Monday, February 23, 2015

...exposing the heart: YOB - 'Clearing the Path to Ascend'

I have to admit, my initial impressions of Yob’s seventh full-length, Clearing the Path to Ascend, were wrought with both disappointment and a degree of nostalgia for the trippy, cosmic atmospherics that seemed to define the band’s first four albums. Since Yob’s reincarnation following the demise of Middian—Mike Scheidt’s angrier, more aggressive creative outlet after Yob was initially laid to rest—the band has been on a tear beginning with the peerless masterpiece The Great Cessation, a bleak and dissonant sonic assault that was almost completely devoid of themes of hope, transcendence, or redemption. It didn’t take long for my knee-jerk reaction to quickly dissipate as Clearing the Path to Ascend has an expansive, unsurpassed depth that is revealed to the listener in layers. The album is tonally characterized by a seemingly insatiable wrath, save the atmospheric lulls found on “Unmask the Spectre” and the duration of the sublime closing track, “Marrow”—an element that was in decline on both The Great Cessation and its follow-up, Atma.

The opening track, “In Our Blood,” opens with a brief sound bite that simply states, “Time to wake up.” Yob have always had a spiritual or mystical bent that would suggest higher planes of existence, a tangible yet elusive arcane knowledge or sacredness, and transcendence through sheer will. Given the context of the opening sound bite, it is difficult to ascertain whether it is a call aimed at a spiritual, transcendent awakening, or the unveiling of ignorance to truly see the world at its most base and corrupt. Perhaps the two ideas are not even mutually exclusive. The track is aberrantly heavy, even by Yob’s standards, and finds Scheidt howling at his most tortured and damaged.

Yob have become synonymous with heavy, psychedelic doom, but have, since their inception, transcended conventional expectations. It is no accident that the band have become forerunners in a scene that seems to be experiencing a sort of renaissance over the past several years. Three-quarters of Clearing the Path to Ascend is defined by an anger that is as much a reaction to suffering as it is helplessness. It isn’t until the epic closing track, “Marrow,” that the darkened skies start to clear, the clouds begin to scatter, and a glimmer of hope, or, at the very least, a brief moment of reprieve is experienced. “Marrow” is, for much of it eighteen-minute duration, a relatively delicate tune that is equal parts beauty and melancholia.

Despite my initial reaction, Yob’s Clearing the Path to Ascend has quickly become a favorite and rightly deserves its place as one of the year’s finest releases. The band is still covering new ground and have, if anything, become both more vital and heavier over time—a feat few bands can match. And while I may have initially mourned the transcendent qualities that permeated much of Yob’s earlier releases, they are still present, but lurking further beneath the surface. With tracks like “Unmask the Spectre,” “In Our Blood,” and “Marrow,” there is still the suggestion that much of what we know and experience is illusory or fleeting, and while this is both frustrating and, at times, discouraging, the truth can be discerned by looking inward—a reassuring sentiment for anyone facing adversity.

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



Friday, February 20, 2015

…come with me into the night: BEDEMON – ‘Child of Darkness: From the Original Master Tapes’

The history of doom metal legends Pentagram has been well documented in recent years, particularly the struggles and unlikely successes of front man Bobby Liebling. Part of Pentagram’s early legacy is Liebling’s involvement with future Pentagram guitarist Randy Palmer’s Bedemon recording project—a project that would be abandoned for some time once Palmer joined Pentagram. While the two bands are often mentioned in the same breath and stylistically share some similarities due to mutual personnel there is an unmatched urgency, darkness, and passion found on the Bedemon recordings that keeps the band from being entirely eclipsed by Pentagram. Regardless of historical context or legacy and despite the rough, demo quality of the recordings ‘Child of Darkness’ is an amazing collection of tunes that stands on its own two feet due to songwriting alone. And though Bedemon was primarily the passion project of Randy Palmer, the efforts and contributions of Geof O’Keefe, Mike Matthews, and Bobby Leibling cannot be underestimated.

