfectly complementary split album. 2015 has not produced many split albums thus far, but it would be hard to fathom that there will be any released quite on par with this one.

Northwinds Facebook

Marble Chariot Facebook

Marble Chariot Bandcamp





Monday, June 29, 2015

…as above, so below: CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC – ‘To Sleep Beyond the Earth’


“Crushing” and “majestic” are probably the simplest and most immediate ways to describe the debut from New York instrumental four-piece Clouds Taste Satanic. ‘To Sleep Beyond the Earth’ is comprised of a single track in four movements that effectively combines the grandeur and spaciness of post-rock ambiance with the ominous crawl and lumbering riffs of doom metal. Clouds Taste Satanic are here to fill the void left by the unfortunate dissolution of Germany’s Omega Massif.

The A-side, “To Sleep Beyond the Earth (Parts I & II),” sets the tone with a slow build that is accented by distant gong strikes reverberating in the background which lends a sense of immediacy and dread to the proceedings. Though the initial build-up is menacing and suggests an ill-omened journey from the outset “To Sleep Beyond the Earth (Parts I & II)” is selectively imbued with moments that are oftentimes delicate and even beautiful. Given the context of these moments the end result is an atmosphere of unshakeable forlornness and unequivocal doom. There is an ebb-and-flow to the track creating a roller-coaster of tension and release. Clouds Taste Satanic have effectively created a soundtrack-like journey by utilizing the extended song form without subjecting the listener to twenty-three minutes of monotony and needless repetition.

The B-side, comprised of “To Sleep Beyond the Earth (Parts III & IV),” is arguably the “harder,” more “metallic” side of the album. Rather than taking their time to instill a sense of dread in the listener with hulkish riffs and ritual-like gong strikes the band immediately settles into a low-key groove that is as heavy as it is sinister—the perfect way to balance out the atmospheric leanings that are in abundance on side A. Though the spacey, often dream-like psychedelia of Parts I & II has taken a back seat to the immediate, driving riffs found on the B-side (for the most part), Clouds Taste Satanic have woven enough twists and turns into the track to keep the remaining twenty-two minutes interesting, even returning to the gong motif that had been tastefully threaded throughout the first half of the album.

With ‘To Sleep Beyond the Earth’ Clouds Taste Satanic have crafted a doom suite in four movements that avoids many of the pitfalls of extended, epic song lengths. There are enough changes in tone and tempo to keep the listener engaged while discerningly returning to thematic elements so as one cannot forget that they are experiencing a cohesive whole. It’s a journey worth undertaking again and again. Clouds Taste Satanic have moved to the forefront of instrumental doom and have set an incredibly high bar for future releases. Their follow-up release, ‘Your Doom Has Come,’ will be released on September 1st and expectations could not be any higher…

Facebook

Bandcamp





Friday, June 26, 2015

…prepare for the atomic ritual: MONOLORD - ‘Vænir’ & 'Cursing the One' EP


Gothenburg, Sweden’s three-piece sonic destroyers Monolord prove that they have more in their collective arsenal than just tuning low and playing slow. The band’s debut, ‘Empress Rising,’ (review HERE) found the cosmic overlords settling into a series of undulating grooves that carried the seismic heft of depth charges detonating just below the ocean’s surface. The end result was an instantly gratifying album that was equal parts mass and repetition. With the band’s sophomore effort, ‘Vænir,’ the shock wave tactics are still gloriously present, but the album as a whole is more varied and nuanced.

‘Vænir,’ like its predecessor, is apocalyptically heavy and comes with the threat of cosmic devastation. Guitarist /vocalist Thomas V Jäger seems to transmit his vocals from beyond an interstellar void while raining down destruction in tandem with bassist Mika Häkki. While much of the album is played out at a lumbering pace, the band has ensorcelled ‘Vænir’ with an otherworldly atmosphere that few bands manage to fully capture. Though there isn’t a weak track on the album there are definitely some standouts. “Cursing the One” is a menacing, no-frills riff-fest that often finds the trio locked into seek-and-destroy mode. Brace yourself. The interplay between Jäger and Häkki on the latter half of the track is nothing short of mesmerizing. “Nuclear Death” is another album highlight that is carried along by the rhythm section of Häkki and drummer Esben Willems. “The Cosmic Silence” is the (too) brief lull in the storm. It’s a somber, atmospheric tune that has a “Planet Caravan” vibe.

Those lucky enough to jump aboard early were able to get their hands on Monolord’s ‘Cursing the One’ EP. While the title track was the first intro to what ‘Vænir’ would sound like it was backed with a cover of “Fairies Wear Boots.” While there are a ton of Sabbath covers out there I can honestly say that Monolord’s rendition of “Fairies Wear Boots” is now among my favorites joining Steel Pole Bathtub’s spastic and completely fucked cover of “Paranoid” and Northwinds’ tasteful, unique take on “A National Acrobat.” With “Fairies Wear Boots” Monolord blows up the Iommic/early-Sabbathian formula and takes it to its fucked-up illogical conclusion.

Monolord have totally upped their game. While ‘Empress Rising’ was a great album from start to finish I didn’t expect the trio to flat-out lay waste to what came before. ‘Vænir’ is easily one of the best albums to come out this year. I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to catching these guys with Windhand and Danava later this year…

Homepage

Facebook

Bandcamp