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…



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…




Friday, June 5, 2015

…reflections of forgotten dreams: GARDEN OF WORM – ‘Idle Stones’

Finland’s Garden of Worm made quite an impression with their 2010 self-titled debut and established themselves as some of the finest purveyors of despondent, psychedelic doom. ‘Garden of Worm’ was an adventurous and forward-thinking album that also exhibited maturity and restraint in execution. A half-decade later and Garden of Worm have further refined their craftsmanship with their sophomore full-length, ‘Idle Stones.’ While the self-titled debut was easily identifiable as a “doom” album ‘Idle Stones’ transcends most, if not all, genre conventions. The heavier riffs—save for the hazy, bluesy psychedelia of “Desertshore”—have essentially all been rendered unto ash. The band, to their credit, are still able to develop tunes that are both beautiful and downcast, but the heft of their earlier work has been replaced by subtler sonic explorations that are almost as trippy as they are moody.

Most of ‘Idle Stones’ can simply be described as melancholic, mesmerizing, and sprawling. Album opener “Fleeting are the Days of Man,” with its clean(ish) guitar and melodic bass playing, exudes a similar style to the languid, laidback approach found on much of Dead Meadow’s ‘Feathers.’ The track is characterized by a subtle tension—perfectly controlled and restrained—by deftly handled drumming. Fiery, red hot leads eventually consume any semblance of order and “Fleeting are the Days of Man” becomes, for a few brief moments, an entirely different, yet mind-expanding, tune.

Despite working almost exclusively with a dreary palette Garden of Worm have managed to create varied and multifaceted aural landscapes where the impending darkness of a setting sun is indistinguishable from the hope and beauty associated with a sunrise. “Summer’s Isle, including Caravan,” a perfect example of this dichotomy at work, is a somber slow-burner that ignites into frenzied freak-out reminiscent of Velvet Undergound’s noisier moments on ‘White Light/White Heat.’

‘Idle Stones,’ with its warm production, moody textures, and acid-tinged psychedelia is a classic sounding album that matches Garden of Worm’s growth and development with their willingness to experiment. Though the band, or at least the album, has probably shirked expectations by essentially foregoing any semblance of what could be considered doom, Garden of Worm still work with similar textures and tones. This is rainy day psychedelia for the ruined…



Thursday, June 4, 2015

…thou shalt not suffer a witch to live: Hexenjäger - ‘Demo’

French four-piece Hexenjäger take a traditional, well-trodden approach to doom metal on their brilliantly recorded, glacially paced demo released earlier this year. Sluggish riffs, ominous low-end basslines, and unhurried and deliberate drumming is coupled with deep, resonant vocals. Pacing-wise Hexenjäger can be compared to UK doom masters The Wounded Kings, particularly to early albums such as ‘Embrace of the Narrow House’ and ‘The Shadow Over Atlantis,’ though Hexenjäger’s debut does not quite emanate the same sepulchral atmospherics.

Consisting of two tracks the demo opens with “Hexenjäger,” a twenty minute marathon of epic proportions. Those unable to handle waves of repetitious riffs and pummeling basslines may find the eponymous track tedious or wearisome, but true doom heads will find themselves comfortably immersed in the barrage of soothing, downtrodden reverberations. Despite the repetitive nature of the track Hexenjäger manage to keep things interesting, especially during the latter half of the tune with some excellently layered lead guitar providing both texture and ambience. The track’s denouement is punctuated by a rising tide of eerie noise that lends a Lovecraftian ambiance to the song’s final moments.

The ill-omened noise of “Hexenjäger” bleeds into and ultimately gives way to the closing track, “Murk.” Despite the slothful build-up, “Murk”—with its relative upbeat stoner groove—is an entirely different beast when compared to the demo opener. Of note is the drumming between the two tracks. “Hexenjäger” was defined by snail-paced, barbaric percussion whereas the drumming found on “Murk” is more explosive and characterized by a certain degree of swing. The rhythm section shines bright and the wah pedal leads kick this track up to the next level.

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. Definitely anticipating more…