Perhaps the most obvious or glaring “blight” to be found on ‘Child of Darkness’ is the rough-hewn, basement quality of the recordings. But one man’s blight is another man’s charm. Despite the apparent sound quality—an overall muddiness with the odd stretch that is momentarily muffled—each and every instrument is audible, including Liebling’s vocals. Given the band’s limitations at the time it’s amazing that the songs sound as good as they do.

Those who appreciate and/or are able to hear beyond the limited production value found on ‘Child of Darkness’ will be rewarded with some of the catchiest, most engrossing songwriting of hard rock and early doom to be laid to tape. Considering that the band members often learned their respective parts in a couple of hours before recording it is remarkable that the tunes are so complete and fleshed out. Helping to transcend the production woes of the recordings is the passion, drive, and creativity of the players. Many of the tracks have been cobbled together with members trading instruments and contributing alternating guitar solos. And those solos. The razor sharp lead guitar often cries out with an unmatched clarity to rise above the muddy din. Whether the solos are acid-drenched odes to Sir Lord Baltimore like those found on “Enslaver of Humanity,” or squealing peals of distortion menacingly pushed into the red on “Serpent Venom,” or the trashy “vomiting” fuzz solo found on the sublime “Last Call,” the solos are undeniably catchy and often bleed with unparalleled intensity and emotion.

Whether you want to call it hard rock, doom, or even proto-doom there is no refuting the influence of Bedemon or Pentagram. And while it is difficult not to mention or think of Pentagram when the subject of Bedemon comes up it could be argued that many of the stronger compositions and even some of Liebling’s best performances belong to the recordings found on ‘Child of Darkness.’ Bands looking to the past for inspiration is nothing new, but it is hard to ignore the influence of Black Sabbath and Pentagram on numerous bands of the past decade or so. Sweden’s Burning Saviours and, to a greater extent, Witchcraft have drawn heavily from Pentagram, both with amazing results. It would be hard not to listen to Bedemon’s “Frozen Fear” or “Drive Me to the Grave” without thinking that perhaps Bedemon was in fact the greater influence on Magnus Pelander.

While it may be easy to chalk up much of Bedemon’s songwriting success to youthful creativity just check out the band’s follow-up, ‘Symphony of Shadows’ (review HERE), to dispel any doubts. ‘Child of Darkness’ may never have been intended for public consumption, but it is lucky for the lover of underground heavy metal and doom that this gem was initially unearthed and now re-issued on vinyl and CD through Relapse Records. The fifteen tracks that comprise ‘Child of Darkness’ range from primordial doom anthems like the eponymous album-opener “Child of Darkness” or the harrowing “Serpent Venom” to emotive, downtrodden masterpieces like “Last Call” or “Into the Grave.” Highly recommended for not only its historical context, but also for solid performances and songwriting.



Monday, February 16, 2015

…walking off with your soul: EPITAPH – ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt’

By all rights Italy’s Epitaph should be a household name amongst the doomed devout considering that bassist Nicola Murari and drummer Mauro Tollini are former members of influential progressive doom weirdos Black Hole. Murari (as Nicholas Murray) and Tollini (as Luther Gordon) both appeared on Black Hole’s 1985 cult classic debut, ‘Land of Mystery,’ an album that stands as one of the genre’s earliest and most unique recordings. Perhaps what is most interesting about Epitaph, besides their legacy, is that with their debut, ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt,’ the band has reigned in most of the progressive elements that made Black Hole so unique. Epitaph, for the most part, are playing it safe on their debut, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the band doesn’t have an edge. Though ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt’ is a slightly more straight-forward traditional doom album than what the members recorded with Black Hole it is nonetheless masterfully executed and pulses with a distinctive atmosphere all its own.

Joining the esteemed duo is vocalist Emiliano Cioffi and guitarist Lorenzo Loatelli. Cioffi’s vocals are a major component of Epitaph’s sound and, like many traditional doom singers, his vocals are theatrical and unique while he thankfully avoids the distraction of being too over-the-top. The closest frame of reference for his delivery and style would be Dawn of Winter’s Gerrit P. Mutz or even, at times, Scott Reagers. Cioffi delivers a particularly schizophrenic and unhinged performance on stand-out track “Sacred and Prophane.” Loatelli, likewise, is definitely a part of Epitaph’s slightly surreal take on traditional doom metal. Loatelli’s riffs are definitely doom oriented, but he also has a metallic edge and, at times, lets loose and shreds. The album’s second track, “Ancient Rite,” highlights Loatelli’s dexterity and skill.

Though ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt’ is more straight-forward than anything Black Hole ever recorded, the album is far from being void of shadowy atmospherics and dingy, sepulchral overtones. The combination of Cioffi’s vocals and tastefully placed synthesizers, among other sound effects, contributes to the overall ambiance of the album. The synthesizers often provide an ethereal, spacey effect like on “Daughters of Lot” or “Confuse the Light,” but can also create the chilling background ambiance found on “Sacred and Profane.”

Fans of traditional doom, particularly of the unique stylings of Italian doom, will find much to appreciate with Epitaph’s ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt.’ Though the band isn’t quite as progressive as Black Hole or The Black there is no shortage of hooks. It’s an expertly executed doom metal album that tackles a variety of themes ranging from the occult to internal struggle and misery. Though Epitaph were first formed in the late eighties following the initial demise of Black Hole it has taken the band nearly three decades to record and release their debut. ‘Crawling Out of the Crypt’ is a welcome addition to the canon of Italian Doom and would fit in nicely among classic releases from Black Hole, Requiem, or Paul Chain, and contemporary artists such as Doomraiser, Night Gaunt, or Bretus.


Sunday, February 15, 2015

…tearing the fabric of space and time: BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH – ‘S/T’

Six years ago, when the Brothers of the Sonic Cloth ‘2009 Demo’ first began to circulate, I was excited at the prospect of a new release from Tad Doyle. The ‘2009 Demo’ hinted at darker, heavier soundscapes mired in the depths of sludge and doom compared to his defunct and much missed band, Tad. Fast-forward to 2015 and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth have finally made good on their initial promise and my anticipation, if anything, has grown. ‘Brothers of the Sonic Cloth’ is a lumbering beast of an album that is as atmospheric as it is heavy.

‘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, I will gladly wait another six for the next installment.

For the most part, the band indulges in lengthier tunes allowing the songs to unfold and breathe with lives of their own. Despite this propensity for longer tracks, the album opens with unmatched urgency with “Lava,” a track that unlike the rest, would have sounded right at home on either ‘God’s Balls’ or ‘8-Way Santa.’ Peggy Doyle offers up a galloping bassline while Tad bellows and thrashes like a tranquilized frost giant. The riffs are catchy, heavy, and discordant. “Lava” is the perfect album opener.

“Empires of Dust” is the most lethargic tune of the lot, but don’t confuse lethargy with mediocrity or dullness. It’s a slow burn of monolithic riffs and tortured vocals that are seemingly swept in by the wind from the distance. While each track is a masterpiece in and of itself “I Am” stands out amongst the herd. While both “I Am” and “La Mano Poderosa” first appeared on the ‘2009 Demo’ neither track has lost their potency in the ensuing years. “I Am” is a sprawling track that, at times, brings to mind Neurosis or even Cult of Luna.

Unfortunately for record collectors there are two tracks that didn’t make the transition to vinyl, “The Immutable Path” and “Outro,” both of which fall more toward the atmospheric end of the spectrum. Tribal drums are at the center of “The Immutable Path” in accord with distantly droning organ and a mildly distorted bassline. The vocals are spoken word and belie the often barbaric howls of Doyle. The effect is haunting and chilling. “Outro” is a melancholic closing to the album consisting of a lone piano that eventually fades off into the distance.

‘Brothers of the Sonic Cloth’ is an exceptional album from start to finish. Last year Doyle impressed with his contributions to Lumbar’s excellent ‘The First and Last Days of Unwelcome’ (review HERE), but has set the bar even higher with his latest endeavor. While Tad has been busy behind the scenes with his Witch Ape Studio, the man has been absent for far too long as a songwriter and performer. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another six years to hear from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, but if we do, hopefully it will be as impressive and vital as the band’s full-length debut…

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Friday, February 13, 2015

…fraying at the ends: APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE – ‘Of Woe and Wounds’

After a two year long wait Indianapolis, Indiana’s Apostle of Solitude finally deliver on the promise of their excellent ‘Demo 2012’ (review HERE). With two exemplary full-lengths under their belt the band continues their trend of releasing an album that is arguably tighter, heavier, and dolefully more majestic than its predecessor. ‘Of Woe and Wounds,’ despite being bogged down by themes of internal unrest, addiction, disconnection, and mortality, is not merely a lethargic, glacial paced meditation on despair, but rather a doom-trodden reaction to anger and frustration wrought with some of the band’s heaviest, most blistering riffs.

‘Of Woe and Wounds’ is arguably Apostle of Solitude’s strongest album to date, largely due to the burgeoning compositional chemistry between vocalist and guitarist Chuck Brown and the playing of Steve Janiak. The slow-burn opening of “The Blackest of Times” is a thing of beauty as the layered guitars give rise to one of the band’s most infectious tunes. “Whore’s Wings,” a faster track from within the band’s discography, finds the duo locked into an impenetrable groove with support from the impressive rhythm section consisting of drummer Corey Webb and bassist Dan Davidson. “Lamentations of a Broken Man”—a tune that could easily have been drowned out by the more aggressive tracks on the album—is elevated by both an emotive and catchy vocal melody, particularly on the chorus, and the dual guitar harmonies of Brown and Janiak. This sluggish reflection on a life of loss and regret is elevated to one of the album’s most poignant moments.

“Die Vicar Die” and “Push Mortal Coil” are both reflections of Apostle of Solitude’s relatively more aggressive approach to songwriting this time around. “Die Vicar Die” initially begins as what could be considered “standard” doom fare, but soon evolves into one of the most satisfying fist-pumping anthems of the band’s career. “Push Mortal Coil” features impressive lead guitar, more dual guitar harmonies, and one of the album’s most satisfying main riffs.

‘Of Woe and Wounds,’ like the rest of Apostle of Solitude’s discography, is an attempted sonic exorcism of the demons of anguish and despair. Production-wise the album is flawless. Up to this point every one of the band’s albums have sounded great, but ‘Of Woe and Wounds’ seems to perfectly capture both the heft and melancholic beauty of the band. Look no further than “Luna” to illustrate the band’s ability to compose a tune that is heavy, yet embellished with a remorseful splendor. Despite the highlights of Chuck Brown’s vocals and his playing with Steve Janiak, enough cannot be said of Webb and Davidson. ‘Of Woe and Wounds’ will not disappoint longtime fans and should, based on the strength of the album as a whole, garner new fans. One of the standout highlights of 2014…



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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Year's Best 2014

1. Blood Farmers – ‘Headless Eyes’
Just like Curse the Son’s ‘Psychache’ the previous year, ‘Headless Eyes’ grabbed my attention early on and never quite loosened its grip. The album is worth its weight in gold due to the opening track, “Gut Shot,” but this is no one-trick-pony. The entire album is solid from start to finish. Tack on a kickass cover of David Hess’ “The Road Leads to Nowhere” from The Last House on the Left and you have one stellar release from a band that has been absent for far too long (review HERE).

2. Yob – ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend’
I’ll admit, Yob’s ‘Clearing the Path to Ascend’ wasn’t an instant hit for me. I miss the heavier psychedelic influences that were played out in abundance prior to the band’s initial dissolution. But, in the end, the brilliance of Mike Scheidt, Aaron Reiseberg, and Travis Foster cannot be denied. This is one of the heaviest albums released by the band, maybe only rivalled by ‘The Great Cessation.’ It’s grim and bleak, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel with the closing track, “Marrow.”

3. Cardinal Wyrm – ‘Black Hole Gods’
This is probably the most unique doom album of 2014. Pranjal Tiwari’s vocals are sonorous meditations that majestically speak of long-forgotten lore. The band has definitely spread their wings and come into their own since the release of their impressive debut, ‘Another Holy Trinity.’ ‘Black Hole Gods’ should be available on vinyl later this year courtesy of Svart Records. I can’t wait to hear where this three-piece goes next (review HERE).

4. Pallbearer – ‘Foundations of Burden’
If I had not spent an extended weekend hiking at twelve and thirteen thousand feet while jamming this album I’m not sure I’d be ranking it so high. ‘Foundations of Burden’ is suggestive of wide open spaces where their debut, ‘Sorrow and Extinction,’ was claustrophobically heavy and dense. Disappointment quickly dissipated and the beauty of this album could not be ignored. Seeing and hearing the material performed only helped to cement this as a favorite of 2014.

5. The Wounded Kings – ‘Consolamentum’
It’s not surprising that this album is in the top five. The Wounded Kings have long been a favorite and ‘Consolamentum’ is a return to form of sorts. The lead guitar playing is, like on the band’s first two albums, razor sharp (review HERE).

6. John Gallow – ‘Violet Dreams’
John Gallo is, simply put, a maestro. The man draws inspiration from a multitude of sources and makes something new, yet recognizable. ‘Violet Dreams,’ like many of Gallo’s other projects, takes the listener to strange, unexplored worlds. A killer album of doomed-out weirdness. Here’s hoping that either Blizaro or Orodruin puts out a new release in 2015. Hell…hopefully they both do (review HERE).

7. In the Company of Serpents – ‘Merging in Light’ EP
In the Company of Serpents is a two-man demolition crew and ‘Merging in Light’ shows the band on an upward trajectory of creativity. The EP is acerbic and heavy, yet tuneful. The only complaint that can be levelled against ‘Merging in Light’ is that it’s not a full-length album (review HERE).

8. Electric Wizard – ‘Time to Die’
To be honest, I think this is the best album Electric Wizard has ever released followed closely by ‘Black Masses.’ It’s seedy, grisly, and, at times a sonic mess. This is the stuff of an innocent acid trip gone woefully awry (review HERE).

9. Slomatics – ‘Estron’
Slomatics’ ‘A Hocht’ has become one of my favorite albums of all time and ‘Estron’ is a worthy follow-up. The band has a penchant for being impossibly heavy and still remain catchy. ‘Estron’ may not be as trippy or varied as ‘A Hocht,’ but it’s still a stellar release (review HERE).

10. The Skull – ‘For Those Which Are Asleep’
Despite having high expectations for The Skull’s debut I could not help but approach ‘For Those Which Are Asleep’ with a bit of caution. Trouble’s discography, particularly their first four albums, are doom metal masterpieces. Hell, even the often maligned ‘Simple Mind Condition’ has some redeeming qualities. ‘For Those Which Are Asleep’ manages to successfully recapture much of that early Trouble magic and, in its own way, establishes its own identity (review HERE).

11. Goya – ‘Satan’s Fire’ EP
Seedy, distortion-strewn psychedelia and bludgeoning riffs are Goya’s modus operandi. ‘Satan’s Fire’ is an addictive slab of sleazy stoner doom. Their split release with Wounded Giant is also killer. Definitely looking forward to the band’s sophomore full-length hopefully to be released this year (review HERE).

12. Apostle of Solitude – ‘Of Woe and Wounds’
To be honest this album probably would’ve ranked higher on the year’s best list had I gotten my hands on it sooner. I’m still wrapping my head around this one. With ‘Of Woe and Wounds’ Apostle of Solitude continue to hone their craft and the album displays some magnificent dual guitar harmonies and many of the band’s heaviest moments. An awesome album as expected.

13. Reino Ermitaño - ‘Conjuros de Poder’
Reino Ermitaño’s ‘Veneración del Fuego’ is still the album to beat, but the band issues a worthy follow-up with their fifth album overall. ‘Conjuros de Poder’ is a bewitching album that is steeped in mysticism and, of course, riffs (review HERE).

14. Lucifer’s Fall – ‘S/T’
Killer tunes and melodic, well-placed leads sum up Lucifer’s Fall’s self-titled debut. Phil Howlett takes a slightly more traditional approach to his songwriting compared to his work with Vertical Chamber Apparatus favorite Rote Mare. The results are simply beautiful (review HERE).

15. Bretus – ‘The Shadow Over Innsmouth’
Bretus’ sophomore effort is definitely a darker release compared to their debut, ‘In Onirica.’ With H.P. Lovecraft as their spiritual guide Bretus take the listener down a dark path that is equal parts doom and straight up old school metal (review HERE).

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

…the endless road turns dark: THE SKULL – ‘For Those Which Are Asleep’

With pedigree and history in mind, The Skull have managed to deliver on the almost unthinkable promise of rekindling the flame of classic era Trouble. While ‘For Those Which Are Asleep’ may not—due to both nostalgia and overall execution—quite eclipse Trouble masterpieces ‘Trouble’ (aka ‘Psalm 9’) or its doomier follow-up, ‘The Skull,’ it would sonically fit comfortably between ‘Run to the Light’ and their 1990 self-titled release for Def American Recordings. The Skull have essentially picked up where Trouble left off twenty-five years ago, but with a warmer, more mature approach to songwriting.

Despite the obvious stylistic similarities between the two bands, The Skull can stand on its own two legs, particularly due to front man Eric Wagner’s voice. While Wagner still tackles themes steeped in spirituality, existentialism, and internal struggle, his voice has deepened with age. While this may reign in some of the youthful aggression and desperation found on Trouble’s early releases it yields a weathered, sage-like wisdom to the Skull’s compositions.

Though Trouble’s Rick Wartell and Bruce Franklin stand as two of the great guitar duos in metal, Lothar Keller and Matt Goldsborough give them a run for their money, particularly on the album standout “The Touch of Reality,” a doomed ode to misery. Holzner anchors the tune with just one of many beguiling basslines and Keller and Goldsborough take their shredding to sprawling heights. With “The Door,” another album highlight, The Skull have composed the gloomiest song that Trouble never recorded. It is a bass-heavy track carried along on waves of creepy organ courtesy of Jeff Olson interspersed with haunting roars of distortion and Wagner’s ruminations on inner turmoil.

At this point it may be impossible to separate The Skull from Trouble’s legacy, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Wagner clearly is still thematically inspired by seeking answers to the unknown, loss, guilt and forgiveness, and spirituality or mysticism—timeless themes that lent early Trouble much of their appeal. Despite the similarities, The Skull are on the road to forging their own identity. ‘For Those Which Are Asleep’ has easily surpassed expectations and proven to be one of 2014’s highlights. It’s unfortunate that Jeff Olson has amicably split from the band as his drumming was a distinctive feature of The Skull’s sound. Fans of early Trouble and traditional doom will not be disappointed by this killer debut…


...see the world as it turns to dust: GOYA - 'Satan's Fire' EP

There’s a place where the gargantuan, Iommic riffs of Sleep collide with the gritty, feedback-strewn psychedelia of Glitterhouse Records-era Monster Magnet and the narcotizing waves of distortion unleashed on Bardo Pond’s peerless 'Lapsed' album, and that particular destination can be found on Goya’s excellent 'Satan’s Fire' EP. Goya’s initial outing, '777' (review HERE), found the band reveling in the seedy underbelly of stoner metal and doom, bringing to mind inevitable comparisons to such acts as Electric Wizard, Cough, and, most notably, the aforementioned Sleep. 'Satan’s Fire' is in no way a departure from the band’s earlier accomplishment, but it is definitely a refinement of style executed with an array of effects pedals and impossibly fuzzed-out distortion, amplified by extreme hatred and disgust. With 'Satan’s Fire'—and their subsequent split release with Wounded Giant on STB Records—Goya is officially a force to be reckoned with.

EP opener “Malediction and Death” is about as evil as it gets. It’s a slow, sinister build of oscillating feedback encircling a mighty, wyrm-like distortion that sounds as if it is finally stirring after centuries of uninterrupted slumber. Amidst the heaving, roaring chaos, guitarist and vocalist Jeff Owens (who also performs bass duties on this release) spits forth vitriolic curses and condemnations. When he snarls, “I wanna watch you die,” there’s absolutely no reason not to believe him. “Symbols,” the middle track, is a brief instrumental that is both sparse and ghostly. Consisting of only a handful of raps on the cymbals courtesy of drummer Nick Lose, “Symbols” isn’t quite as unsettling or as jarring as the percussive soundtrack to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but tucked neatly between “Malediction and Death” and the title-track “Satan’s Fire,” the results are quite effective. “Satan’s Fire,” unlike the EP opener, does not hesitate to launch into its stoned-groove. It’s another killer track that easily surpasses what the band had accomplished with '777.' The only real complaint that could be leveled against “Satan’s Fire” is that it is tonally and tempo-wise too similar to “Malediction and Death.” It’s a minor complaint though, as this EP totally smokes.

For those who miss the early days of Monster Magnet, particularly the raw, heavy, evil-inspired and drug-fueled excess found on their self-titled EP—or their spaced-out mind-fuck, 'Tab'—then Goya’s 'Satan’s Fire' may partially fill that void. While Goya doesn’t quite go to the beyond by reaching out to the vast expanses of space rock as Wyndorf and company have, there is still enough dopesmoke and cannabis-induced paranoia to appease any true lover of stoner metal or psych-tinged doom. 'Satan’s Fire' is an impressive follow-up to a pretty damn fine album, and Goya is definitely a band to keep an eye on.

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



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Saturday, February 7, 2015

…all hail nothing: Goya/Wounded Giant – split LP

Goya and Wounded Giant—two heavy-hitting up-and-comers 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 in the upcoming year. Goya’s ‘777’ (review HERE) exploited the dingier, seedy underbelly of stoner metal in the vein of such bands as Electric Wizard, Glitterhouse Records-era Monster Magnet, or Stonehelm with hooks thickly veiled under a canopy of nearly impenetrable dope-smoke. Wounded Giant, on the other hand, released an album that was mainly characterized by a lumbering, drunken aggression that was interestingly rivalled by melody and groove in ‘Lightning Medicine” (review HERE). From the sound of it both bands have continued along their respective trajectories and have delved even further into the cauldron black depths of glacial-paced, down-tuned metal—each with their own unique take.

Goya’s offering is the epic track “No Place in the Sky,” a mesmerizing tune of murky fuzz and feedback accentuated with an occasional moment of wah-pedal abuse. Goya’s influences are far from being thinly veiled and, to be honest, it’s difficult not to draw comparisons to Electric Wizard’s ‘Witchcult Today,’ but Goya is far from being a mere clone. Jeff Owens’ husky, sonorous croon can be the perfect antidote for some of Oborn’s whinier moments. “No Place in the Sky” relies heavily on repetition to make its point—point that is embellished with subtle nuances and effects so as not to grow tedious or overstay its welcome. “No Place in the Sky,” along with the band’s ‘Satan’s Fire’ EP are easily some of the finest tunes from the Arizona three-piece.

Wounded Giant offer a bit more variation, but that can mostly be attributed to their two tracks to Goya’s one. “The Room of the Torch” is carried along by the rhythm section punctuated by a bass-heavy groove. This is straight up bludgeoning metal that really picks up with a fist-pumping chorus. Where Goya’s opening track was intent on warping the listener’s mind it would appear as if Wounded Giant was determined to stave in their skull. “Dsytheist” just may be the highlight of the entire split with its pummeling, barbarian-like strut and inventive riffs, it slightly echoes the creativity displayed on “Sinistra” from their debut. “Dystheist” matches heft with catchiness for one of the most kickass tunes to be released yet this year.

So there you have it…Goya will get you high and transfix your soul while Wounded Giant dashes your skull against a brick wall. These are both bands to watch out for not only because of their killer debuts, but especially based on the strength of this split release. I’ve heard rumors of a second pressing from STB Records later this year. Don’t sleep on it…

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